Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why aren't you submitting?

I was responding to a comment about why writers don't submit their work to writing websites, specifically Winston-Salem Writers. My first idea is that the site does not pay anything, and they do not, but as I continued to write and think I thought there should be more of an answer. First, I need to ask more of a question. Why don't writers submit their work more?

Considering how many editors write and talk about the thousands of manuscripts that pass through their offices daily, I wonder that anyone doesn't send their work to publishers, magazines, newspapers, web sites, everywhere. I know I did when I started writing again. I wanted to be published more than anything else. I printed out five or ten copies of every article, essay and story, placed them in manila envelopes with another manila envelope for returns I prayed I wouldn't get and the right amount of postage. I kept track of my manuscripts and kept writing, doing everything I thought I should to be successful. In return I got lots of manila envelopes and form rejections back. Then the long personal rejections started coming, telling me how good my writing was and how wrong it was for their publication. Many times the editor and I would begin corresponding as I continued writing and submitting and they kept sending long informative and helpful rejections, but rejections nonetheless. Friendship was easy; getting published was hard.

There were times I wondered why I wasn't being published when the editors obviously liked my writing and said it was good. There were times they told me I was gifted, but not gifted with payment and publication. I kept all the rejections, form and personal, and vowed the editors wouldn't get me down as I read their publications and ranted about the horrible work being published in the quiet safety of my home office. I wasn't going to give up, and yet there were times when I wrote and didn't send the manuscript out. I ran out of steam, or maybe just out of hope.

I continued subscribing to Writers Digest and buying every book on writing I could find, reading everything over and over in hopes of figuring out what I was doing wrong. I signed up for writing courses and plugged away, filling megabytes of computer space with outlines, stories, character backgrounds, everything and anything to work out whatever problems I could find with my writing, and still I filled my filing cabinet with long, friendly rejection letters from my favorite editors.

Then one day I read an article about writing articles for publications in my own backyard: newspapers, magazines, supermarket fliers. I had a couple ideas and was rewarded with publication, national syndication and a relationship with a local newspaper. Magazines found me next and I turned interviews and profiles into multiple articles for local, regional and national publications. I had my success. It wasn't success in fiction but even nonfiction has its place, and yet I wanted fiction publication.

I finally broke through, or so I thought, by winning second place in a fiction contest. It was a one-shot wonder for a very long time. It seemed I was stuck with nonfiction and fiction would continue to elude me. I wrote a couple of books and began cleaning up other writers' and nonwriters' prose and ideas, helping them find a focus and tell their stories. I gave up on fiction until someone broke my heart. I began writing fiction, giving my broken romance a happy ending and finding for the very first time characters do talk back. I sent sample chapters to a writing contest and took third place. Then I found out what had happened to another story I had written for a contest when speaking with a friend.

She had been on the judging panel and remembered the story. She didn't know it was mine but as I described the plot she smiled and told me she knew the story and explained how. I knew the contest panel had kept the story a long time but what I didn't know was that I nearly won. I was nudged out at the end by a majority vote. Two years and a chance conversation and I finally knew what had happened to one of my stories. I envisioned similar situations every time a manuscript didn't come right back and I kept writing, and editing other people's stories, and I learned.

Going back over those first stories I see the promise and the mistakes. I know why the editors sent the stories back. However, I don't write fiction very much any more. I have a job and responsibilities and I'm still writing nonfiction and being published. The fiction bug bit me as a child and I am still infected, but I don't submit what few stories I write any more. I don't have the time to polish them and there is still a bit of fear inside that in the last round my writing will be nudged out by a majority vote. I know my nonfiction sells but I am less certain about the fiction. I still see and review books I consider less good than my own writing. I probably always will. Until I am writing and submitting my writing I don't really have a right to complain. I am no longer competing on a level playing field as long as I refuse to suit up and step onto the field.

Why do those writers not submit their writing to WSW and other websites? Maybe they're afraid of rejection or criticism or maybe they prefer playing on a field that isn't level. It's so much easier than jumping into the game and getting knocked about or sidelined over and over.

