Sep 272017
 

A childhood highlight was getting — and using — a library card. It was the same for my mother. She tells about choosing her books and facing a librarian who would not let her check them out because she was “too young.” I would love to have been a fly on the wall the next day when my five-foot-nothing grandma marched into the library to share her opinion about banned books, and to inform the staff that her daughter was permitted to read anything she chose.

It's Banned Books Week, but that sort of thing is behind us, right? Click To Tweet

It’s Banned Books Week, and I’d like to think that censorship, book burning, and banned book are far behind us. But, as I write this, social media is alive with an intense first amendment debate, and I don’t have to look too far in the rearview mirror to remember a several-hundred-acre wildfire started by someone burning books. And, as I began to research banned books? The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a recent favorite I found on the list.

Banned Books week is sponsored by the American Library Association and, according to Newsweek, is “both a celebration of freedom and a warning against censorship.” I was also surprised to learn that Banned Books week is only about 35 years old and began in response to a sharp increase in challenges to books in schools, libraries, and bookstores. A significant increase — in 1982. Publishing powerhouse J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a frequent target of censors as is, apparently, almost anything by Stephen King. And, evidently, the entire Captain Underpants series and Fifty Shades of Grey (which sold over 100 million copies) present a clear and present danger to the Republic. (Dammit, where is that sarcasm font when you need it?)

And lest you think the upsurge in attempted censorship is somehow related to looser modern standards and morals, take a look at some of the classics on the list: Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, and The Jungle.

I was raised to believe that reading was a way to open doors to new ideas and different points of view. I was taught that part of the value of those things was an increased ability to understand and empathize with those with whom I have significant differences; that such skills were useful in maintaining and enhancing peaceful relationships.

Which books present a clear and present danger to the Republic? Click To Tweet

So isn’t it logical that suppression of offensive ideas could bring them to back, stronger than ever? Or, perhaps if an individual finds a certain book offensive she could choose not to read or recommend it. Aren’t those decisions adults can make for themselves and for the children in their lives?

What do you think about banned books? Do you have a favorite? Please use the ‘comments’ to share.

 

 

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 September 27, 2017  Posted by  Thinking, Writing and Reading 12 Responses »
Aug 222017
 

One of the best things about working as a writer is connecting with others — especially crappy writers. That’s where the magic happens. Those of us who share lousy early drafts and admit there are times that we stink? We’re willing to expose our soft underbellies and writer’s tics to our peers. We get help from one another: it’s part of how we improve.

I love being around smart people who are good at their craft and want to get better. They inspire me in a way that smugness, complacency, and ego do not. They’re the ones who take courses, go to seminars, and embrace feedback from people they respect. And, while they don’t necessarily use *every* suggestion, they appreciate friends who save them from public typos and egregious grammatical errors. They’re willing to be crappy.

I’m feeling a little frustrated that there aren’t more of them around. I recently attended a seminar by some writers who, apparently, didn’t suck. At all. They seemed to feel free to point out the ways the rest of us fell short but, it seems, were beyond that.

 

And then there are my online buddies. I certainly believe in supporting and amplifying other authors, but lately, I’ve been struggling for balance; I’ve had to become more selective about what I share.

Here are some recent pet peeves from some non-crappy writers. (And I assume they’re not crappy because they’re not seeking — or using — feedback from other authors.) Here are a few recent, real-life examples that have me walking on the cranky side of the street.

  • Let’s start with the person plastering the internet with pleas to hire her as a… wait for it…  a WRITTING coach? Really? (I cut any identifying info out of the picture above.) Writing coach tip Number One: Proofread.

I'd rather be a crappy writer than a writting coach. Click To Tweet

  • I’d like to write a positive review of a book by another area author. I’d LOVE to. It’s just that I couldn’t read more than a chapter or two once I realized he hadn’t bothered to use an editor and didn’t appear to know the difference between the words “there,” “their,” and “they’re.”
  • How about the “social media expert for authors?” You know, the one with 200 hundred online followers? Why would an author (or anyone) use a “social media expert” who doesn’t use social media? Does she not believe in it? Or not know how?
  • And then there’s the “webmaster” who wants to charge an arm and a leg to build an author website. She sent a link to a sample loaded with typos, grammatical errors, old fashioned graphics and … “no.” Just “no.”

There. They're. Their. Pros hire editors. Click To Tweet

I’m not a completely crappy writer, and neither are the people I rely on and respect. I’d welcome some help sorting out the difference between confidence and complacency. How do you walk the line between “competent” and “driven to improve”? How do you get the feedback you need? I look forward to your comments.

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 August 22, 2017  Posted by  Thinking, Writing and Reading 5 Responses »
Jul 262017
 
KISS

Use social media to share the love.

Has social media ever had you fretting about the difference between a ‘friend’ or a ‘fan’?  A group or a page?  Wished your ‘dashboard’ would get back in the car where it belongs?

When I had Amazon free days a small group of friends dug in and helped spread the word. During that three-day period, they convinced so many people to take advantage of the free download that The Inner Critic Advantage reached #15 on Kindle’s self-help list. Not bad for an unknown author, eh? Hooray for good friends!

And that’s the real point: not to brag but to let you know that, with nothing more than your blog comments, a social media account, some time and enthusiasm you can make a huge difference for any author, artist, business or cause that matters to you. There are a few simple things that anyone with a Facebook account can do to help an author or artist whose work they like.

