Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Just Who Is Charles Rodenbough Anyway?

I am Charles Rodenbough and beyond my role as husband, father, and grandfather, I suppose I can characterize myself as a writer and teacher, both capacities I have enjoyed since retiring from being a business manager. Many years ago I was aware of what I enjoyed doing but I let others convince me of my “responsibilities” and I gave up the desire to be a college professor. I don’t begrudge the choice nor do I regret what might have been. In my retirement I am getting to catch up on the avocation that I had continued even while functioning as a businessman.
History is my genre and my concentration has been associated with North Carolina. I chaired a Sesquicentennial Celebration (Madison, NC), organized Historic Districts, county chaired the National Bicentennial, Presided for the Historical Society, planned for a county museum, and all the while I read, researched, and collected for a time when I could write. When that time came, I was not starting from scratch but ready to compose from what I had assembled.
I like to structure my writing on the bare facts but I like to create beyond into the logic or lack thereof in how people, individually and collectively, accommodate to their circumstances. History writing is always interpreting the circumstances of one time or generation to another which sees through its own prism. The historian has to convey facts and situations in such a way that the reader begins to perceive in the historical moment. I have written biography, history, and historical fiction.
Most recently, I wrote a biography with my grandson that could be read and appreciated by multiple generations of readers. Stealing Andrew Jackson’s Headwas published this year by All Things That Matter Press. My wife, Jean Rodenbough, is also a published author with All Things That Matter Press.
Currently, I am involved with a project with the University of North Carolina, studying a unique common thread of slavery from Africa, through the West Indies, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana and Canada over a hundred year period.

Stealing Andrew Jackson’s Head
http://www.amazon.com/Stealing-Andrew-Jacksons-Charles-Rodenbough/dp/0984651799/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322169788&sr=1-1

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Who Is Mark Lewandowski Anyway?

I did not go to Alaska because I wished to live deliberately; I went to make money, hopefully enough to fund a trip to Sweden. The plan was to work in a cannery for the first half of the summer, and then fly to Stockholm, hometown of Hans, a college buddy from the University of Kansas. Things didn’t work out that way. When we arrived in May salmon wasn’t running yet; jobs at the fish processing plant in Homer were scarce. By the time the jobs arrived at the end of June, Hans, his girlfriend, and her brother had given up and left Alaska. I stayed on for the rest of the summer, sometimes working 18 hour shifts “sliming” salmon for many days in a row. I never overslept, even though I didn’t need an alarm clock. Before I went to bed each night I popped some Tylenol. Like clockwork I’d wake up five hours later, once the Tylenol wore off and the pain returned to my hands. By the end of the summer things so striking before, like the bald eagles as common as crows in the Lower 48, or moose lumbering down the main street, clogging up early morning traffic, had become the norm to me.

In August I started a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Wichita State University. I arrived in Wichita in the middle of the night, about four hours before Orientation was to begin. The second story I wrote for my first workshop was called “The Slime-Line Queen.” It became the first story in my collection, Halibut Rodeo. Like all the other stories in the book, “The Slime-Line Queen” was inspired by the jobs I did, and the people I worked with at Seward Fisheries.

That was 1988. I planned on going back to Homer the following summer, but in March 1989 the Exxon Valdez spilled its load into Prince William Sound, setting back the Alaskan fishing industry for years. Seward Fisheries had no immediate use for slimers. Full time residents found work scrubbing oil off of sea rocks with paper towels. I never returned to Homer. But I continued to visit places outside my comfort zone. I lived in Poland as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and in Lithuania as a Fulbright Scholar. I travel just for fun, too. My experience traveling infuses all my writing, both short stories and essays. I like to believe that I have a keen eye for “place.” In all my narratives setting plays a primary role.

Now I am an Associate Professor of English at Indiana State University, with a modest list of publications in numerous literary journals. Halibut Rodeo came out 22 years after that summer in Homer. When I think of how much time has passed, I recall a conversation I had with a single dad I worked with on the Slime-Line. He had just finished his first year of classes at the local community college:
“You know why I’m going to college?” he asked.
“Why?
“So I can get a job where no one looks over your shoulder and tells you to go faster.”