No words

I'm sitting here when I should be getting ready to leave for Lake George. It's a gray, cold morning and I am stuck without words. I feel like no one cares and no one is willing to step up to the plate to do anything but talk, talk, talk and talk is cheap when there is another issue of the ham radio club newsletter to get out. I have the usual content: club and board meeting minutes, the president's column and a couple of little pieces about club activities, but no real meat and no words for columns. At a board meeting I told the members the club was nothing but a social club and one board member, nearly in tears, said it was because some older members took the people with them when they left. My unasked question, because he was clearly on the edge of breaking down, is what made them leave?

The club has initiated some fun activities for the members, but the same people keep winning all the time because the same people keep showing up. Fun activities and prizes are nice and they get their picture in the newsletter but that's not what this should be about. No, I don't have a problem with people socializing. Yes, I do have a problem with a club that is nothing but socializing and doesn't do anything to bring in new members or go out and do something in the community to familiarize people with ham radio and get them excited about the possibilities. The board members talk a good line but that's all they do -- talk.

I see so much potential and so little activity. Granted, many of the members are older and getting older as I write this, and so many members, the really active ones, have died. It isn't as if there aren't lots of younger, virile and active ham radio operators out there but they're either focusing on their own projects and unwilling to get involved or simply do nothing at all outside their own small circle of ham radio friends. These people gravitate to online groups and share their knowledge and experience among people who appreciate their input but it's like preaching to the choir. Those people are already convinced and involved in ham radio.

I am new to all of this and I have had little help from experienced hams, not because I don't ask (you know me better than that) but because they don't have the time or the interest to help me out. If this is the level of after the sale support other new hams have received, it's no wonder they either give up and let their licenses expire or go somewhere else for help. I wonder if that's the case with this club. Is that why the members left, because the spark and support left?

I do not understand why people are so unwilling to share their experience and knowledge with others, even when asked, and why they are so unwilling to extend themselves to letting people in on the fun, the excitement and the possibilities of what they love the most. It doesn't make sense to keep your light under cover when other people need to see, too.

I have asked for help from one of ham radio yahoo groups. I asked for pictures and a little email time for questions and answers so I'll have something new to offer the club members in the next issue of the newsletter. Since no one else has stepped up to the plate and offered articles or jokes or news items, I'll write them all myself -- as if I have a choice -- in hopes that someone will see the possibilities. I doubt I will be able to motivate the entrenched and calcified members but I have to believe someone I interview will read what I've written and offer some help. Who knows? Maybe someone sitting in the shadows hiding their light from the rest of us will decide to open up and share the light and the warmth. I can only hope.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Have camera will shoot

The sky was clear and blue in spots and the mountains outside my office window were fast disappearing behind a thickening gauzy veil of white, charcoal grey around the edges. It was going to storm and storm hard. I had to go to the store to get some food (apples, lemons, walnuts, celery, raisins, a few Marie Callender's) and decided to chance it. At the last minute as I was tying up the garbage sack I decided to take the camera, too. I didn't know what I'd find to shoot but it was worth taking anyway. I'm glad I did.

When I came out of the store with my two canvas bags full of food the sky was full of clouds, the air full of muttering and rumbling. I stashed my bags on a handy pylon and took out the camera. I started shooting, ignoring the people walking in front of me and running for shelter or calling for help on their cell phones. I just kept shooting. I didn't get a picture of lightning but I did get a lot of other pictures. I braved the rain with my broken wiper blade and when I got home I sat in the car until it was over. Looking through the rainy windshield I couldn't resist take pictures of Nel's peas in a pod hanging from the roof. The whole thing looked like it was melting in the pictures and I was curious about how it would turn out.

Today isn't the only day I played with the camera. Last night while I was working I took out the camera and shot some dusk shots out the window in my office while I was waiting for work to download. I admit I'm getting addicted to taking pictures I can crop and resize and edit in some way so they look better than if I had just shot them with a 35mm camera. I do have to keep from moving the camera until the shot shows up on the screen, but I'm learning. My favorite shot is a dusk silhouette of the mountain and the mountain through the windows.

