I do a weekly recap of 5 great web-things that relate to writing called the Fab-Five Friday, but oftentimes I find way more than 5 useful things.  So, I've decided to periodically drop a knowledge bomb full of writerly goodness in hopes of sharing even more of the things I come across that inspire.

Todays bomb is courtesy of author Gail Carson Levine, who discusses what to do when you are asked to perform re-writes and/or edits.  Gail's thoughts are profound and encouraging.  Here's an excerpt of what she had to say:

"Just listening works well under any circumstance.  If we explain or defend, the criticism doesn’t penetrate.  We need to sit with it before we understand its value - or worthlessness."

So head over to her blog to check out her entire message, it's one I wouldn't want any writer to miss.  

A Different Take on Censorship

First off, I was blown away by all of the great responses to the 'goals' post.  You're a dedicated and driven bunch of folks, and I'm proud to be associated with all of you.  I was inspired by your motivations, and it gave me a much needed kick in the pants.  So for that I say ...

Now, let's get down to business.  I know that most of you are very active bloggers (both readers and authors) in the writing world, so you've undoubtedly been following the latest dustup in the free speech war.  September happens to be Banned Book Month in which we celebrate condemned literature, so great timing!  Right?   

Here are the details.  It seems some fella in Missouri decided to encourage parents, school, etc. to ban the YA book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I'll not go into great detail regarding his complaints, nor will I use the name of the person on this blog, chiefly for the reasons I'm about to discuss.


Wait a second, EJ.  Don't you mean it's a horrible thing?  Did you intend to say that it sets our culture back thousands of years, and it creates a repressive environment for artists?  Surely you meant to say that book banning is BAD, BAD, BAD!

NOPE.  I think it's tremendous news for the author, for readers, and for the lasting appeal of the book.  Notoriety and outrage are often two-sides of the same coin.  Infamy is sometimes the precursor to greatness.  L.H. Anderson couldn't pay for this kind of publicity.  

When the spotlight shines, people pay attention.  People who would otherwise not care will line up to see what the fuss is about.  Furthermore, if you've ever spent 10 minutes with a teenager, you know that the best way to get them to do something is to tell them not to.  

Let's take a look at some notable banned books.  The Bible.  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  The Da Vinci Code.  The Grapes of Wrath.  Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Catcher in the Rye.  Animal Farm. And many, many more.  


Here's the ironic part.  The outraged parties who fear the message of these books, those who are terrified of conflicting world views, and those who would go to any length to not have their POV challenged have no one to blame for the success of these books but themselves.     

The bottom line is this:  More people will read Speak because of what this yahoo said, not less.  

Now I'm not supporting the attitude behind censorship, and I'd encourage all of you to fight this kind of stuff, particularly at the local level and in your own homes.  However, I do hope that poorly informed, misguided, and outright ignorant people continue to throw a fit when they read something that scares them.  That's the only way to guaranty that these works will live on.  


NOTE FROM THE BLOGGIST:  Several of you have referenced this topic on your own blogs, and the responses I've read are wonderfully written.  I'd encourage you to put your link in the comments section of this post to continue to spread the word.  Plus, you can go to Laurie's website/blog and lend your support.   


Photo via Fastsigns blog - Click for website
I'm trying to get back into the blogging groove, and the last post was a big help.  A big thanks to all of you who've wished my dad a speedy recovery, and supported him/me with the blog-love.  I believe in positive vibes, and dad should be River Dancing by Christmas with all of the well-wishes you folks have been sending.

While I was away from the blog, with sketchy internet and very little time to do much else, I was able to step back and consider just exactly what this blog is about, and where it is headed.  In short, it has always been about sharing the passion I have for writing and reading with others who enjoy the same things.  It's also about building a network of peers.  Almost all of my followers are writers at various stages in their careers.  Some are agented, some published, some toiling away in the dark, like me, and some who are hobbyist who simply enjoy reading and/or writing.

Writing is a typically solitary activity, and unlike other jobs where you show up and mingle at the office, the only way you're going to meet people in this business (pre-publication) is to go to a conference or get active in the vast (and growing) online community.  That's why I started this, and that's why I'll continue to do it.

So, as much as I do love seeing a new follower (yes, I dance, sing, and then follow/read your blogs while singing and dancing!), when it's all stripped down I recognize this isn't about self-promotion.  This isn't even about building some kind of pre-fanbase to jumpstart my writing career.  If it were, at the rate I'm going my internet presence would merit publication interest in 2089, and by then I'm certain the machines will have won.

All of that being said, I also believe in goal setting. I've already stated a my motivation: fun and networking.  How about a specific tangible goal?  When I started back in February/March of this year, I thought, Man, I'd love to get to 20 followers!  Now I'm up to 37, and I'm starting to think, Wouldn't it be cool to be to 50 by the holidays?  Again, this isn't about the number.  I "know" almost every single person who follows this blog, and by know I mean I read their blogs, interact with them on various writing sites, and/or comment regularly on their blogs.  These aren't nameless internet folks, nor are they my real family members.  The way I see it, these are friends and co-workers.  

How do I reach those goals?

First, I need to provide information or content that is worthy of your time.  I really try to pay attention to the posts that draw the most interest and feedback, but I'm not certain I've done a good enough job of building on those types of things.  So I'll do more of that.  Second, I have to continue to find new people with similar interests online, comment on their blogs, and get involved with what they're trying to do.  It sounds counterintuitive, but spending time getting to know other people via their content, etc. is the fastest way to build your own network.  So many of you who follow this blog have done so because I've stumbled across your blogs and commented, or because I've got to know you via a message board.  Pay it forward, and your network will grow.