I think I took his words to heart.

Buy the paperback version of Halibut Rodeo:
http://tinyurl.com/2bdpwgn
Buy the Kindle version:
http://tinyurl.com/275ycpz
Read my blog:
http://halibutrodeo.com

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Who Is Robert Rubenstein Anyway

I am the author of Ghost Runners, and The White Bridge, soon to be published by All Things That Matter Press—but not for everyone. A trilogy, finishing next year with a treatise on Howdy Doody and the nuclear bomb is sure to raise eyebrows, but not book sales unless you are also compelled to make sense of the time that had the greatest influence on our lives. In the White Bridge, my flapper gal reporter, Ginger Lee Smythe concludes that truth is nothing, and nothing is truth. My uncle, Jack Ruby, is given a play as a street tough in old Chicago. Buy my books because he was my uncle and I, his nephew? I don’t think so. Maybe I am lying about that, you say. Well, maybe I am.


 Most of my life anyway I was told to hide that truth—that’s why you will not see my middle name, Jack, on my books. But Uncle Jack did have a point. My first reaction when I heard Lee Oswald was shot dead was,”thank you, uncle jack, it’s good for the bastard.”

I grew up with television and learned to write history from Crusader Rabbit, Rocky and his Friends, and Fractured Fairy Tales. I believed in Dudley Do Right and Mighty Mouse. When I was three years old, I crawled onto the tenement fire escape and spread my arms to the heavens. “I want to fly like Superman,” I told my mother.


You see, now you are getting closer to why you should buy my books. I believed in fairy tales. I hid under my mother’s skirts when I saw the infamous “Bambi,” in the movie theater. I was shot dead with three – D. Hondo’s rocks that came hurdling out of the celluloid screen to put a dent in my head. I was attacked by King Kong and Godzilla. I am in therapy to this day because they shot John Lennon.


I grew dizzy in the fifties, and I have seen Nazis ever since. Every man should be required to say his prayers about what he has witnessed and what was the cost of the history he bears. I am fortunate to be entering the twilight years, a little wiser and not yet suffering from Alzheimer.


I know I was lied to, and was traumatized by the country I never left, and fought to change, though I heard voices during the hearing test and was deferred from serving our nation. I said, “boo hoo,” that I did not kill or maim anyone in Viet Nam. But I sure wish I could wear a cool hat to say I was a war protestor.


The Olympics are coming—seventy-five years since an outrage occurred. Ghost Runners is about American anti-Semitism and sports. It is about the heart that can conquer hate. It is the same thing with The White Bridge. Why should you buy me?


I am, as old as I am, representative of a new breed of writers that sell our wares by way of a small independent family of authors who are quite good and avante -garde. I have seen that the rest of our little group can pack a mean, competitive pen.


I believe my parodies are vital to the understanding of racism and history; they are, though fractured, but vital about knowing who we are, and where we are going. There is no living room conversation with smart – sets about the Olympics without Ghost Runners. There is not a complete understanding about racist America without The White Bridge. Taken together, you will be inoculated forever.


Buy me because it took me a lifetime to get to this declaration. There is sometimes a great notion as Ken Kesey said. If its warped history you seek—horror, hysterical and uproarious—I think I may be worth the price of admission. If you don’t like my books, I’ll pay you back … someday.


Can’t wait to begin the last book of the series with your support … “in a red – bricked classroom, a little five year old boy crawls under a desk filled with inkwells, trying to protect his little head from the shards of glass of the window that he was told not to view. If I were a good boy, and kissed my dog tag that would survive me, I would go to heaven, the teacher cried, when the nuclear bomb came. This is a drill now, she said, but you willbe dead very soon, anyway.”


The Boy Who Looked Through  A Crack In The Window ends my trilogy. Why should you buy my book? Because you are the future, and I would like to scare you a little—you see, I still see clearly because I have studied the past through Howdy Doody’s eyes.