Playing around with effects though can be a lot of fun and I think this may be the one I enjoyed playing with the most. The storm shows up so much better.

Hope you enjoyed the show.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dawn's early light

I was still working on dictations at 5 AM and for the first time in a while I watched the dawn. There wasn't so much green and there weren't so many leaves and branches last year because the tree-hating orc wench still lived in the Lon Chaney house next door, but this year the view is enclosed in a leafy frame. Some of the leaves are turning yellow and beginning their fluttering trip to the ground, but right now everything is still a beautiful green that is darker and more vibrant in the rising bloody light of the dawn.

Last night the view out my window was a black hole centered on the orange-yellow sodium vapor street lamp at the corner. Everything, including my eyes, were drawn to that one spot of brilliance in the total black of night. The windows reflected back the monitor and the little Victorian stained glass lamp that sits on top of the CPU tower next to my desk. It was a lonely night full of silence and the faint whisperings of moths fluttering against the screen drawn to the faint glow of the monitor. Off in the distance a train whistle sounded a strangled drawn out moan as I sat above the neighborhood in my office aerie.

Working away the long silent hours of night it took me a while to realize the sky was lighter, a faint blush of pink barely visible through the trees, washed out by the orange-yellow street light, and still it drew my gaze as I yearned for the dawn. Each moment brought a new color, a little more light and the harsh blaze from the street lamp gave up its power to the rising sun. Unable to give up a single moment of the miracle, I got my camera and recorded this August dawn as the awakening wind teased the branches and leaves to stretch forth their green fingers toward the morning sun and dawn's early light.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Not just for women

Thanks to radiantsun for pointing me in the direction of this article about emotional abuse. Even though the essay is written with the man as the abuser I have found that women can be abusers as often as men and the signs are still the same.

"Emotional abusers are very insidious - some of them are much harder to spot than others, because they mingle their abuse in between acts of generosity, and often employ emotionally manipulative tactics, and passive-aggressive behavior. Not all emotional abusers overtly belittle and verbally harangue their partners - some are much more perfidious and as such, their partners may not realize that the source of their distress and an unease over the relationship has been coming from abuse for quite some time. The longer a [man] remains under the grip of an emotional abuser, the more [he] will start to question [himself], [his] actions and [his] beliefs. It is the abuser's goal to make [him] believe that [he] deserves [her] cruelty and that only through [his] actions can [he] make it stop. It is [her] intent to get [him] to feel that [he] is the cause of any relationship problems, and that [her] (abusive) behavior is simply a response to [his actions], and therefore acceptable. It is true, that only through [his] actions can [he] make it stop - [he] must have the courage to leave the relationship and avoid further contact with the abuser.

Abusers, physical or emotional, are abusive because of their own self-hate and internal issues - not because of anything their partner did. No amount of work or attempting to please will stop an abuser from abusing. They have to be willing to recognize and actually work on their own issues before they can stop inflicting cruelty on the people who love them. In many cases, they don't even love their partners, because they can't even love themselves, and don't feel that they deserve love, even though they crave it. Abusers may genuinely feel bad that they committed another act of abuse, not because they have any real compassion for the person they hurt, but because they get angry at themselves for "screwing up" again. This drives them further into self-loathing, and further into a cycle of abusive behavior."

The rest of the article is well worth the time. Check it out.

Around the house

Unlike my usual week, I drove the car twice yesterday, one to Mountain Mama's and the second time to take the maid home. I put new lithium batteries in the camera and took it along to show a bit of the journey. As I walked through the back gate to the parking lot I noticed the roses were in bloom with lots of blossoms and one really beautiful yellow bloom. The bush grows at the base of Nel's deck where her peas in a pod hang. I'll have to get a close up on the deck and get a picture of Nel's iguana, Iggy.

On the other side of the deck is the Lon Chaney house where the blooming in the back yard. The spectacular this year. In the car, turn left at the end of the alley and up the street to one of the parks close to home. I can't resist the beauty and tranquility of the spot every time I drive past it. Down at Mountain Mama's the the ladies are always busy serving and making their healthy and delicious desserts. I couldn't resist the organic vegan carrot cake while I watched them making sandwiches.

