Saturday, February 23, 2013

words fail me

Read this sentence:

"Transactional theory is when you let children chose what they wanna do or what they wanna wear."

This worries me.

It worries me a lot because this line is taken from a college level paper that was written for a college  class in early childhood development...meaning that the student who wrote it is headed for a career in education. God help him if he ends up teaching my grandchildren to write like this!

Here a few other choice samples (presumably proof-read prior to submission) from this class :
  • He study investigated that the group of 132 children and parents.
  • As expected, the children with a chronic.
  • The study is civically limited.
  • Researchers have come up with an exact number of roughly... 
  • Question: Explain the importance of person-first language.
Answer: Person-first language is important
  • Question: Give one example of "nuture's" influence on development.
Answer: Parents smoke marijuana in front of child, child becomes a pothead

You don't have to know anything about early childhood development or introductory psych. to know that there is a problem here. And here:

"The people feeling or hope is higher in the social notion."

...which, coming from an ESL student, might be excusable. What is not excusable is the fact that this line was followed by several sentences in perfect, erudite English...that were obviously copied without citing the source (aka. plagiarized). And it was SO OBVIOUS.


In one 2-page paper every single sentence ended in an exclamation point! That's downright wrong! I can't imagine it!
And since when did the words (I use the term loosely) "wanna" and "gonna" find a niche in essay exams and research papers? It worries me.

If you teach K-12 English, please explain to me how these students are allowed to go on to college. It isn't fair to their college professors to have to grade papers that look like this:

And it isn't fair to the children who they will some day teach.
Do you want them teaching the children in your family?
...words fail me.
In my next post I'll share a few of the questions I have as a newbie to the world of publishing. Maybe you have the answer I need.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

housework makes you ugly

I know I've said this before...

...but the truth bears repeating. I live in the country, in a big house, with two big dogs... some variation on muddy paw prints, wet leaves, and freshly cut grass are tracked in  EVERY SINGLE DAY. And because I'm not a big fan of cleaning house day after day, it tends to get ahead of me. Fur balls lurk under the furniture and in the corners. Kibble is strewn across the kitchen floor. The sofa and chairs are spattered with drool...until I can't ignore the mess any longer.

Sooner or later it's time to get to work. Time to clean things up. Time to decide what's worth keeping and what to throw out...which makes it a lot like writing.

The day arrives when you suddenly realize you've got a mess on your hands. You've lost the story arc...or the plot falls flat. Your dialogue wanders. Passive verbs show up in all the wrong places and the page is strewn with unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Entire paragraphs need to be deleted.

It's time to clean things up. But unlike the housework that makes you ugly, I like to think that writing makes you this, for example:

And this:

Pema Chodron

And this:

Get my point?
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness."
--My Mother--
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
--My Mother--

In my next post I plan to my thoughts about a serious problem in our educational system.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

true story

True story.

I live in the country, and I love to walk. An afternoon stroll around the block out here is a good four to five mile stretch, whichever route you take.

But one road used to spook me out.

The trees and vines had overtaken a ramshackle trailer settled askew a few yards off the road.

It looked something like this.
A pile of old tires spilled up against a dilapidated shed where a mud covered flatbed truck was parked.

www.flicker .com
You get the was the kind of place meant for stereotyping. The kind of place you'd expect to find some redneck, beer-swigging, abusive boor with his toothless hag and ragamuffin kids. Or, perhaps some psycho loner with his stash of semi-automatic weapons, his shortwave radio, and a fully stocked bunker somewhere out back.
Or, on a more empthetic elderly couple living in poverty who could barely afford their medication, much less the upkeep on their place. I used to cross to the other side of the road whenever I passed the place. It was that spooky. fine summer day as I passed, the front door opened and out stepped the lady of the house, a fiftyish woman in a flowered house dress and fuzzy slippers (I kid you not). She waved and called me over. I'm thinking, "This is not happening!" But I crossed the road, thinking she might be sick. Maybe she needed help. She stood on the stoop and this is what she said:

"I see you walking by every so often. Do you have any books you could bring me?"
True story.
I walked away laughing to myself. Books?? When I got home, I put together a bag of old paperbacks and castoffs...and the next time I passed her place, I put it in the mailbox for her.
Not long after that, the place went empty. Gradually bushes and vines over ran the place, and then one day it was gone. The trailer--gone. The shed--gone. The truck and tires--gone. Today there is nothing left of it...just the woods, as though they'd never been disturbed.
 Nothing spooky about it at all.
The end. 
Epilogue: I never saw the woman again. I have no idea who she was or where she ended up. And I still sometimes wonder what happened to those books. 
So if books are made of stories, I guess stories can be made of books.
"The difference between truth and fiction is
that fiction has to make sense."
--Mark Twain--
If you get a chance this week, check out my facebook page, The Empower Book Project..and watch for updates. "Empower: 32 Stories of breakthrough, Triumph and Discovery" is due out in March.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

how to make a Molotov cocktail

If Google and facebook target ads based on site content and internet searches...I could be in real trouble! Not because I have been researching the native foods, dress and customs of the Maasai in east Africa for my WIP.
Not because I've been exploring weather cycles, indigenous wildlife, and tribal culture there, but because of what happens there in my story. Suffice it to say, I have had to learn a lot about the sex tourism industry, deadly snake attacks...

...and how to commit arson in the remote Africn bush.

Wait. How to commit arson? In a place where there are no explosives? Where I need a long, slow-burning fuse to ignite the fire that will destroy the safari lodge where children are traded for sex?

Well, it turns out that it can be done, except that the process of creating the saltpeter that the process requires takes months...much like composting...and my protagonist only has a couple of days to make this happen.

Which is how I arrived at the idea of siphoning gasoline out of the bad guy's safari vehicles...gasoline that can be used to burn his infamous lodge to the setting the whole conflagration off with a Molotov cocktail. Who knew how easy they are to make?? YouTube is full of instructions and demonstrations! I have to provide verifcation of your age before you're allowed access to those sites. After all, we wouldn't want Molotov cocktails to make it into the hands of children, would we?

Needless to say, I've enjoyed doing this research. I imagine the ad execs scratching their heads wondering why an unassuming woman "of a certain age" wants to know about childhood prostitution and international aid organizations. Why she needs to know how pythons kill their prey. What she plans to do with a Molotov cocktail!

I can hardly wait to see what ads appear in the margins on my facebook page!
Have you ever had to do research that made you nervous? Have you ever entered a restricted site?
"Every production of an artist
should be the expression
of an adventure of his soul."
--W. Somerset Maugham--
If this post picques your interest, wish me luck as I work on the last couple chapters, the revisions, the queries, the edits, etc., etc. Thanks.