Robert Rubenstein


http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Runners-Robert-Rubenstein/dp/0984621652/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1317343885&sr=1-1

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Who is Jesse Hanson Anyway

Asked by my publisher to write a piece about who I am, for our in house blog tour, I experienced mixed feelings. It was naturally enlivening because I saw a chance to introspect and perhaps learn something about myself. Strangely, on the other hand, I felt somehow vulnerable—the private, guarded part of me felt that way. You see, I knew that the general theme of my description had to be spirituality, and speaking of one’s self as a spiritual being, a spiritual seeker, strikes me as risky business. There’s a lot of room for self-aggrandizement in any forum in which an artist speaks of himself. Having always been taught that true spirituality is for the humble...
Ironically, the flip side of the pride vs. humility issue is the fact that a great percentage of the population is entirely cynical, as regards spirituality and those people have a tendency to view people like myself, as rather self-deluded or otherwise deluded dreamers.
Nevertheless, and at the least, Jesse S. Hanson is a person who has a great deal of interest in spirituality. It is the backdrop, the undercurrent, of all my writing, and it has become my most true identity. My piece here has taken the form of a mini memoir, because it seems to be the only way to explain such an identification. I have had, through no merit of my own, the greatest fortune throughout my life, to be inspired by and to spend time in the company of certain profound beings Who have highly—I would say fully—realized their potential as human beings. I must say I am not one of them.
Truly speaking, there are so many other ways I have attempted to identify myself. I was born into a devout Lutheran family in the agricultural, sparsely populated, southeast corner of North Dakota. There, I found identity in the freedom of the open land, roaming the countryside on the backs of horses, then later as a high school wrestler, a singer and songwriter of sorts. More generally, I think I viewed myself in relation to my family, friends, and girlfriends. In the background was my loosely committed relationship with God, through Jesus.
My college years also proved to be an exercise in identity swapping. Before I could even get serious about any kind of academic pursuits, I was exposed to elements of the prevalent counter culture. Soon I saw myself as more of a Bob Dylan, Neil Young wannabe than as a student. Here my relationship with Jesus was eventually challenged, though not entirely broken. I bounced from one major to another, switched schools altogether and, by the middle of my second year, dropped out.
I went back and lived in my little hometown for a couple of years. Once there, somehow, a few young people created a kind of identity for me. I became some kind of false counter culture celebrity to a certain group. They'd come up to my apartment and we'd listen to albums, watch Star Trek and smoke pot. I was fortunate that that particular identity didn't land me in jail. Anyway, having lost all recognition of myself, after a while I got depressed and, on the advice of my family pastor, admitted myself (more like: turned myself in) into the nine-week "drug" program at the state hospital. In the admission process, I was told it was not really a "drug" program, as there were not even any junkies in North Dakota. Apparently, they called it the drug program to distinguish it and to physically separate its residents from the much larger program for alcoholics and criminals who had managed to avoid real prison. It was designed for kids, boys and girls both, who needed to get their lives back on track. Some had been busted for misdemeanors—dope dealing, shoplifting, etc.—which were often related to a variety of substance abuses—gas and glue sniffing, etc. There were a few cases of heavier type crimes, such as car theft and certain acts of violence. In any case, immediately after my admission process, I was put on a locked ward with the alcoholics and the aforementioned criminals. But it was only for a week, to make sure I was drug free and then I was brought to the slightly more liberal drug ward.
I learned a lot there: not only did I learn that the majority of the staff members were using drugs, while rehabilitating us, but I became aware of residents who got sent to prison from that floor for such crimes as smoking a joint or having a drink of contraband alcohol. I know snitching was encouraged; I don't know if it was rewarded or not. This was the also the place where I first learned about spirituality. One of the counselors, Daryl, was an initiate of a Master from India: Kirpal Singh. This kind, humble, and honest counselor began to hold "spirituality meetings" in the general activities room. These non-mandatory meetings were attended by almost all the residents (it was something to do). Interestingly the soft-spoken counselor somehow held the attention of the whole group. We were quite fascinated by this person's anecdotes concerning his remarkable Master.
At one point, a really wild character was brought onto the floor. Short and stocky, long dark wavy hair, wild eyes, and a very fierce demeanor. I admitted to the girl next to me that that fellow made me kind of nervous. "Just don't let him know it," she advised me. I heard rumors about it taking six or seven aides to subdue him in the solitary confinement area where he had just come from. Later, I became good friends with the wild man, Mark, and it turned out that he was already involved with this Kirpal Singh and was planning to get initiated at some point in the future. He said that when he was in solitary, Daryl was the only person who came to visit him. This is notable because the hospital was in Mark's hometown.