Outside the sky was full of cotton candy clouds and the mountains were crowned with fluffy islands pregnant with rain. Back home the maid was out on the deck cleaning the table with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. I went upstairs to fix and eat lunch and get back to work until five.

When it was time to take Bear home, I passed the knight who guards the hallway outside my door and walked down the stairs past the stained glass window and down the stairs. The drive to the west side of town was full of laughter and conversation, but the drive back was a kaleidoscope of clouds hiding the Colorado blue with pink and gray and obscuring Pikes Peak. Even the prices at the gas stations look good against the dusk clouds of the gathering storm. Everywhere I looked there were beautiful and ominous sights presaging another summer storm. The closer I got to home the more charcoal shaded out the sunset colors until I arrived safely home before the rain began to fall. Kittysocks was curled up on Nel's deck and the sun was nearly gone behind the trees. I was glad to be home even if it meant more work after a quick dinner.

And I am not the only one who has taken up photography. My sister Carol has decided to spend her retirement taking pictures of her babies. When she comes to visit with Mom and Beanie in October maybe we can compare cameras and subjects. You never know.

Maybe yes, maybe no

A really good friend sent me this and I thought I'd share it with you. If you've read it before, read on by.

Interesting Reading!!

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water
temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be.
Here are some facts about the 1500's:

Most people got married in June, because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men,then the women and finally the children! Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.Hence the saying,
"Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath.
It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed areal problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hungover the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying "dirt poor."The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing.As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway.
Hence the saying a "thresh hold."

(Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot.
They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat.They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there
for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could "bring home the bacon." They would cut off a
little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat ."

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up.Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

Englandis old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a"bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found tohave scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

And that's the truth... Now, whoever said that History was boring ! ! !

Monday, August 21, 2006

Shorts in brief

Since I started my new political column gig I've been reading lots more news, which means I also get up earlier to get through my usual morning rituals. I'd go to bed earlier but I still need to put in overtime at work. Anyway, while cruising the news this morning I noticed some shorts I found interesting and disturbing.

Travel writers have a hard time getting published these days if an agency or mode of transportation (cruise, train, airline, etc.) pays for their travel. Their writing is considered tainted by association, and yet it is standard operating procedure (SOP) for journalists to get into concerts and baseball games, among other places. I think even food writers have to pay for their meal or their reviews are called into question. I remember a time when I went to bat against a theater critic for The Columbus Dispatch who would give good reviews when he got laid and was wined and dined. I nearly cost him his job, but it wasn't about his personal habits or his quid pro quo. It was because he gave a bad review to a play he hadn't seen opening night. He saw a technical rehearsal, which is not a good way to see any show since most of the time is spent starting and stopping to get all the technical elements in a play right, and he clipped coupons during the entire rehearsal. Rehearsal is just that, a rehearsal, not the play. Opening night he came, stayed for five minutes and left then wrote a scathing review. I called him on it.

But back to Ryan Leli. Okay, the kid got into Shea stadium for free and he watched a game, but seven years for impersonating a journalist? That's a bit much when you have people who are recognized to be journalists and do nothing to earn the title or the position, other than feeding the public what they're told. Talk about impersonations.

Religion is always in the forefront of the news and so is Madonna but what else is new? She lives to shock and flaunt and her latest stunt has the Vatican in an uproar. I wonder if it is just because she uses sacred icons and beliefs to keep her name and concerts in the news or if they, like some because she's a woman. Okay, so a female Sunday school teacher won't be able to keep teaching men in church as she has for 11 years, but at least she wasn't fired from her day job. She's allowed to do anything she wants, even to being a man's boss, just not in church. According to Rev. Timothy LaBouf when quoting Paul of Tarsus in Timothy: I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. That's one way to maintain control when a woman questions your opinion or the direction of the church to which she belongs, and it only took Rev. LaBouf 11 years to find that passage in the New Testament. Guess he was too busy learning from the city manager when he's serving on the Watertown City Council. The city manager is a woman.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

People say the darndest things

People I know continue to surprise me -- and not in a good way.