Once we kick all the scary, techie voodoo stuff out of the way? Social media is simply word of mouth. Think about it… when you see a movie you like or discover a great new restaurant, what do you do? You tell your friends about it. The cool thing about social media is that now you can tell a variety of friends… who can tell their friends… who share with their friends….

I  just finished editing an article for a friend. He wrote about setting boundaries and zealously protecting our writing time. The drive to connect with you wakes us up at dark o’clock.If you think about it, writers walk a funky line: we need to withdraw from our real-life loved ones in order to do the thing that connects us to… you. And, with luck, a lot of people like you… people we haven’t connected with yet.

Your social media accounts can help you focus and express your gratitude.

So, if you’ve read us, know us or love us? Tell your friends. And to help you remember? And you’re cool… so do it with FLAIR:

* Friend, fan, or follow. Whether you use Facebook to connect with your grandparents or Instagram to give us moment-to-moment updates, you might be surprised to find your favorite author or musician on your favorite social media platform. (And most people share different content on each available outlet.) Each platform has a “search” function. Look around. Follow accounts that interest you.

* Like and leave a comment! We love hearing from you — even if it’s only an Instagram heart or a Facebook thumbs up. Remember, any kind of art requires a lot of solitude. A lot. When I find myself editing for hours after everyone else has gone to bed,  a little encouragement goes a long, long way.

* Answer and amplify. Did “your” musician ask a question on Twitter? Did your author use Facebook to ask for feedback on a title? Most of the time, if they (we) do that, it’s not a marketing ploy. We want your input. Could you please take 45 seconds to answer the question? (Also, guess what? Posts with lots of attention generate more attention. It’s how things “go viral.”)

* Introduce and inspire. I don’t know about you but, frequently my online reading brings me to stories of everyday heroes. The guy who organizes kids to mow lawns for single moms and the elderly. The person who distributes dog food to those in need. The cop who went on a child abuse call and ended up adopting the child he rescued. Instead of complaining about how the media doesn’t cover enough good news? BECOME the media. Raise the vibration. Share those good news stories as far and wide as you can. We’ve got the tools to make it easier than it has ever been. And we need them.

* Review or recommend. Read a good book lately? Take a few minutes, hop on over to Amazon or GoodReads and leave a review. (This is one place that it’s a really BAD idea to say you know the author. We’ll talk about that later.) Ask your local librarian to look into ordering it. Suggest it to a teacher or book club.

It may sound like a lot but it’s simple. Social media is about relationships and one way to be a good friend is to do good things for your friends. To share the good stuff.

I’ll see you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, right?

***

Andrea Patten is the author of  The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head a little book full of big ideas about how — and why — you can learn to love “that voice.”   The Inner Critic Advantage is now available on Amazon.

 

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Jun 142017
 


It took me a long time to become willing to be part of a writers’ group. Frankly, I’d heard some fairly awful things about them. I had heard such groups could be competitive and repetitive. That some groups were more in love with the idea of writing than getting anything done and that those meetings sounded more like a roomful of angsty teens than a bunch of grown-up word nerds trying to help one another improve.

A bunch of grown-up word nerds trying to help one another improve... Click To Tweet

Whenever I’m trying to get better at something, I seek out people who are striving to improve a similar skill set or someone who is far more accomplished and willing to share expertise. And, while I always hope to find people with a passion for improvement and excellence, I loathe the expression “like-minded.” When I’m trying to learn new skills, or I’ve backed myself into a corner, I can be impatient or hard on myself. I don’t want or need a mind like mine. I need fresh eyes, different experiences, humor, and compassion. I need my very own word nerds. The ones who love me and have got my back.

I made some false starts before finding my group. I attended some critiques that bordered on mean and others that appear to have been fueled by lollipops and rainbows. I’ve been asked questions by (usually male) newbies who proceeded to argue and mansplain my answers away or treated like a kindergartener by a facilitator. And there were groups that didn’t recognize my genre and people who believe that “real” writers limit themselves to longhand, legal pads and lead.

Do real writers limit themselves to longhand, legal pads and lead? Click To Tweet

A year or so ago, a mentor of mine questioned me about my efforts to find a writers’ group. His experience had been wonderful and, not only did he want to understand my tenderness around the topic, he also wanted me to experience the growth that can come from participating in a good group.

I decided to pursue a new genre and joined a group as the member with the least experience with that sort of work. After attending a few meetings, they asked me to read. To my amazement, they listened attentively, respected my boundaries about the kind of feedback I wanted and encouraged me to keep going.

Today’s meeting was inconvenient. I hadn’t read the facilitator’s materials or found a segment of my work to bring for critique. Early this morning, I did a public presentation on an unrelated topic.  My husband is hours away from some big, disruptive travel, and my son’s home decided to develop “issues” while he is somewhere at the other end of the country. I was hungry, over-tired, unprepared, it was raining again… and I was shocked. I couldn’t wait to get there.

As it turns out, everyone who showed up was in the same boat for different reasons: grant deadlines without cooperation from grantees, house construction delays, family member illnesses, returned-to-the nest adult children. Stuff.

So we tossed the agenda and talked about our stuff. Then we talked about some new and exciting projects. And awards we had applied for and conferences we were attending. And, eventually, after having each experienced one? We talked about character arc. And we laughed.

 June 14, 2017  Posted by  E, Happiness, Writing and Reading 13 Responses »
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