Well, we were some mixed up kids, I suppose, but we weren't crazy. That was yet to come in my life. Upon leaving the hospital, I decided to move to Seattle, Washington. Mark had an apartment there, in the University District, and offered to share it with me. In Seattle, I worked a variety of jobs to make a living as I took to my new identity as a street musician/song writer/spiritual seeker. At least I thought I was a spiritual seeker. To attempt to make a long story short, during the years I spent in Seattle, things went from good to better to worse to really bad. Eventually, after falling in with some strange company and repeatedly experiencing the schizophrenic glories of LSD I lost it. I began to hallucinate when I wasn't on the stuff. When I shut my eyes it was a non-stop scrolling of horror, like an old-time movie reel running down my field of inner vision. That lasted for a period of a week or two, I believe. I didn't sleep. I assume that exacerbated my condition. I'd been in some tight spots before, while hitchhiking, being drunk and vulnerable, etc. but I figured this might truly be my undoing.
It wasn't to be. During this time and the time leading up to it, in my desperation, I'd also taken my spiritual seeking to a new level of sincerity. I'd begun to read everything I could find about spiritual experience, including The Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, The Koran, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Varieties of Religious Experience. Modern things also—Autobiography of a Yogi, Be Here Now, The Lazy Man's guide to Enlightenment, and so forth. Most of these books frightened me further. Only Kirpal Singh's books gave me hope and encouragement. But Kirpal had left His body recently. I was stranded. One day, my friend, Mark came by; it was a long time ago now that we had lived together, but we were still friends and He was left in the lurch by Master Kirpal's passing also. There had been a magazine, published in English, for the disciples of Kirpal and it was still being printed after He left. This issue contained a very short, two or three-paragraph article, with the title, "A Possibility". It was about a man from the Rajasthan Desert of Northern India. Someone had reported that this man had shown up at Master Kirpal's funeral and when he spoke of Kirpal his eyes turned into Master Kirpal's eyes. That was the gist of it. Upon reading this little article, I felt, somehow, very moved. When I shut my eyes, no hallucinations.
That was the beginning of my identity with spirituality and it was the beginning of a long relationship with Ajaib Singh. Many more wonderful and mystifying experiences have been a part of my existence from that time forward. Mostly, these things are quite personal. The personal nature of a relationship with a God realized person makes it, for me, unsavory to speak of it openly. I've done so, very briefly, on this occasion, in the hope that some people will come to understand that my fiction is based upon reality, as I know and experience it. But my genre of choice as a writer, whether it's songs, poetry, or prose, is fiction. In fact, my perception of prose is that it is another form of poetry—that one shouldn't tell a story but that the story should unfold for the reader, as life unfolds for us without explanation or commentary. I have set myself a kind of personal mission to help expand the role of spiritual fiction in literature.
In terms of writers dealing with spirituality, my style, although contemporary— even experimental—in form, is rather old fashioned, in message. There’s a lot of fluff out there, from self-made gurus and spiritual guides, etc. My book, shows spirituality as a gift from God. In Song of George: Portrait of an Unlikely Holy Man I have created a character who is the spiritual benefactor of men in a federal prison mental facility. The interesting thing is that he has no idea how he came to be selected for this service, since he himself has severe mental issues and has spent much of his life as an addict/derelict. But the idea is that the only kind of person who can reach the poor souls in this institution has to be one of them. An allegory, you see: even as the great spiritual benefactors throughout history have come as one of us, though they are in truth, much more.
Since my meeting with Ajaib, I've lived in quite a variety of locations, been through two devastating divorces, fathered children (now grown), had many occupational and artistic identities, and remarried, finally, in my fifties to the woman who is seemingly my soul mate. Master Ajaib left the body several years back and I was again devastated.  But recently I have been so fortunate as to once again come into the company of the Master, in the form of  Master Sirio Ji, of Italy, a devoted disciple of Kirpal and Ajaib.
My novel is published with All Things That Matter Press. My folk-rock band,The Primatives, for which I am the songwriter and guitarist, has two CD's: The Lovers of Kali Yuga and Primitive Spirit. I am working on a new novel and have aspirations to publish a collection of my poetry and song lyrics. I have had short works and poetry published in a few magazines, including Reach Poetry, Dawntreader, Sz Poetry, etc.