What are your goals and ambitions?

Despite appearances, the reason of this post is not to reveal some new blog direction or come clean about my abilities (or lack there of).  I wrote this to challenge all of you to think about your blogs, dreams, goals, and ambitions.   Furthermore, I'd like to draw some inspiration.  I'd love to know (in the comments, etc.) where you started, how far you've come, and where you hope to go.

Hope you all have a tremendous weekend!


P.S. - There is an awesome contest going on at the Bookshelf Muse blog.  There are query and page critiques, PLUS a chance to be mentored by an up-and-coming author!  It's one of the cooler, more unique opportunities I've seen.  Plus the blog is great, so go check it out.

P.S.S. - New look.  Like it?  Hate it?  Meh?


I'm back!  (Yet again ...)  As I posted previously, I've been out of town for 2-plus weeks helping my father get back on his feet after knee replacement surgery.  I'm more than pleased to report that he has set his walker aside, and is well on his way to a full recovery.  In fact, he's done so well that he inspired this post.  So, if you'll humor me, I'll share a bit of encouragement.

"We will either find a way or make one." - Hannibal 

There are hills, and there are mountains.  To overcome  a hill in your path, you simply put one foot in front of the other, gradually navigating the subtle incline, and subsequent decline.  Climbing a hill requires a little energy, and very little thought.  A mountain in your path will not be overcome so easily.        

"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."  - Sir Edmund Hillary

My father is a doer.  If something needs done, he does it.  Waiting is wasting.  Suffice to say, patience is a virtue he's not mastered.  He's a mechanic by trade, and by personality.  If something is broken, fix it.  It's as simple as that.  Unfortunately, his 'fix it' personality applies to all things EXCEPT for his health.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge ..." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dad had been limping around on his bad knee for a couple of years.  He was hobbled and in constant pain, but he was still able to take care of the farm, go to work, and otherwise function.  He didn't have time for doctors.  That was the case until a couple of months ago when the final ligament gave way, and the pain became more than he could endure.

"Yesterday, I dared to struggle.  Today, I dare to win."  - Bernadette Devlin  

In the end, I don't believe that my father feared the surgery as much as he did the recovery.  The prospect of weeks--maybe months--of rehabilitation terrified him.  For someone who has probably asked for less than 5 things in his entire life, what would be done when even getting a glass of water would be beyond his ability?  Still, something had to give or he'd be in a wheelchair soon.  

My dad faced it with his typical doer attitude.  

"How long will I be in the hospital post-surgery?" he asked.  
"If everything goes well, 5-8 days," the doctor replied.
Dad shook his head.  "I'll be home in 2 or 3."

I know the man, so I wasn't about to argue.  However, I knew dad didn't quite understand the physical/anatomical implications of having your leg cut open, your joint taken out, and then replaced with a foreign metal object.  Nerves would be severed, muscle cut, and a myriad of other issues would have to be overcome before he'd be able to use the leg normally.  

The problem?  He simply doesn't think the normal rules of science and anatomy apply to him, and why would he?  I'm not boasting or joking when I say he'd missed less than 5 days of work in his life due to sickness.  Other people needed to lay in bed and recover, not him.

"When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." - Franklin Roosevelt   

Post surgery, the surgeon stopped by to visit with us in the waiting room.  He said dad had done inordinately well in surgery.  He also commented that dad "must be a real tough dude" because the old joint was completely polished clean on the inside.  He said he must have been walking on a knee with no ligament or cartilage protection for a long time, and that it was bone-on-bone.  

Four days later, dad was back at home.  (He just had to beat them by a day!)   He was weak.  He was in pain.  He couldn't even go to the bathroom by himself.  I know it was hard for him to let his youngest son help him dress, bathe, and take care of the day-to-day things.  He got depressed, and confided that he wasn't sure he'd ever get back on his feet.

"Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I knew dad was on the mend when he had me hold his walker while he climbed up into the cab of the tractor.  I protested, admonished, and cursed at his stubbornness, but quietly, I marveled at his determination.  He'd been home exactly one week, and it was time for him to get going, 20 or so staples in his knee be damned!

This Monday, almost 2 weeks from his surgery, I took dad to his first followup appointment with his surgeon.  They removed his staples, told him he could get rid of his walker, and said he looked awesome.  After the appointment, dad asked me to take him to the hospital so he could show the nurses how well he was doing and say thank you.  I kid you not, I saw jaws hit the floor when the little 67 year old man they'd sent home barely walking the week before came sauntering in with no walker, and very little limp.  Dad said his thank you and goodbye.

I left for home the next day realizing that my time of being able to help him without an all out fight was at an end.  I've never been so proud, and inspired, in all my life.

"You can do what you have to do, and sometimes, you can do it even better than you think you can."  - Jimmy Carter

I realize this was a long post, and I apologize.  However, I wanted to share dad's story with all of my fellow writers.  This is a craft that demands determination, willpower, and the ability to completely disregard the bounds of good sense.  If you think it can't be done, it won't.  If you believe you'll fail, you will.  If you ignore your dreams, they'll fade.

We can all overcome the hills, but it takes something special to climb the mountains in our path.  So today ...  

Be courageous.  Be inspired.  Be determined.