I talked with my mother last night about her visit in October. She told me she is giving me a diamond bracelet I gave her for Xmas about 20 years ago. She is parceling out her jewelry and possessions. She planning to have it all done before she dies because she's certain she's not going to be around next year. I teased her asking if she was going to give me the diamond earrings I gave her for her her birthday when I first started working. She said she couldn't because she gave them to Beanie. Even my brother's youngest daughter, Alexandria, keeps asking if she is still going to get the jewelry Mom promised her.

Listening to Mom talk about who gets what disturbs me. It isn't as if I don't understand my parents aren't going to be around forever, but it's still difficult listening to her talking about all this. This isn't just Mom's way of getting another vacation the way she has so many times over the past few years, wheedling Dad with seeing New Orleans or Montana or wherever "one more time".

I remember my grandfather talking about dying all the time, saying he wouldn't be around for long. He did this throughout my childhood and didn't die until I was in my twenties. I still miss him but learned to discount his talk of dying. Mom started doing the same thing about three or four years ago. I'd chalk it up to following in her father's mental footsteps, but Grandpa never gave up his prized possessions. Mom loves her jewelry like I love certain books I own and she's giving them all away in such a matter-of-fact way. She wants to make sure what she intends is carried out. I told her not to worry. After dealing with my ex-husband's family, the vulture clan, and the feeding frenzy when Andre Norton was in the hospital a couple of years before she died, my sisters and brother know that I won't stand for them acting in the same way. I have told them all I would kill them, go to prison for the rest of my life and let the state have everything if they even acted like they wanted to fight over Mom and Dad's possessions like a pack of wild hyenas. I am a very pacific person who flees in the face of violence, but this I will do. I won't allow my parents' wishes to be ignored in the name of selfish greed. Things aren't worth that much.

Mom's not the only person who has surprised me lately.

One of my more pleasant tasks is talking people into allowing me to publish their adventures in radio. One friend, whose pictures I have posted here, has a marvelous project he built in a pair of Batman pencil tins. I emailed him asking if I could publish the pictures and narrative in the next issue of the ham radio club's newsletter. A couple hours later he emailed back to "respectfully decline". I was stunned.

It took me a while to figure out he doesn't believe his project good enough to be published. He's wrong. I won't publish anything that doesn't interest me or doesn't show a high level of expertise, functionality and creativity. His project has all three and so much more. I even offered to use the information on the ATS-3 bulletin board to write the article if he didn't have the time but no deal. I see so few really creative and functional home brewed projects and his are always fascinating. It's such a delight to see him take materials that have no relationship or bearing on ham radio and turn them into multi-use equipment to take when he's backpacking and playing radio.

I can understand being humble and even being shy of the limelight but he posts his projects at online bulletin boards for like-minded ham operators but continues to elude my best efforts to publish him in the newsletter. Ordinarily I would hound him the way I hound others until they get tired and give in, but I prize our friendship too much to subject him to my hard sell, wheedling approach. He seems to have little tolerance these days for levity or coercion, digs in his heels like a bull and refuses to budge. He has enough difficulties to face without me making it worse because I want to showcase his project.

One of my hopes is to inspire young people to get involved in ham radio with creative projects like this, showing them that radio can be fun as well as challenging and the only limits are those imposed on us. Every time I see that excited grin on experienced hams when they talk about their projects or the first time they were exposed to radio I want to spread the news and infect more people. The newsletter is how I spread the creative seeds and projects like this one are perfect for helping the seed take root and grow. Projects like this show that with a little ingenuity and thinking outside the box amateur radio is not an expensive hobby or avocation. It's fairly easy to put together an expensive kit or buy a ready made radio but thinking outside the box and building a radio and antenna with inexpensive materials puts radio within the reach of younger radio enthusiasts. What better way to show them than in a newsletter like this one?

The older I get the less I understand people. I wonder if I will ever understand as long as people keep throwing me curves when I'm not wearing my baseball glove.