Those interested in learning more about Song of George, as well as my other work and interests, can find me on my blog at:
and on Goodreads at:

You may also contact me directly by email at: dragonssong100ml@yahoo.com  

Thank you so much for your time,   dass, Jesse

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Northern BC Business.com

My new book, #9 Grundpark Road is featured on Northern BC Business's website. It's worth checking out!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Who Is Abe March?


The full name is Abraham Firestone March.  My mother, a very religious person and prayer warrior, took the name Abraham from the Bible. She gave me her maiden name Firestone as my middle name.

My name Abraham has been a blessing and a curse, depending on where I happened to be. When I worked in New York, it was a blessing. In some areas, it was not a plus and I began using only the nickname Abe, as in Abe Lincoln.

My feet have trodden the earth in more than 30 countries. I have seen the sun rise over the Persian Gulf and the sun set in the Canadian Rockies. I sunbathed by the Mediterranean, roasted in Riyadh and dined in Damascus. I was beggar-beseeched in Baghdad, short-changed in Saudi Arabia and saw blood shed in Beirut.

I have been called Mister, Monsieur, Herr, Sayyidi, Kirios, Signor, Sir and other names.

I have eaten with Bedouins and dined with Royalty. I have also been rich and I have been poor. I like to think that I have a world view on many subjects and that I have a certain amount of wisdom. My experiences are reflected in my writing. 

At ATTMP, my book, They Plotted Revenge Against America was inspired by America’s invasion of Iraq.  My book, Journey Into The Past was inspired by my love of hiking and exploring ancient castles in Germany.


They Plotted Revenge Against America
http://tinyurl.com/3bomrdl

Journey Into The Past
http://tinyurl.com/3ghv6xg

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Who Is Jessica Chambers?


Soon after Jessica was old enough to walk and talk, her parents realized two things.

The first was that she had an incredibly vivid imagination. Unlike many small children, she was content to spend hours at a time amusing herself, inventing ever more dramatic games of kidnap, runaway orphans and wicked stepmothers. When she wasn’t playing, she could often be found listening to an audio book, Roald Dahl, perhaps, or her favourite Enid Blyton, becoming lost in the tales woven by others. Even as a child, Jessica cherished a dream that one day she would be a writer herself. Always a shy person, she reveled in the ability to escape into another world, something that remains true to this day.

The second thing which gradually became apparent to her parents was that there seemed to be something wrong with her sight. She was forever tripping over toys left lying around on the floor, or being chided for sitting too close to the television (“You’ll get square eyes if you don’t watch out.”) It took several years of appointments with specialists, of brain scans and visual tests, but   when Jessica was five years old, experts diagnosed her as having Retinitus Pigmentosa, a degenerative disease affecting the retina.

At school, Jessica’s teachers did everything in their power to make life as easy for her as possible, including providing her with a CC TV and computer. However, as she approached her ninth birthday, her sight had deteriorated so severely that the teaching staff no longer felt equipped to meet her needs. It was decided that she should transfer to Dorton House, a weekly boarding school for the visually impaired. For Jessica, this was a dream come true. Having devoured all the boarding school stories she could lay her hands on, from Billy Bunter to Mallory Towers, she couldn’t wait for her own adventure to begin.

Of course, her time at Dorton House wasn’t quite the round of classroom pranks and midnight feasts she had anticipated. Nevertheless, her nine years there were extremely happy. In addition to the standard subjects, she learned to read Braille and to use a computer with speech output, was introduced to talking kitchen scales and white canes, and mastered countless every day skills to help her adapt to life as a visually impaired person. Outside of lessons she tried her hand at horse riding and archery, fell in love, and had her first painful dose of heartbreak. When she left at eighteen, she did so not only with top grades in her exams, but most importantly with the encouragement of her English teacher, which gave her the confidence to pursue a career as a writer.

Perhaps as a result of going away to school, spending more time in the company of her peers than her own family, Jessica developed an intense interest in people. Everything about them fascinates her. She loves to observe the ways in which they interact, their steadfast loyalty and tendency to hurt those closest to them, their capacity for both cruelty and kindness. It’s this understanding that makes her such a skilled writer. In the words of multi-published author Molly Ringle, “Jessica has an amazing talent for creating true-to-life characters, throwing them together in a gorgeous setting and letting the sparks fly.”

This insight into the best and worst aspects of human nature comes to bear particularly strongly in her novel “Dark is the Sky”, soon to be published by All Things That Matter Press. An emotional read fraught with tension and unexpected twists, the novel follows a family’s struggle to come to terms with the past. Twelve years after tragedy tore them apart, the Camerons reunite for the first time since that terrible summer’s day. Far from being allowed to lay their ghosts to rest, however, a shocking revelation almost destroys them for a second time.

Want to know more? Keep up to date with all Jessica’s news, including the release of “Dark is the Sky”, by joining her Facebook fan page
or subscribing to her blog.
For more information about Jessica and her novels, visit her website
http://www.jessicachambers.co.uk/

Friday, October 07, 2011

It's official - #9 Grundpark Rd is Available!


Well, #9 Grundpark Rd is finally available. It`ll be another week or so before it`s available through Amazon, Kindle or Nook. In the meantime, you can check it out at http://allthingsthatmatterpress.blogspot.com/ or http://allthingsthatmatterpress.com/buynow.htm
Let me know if you need any more info and of course I`m always interested in minions who will do my bidding. :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

#9 Grundpark Road


Tonight was the night. After months of effort by me and my editor, we’ve decided that my novel is ready for publishing. I did one final check and sent it in to my publisher, ATTMPress. I can’t wait to deal with the cover. Although you can’t read a book by one, it sure makes an impression.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tree in the Woods Conundrum


If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? This is an old question that I took literally as a child. As a writer, I realize that this might not have been a question for actual pondering, but metaphorical instead. Here I sit thinking that today I have nothing of value to share. I haven’t blogged in a bit and the mundane day to day requirement s of life seem to have taken over.
As I write this blurb, I wonder who, if anyone will read it. Not many, I imagine. Though this tree has fallen, I find myself speculating whether or not I have made a sound.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Will Ereaders Eventually Replace Physical Books?


I never imagined how fast things would change. As a child growing up in the 70s, I listened to LPs. Later I listened to 8 tracks, tapes,CD’s and now we buy our music almost exclusively on line. When my daughter was 5 (in 1995) we gave her a little set of Barbie accessories. It included a turntable and record. I said, ‘You know what this is, honey? It’s a record.’ She said, ‘No it’s not, dad. It’s a CD.’ We’ve watched beta and vhs disappear and I still have several sets of encyclopaedias on my shelf that neither I nor my kids use.
When we’re a few years older, it’ll be easier to see what’s really going to happen. No matter how comforting a physical book is, it may not represent the same comfort to future generations as it does to us. After all, you don’t really need a light to read a kindle.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Visiting the Northwest

The family and I took a little road trip this weekend. We left Vanderhoof early Friday morning and drove west toward the coast. We stopped briefly to see a pretty view of Moricetown Canyon (http://www.northbceh.com/smithers/moricetown.htm) and then off to The Village of Hazelton (http://www.village.hazelton.bc.ca/) before finishing the day at Hyder, Alaska (http://www.stewart-hyder.com/hyder.html) where we took pictures of grizzlies feeding on salmon in Fish Creek.
We stayed the night in Stewart, British Columbia and decided to leave early the next morning right after breakfast. Well that didn’t pan out so well. The only restaurant open early enough was the local watering hole and it was already filled to the point of bursting. Everything else was closed until 11 a.m. We chose to have breakfast in the next town...4 hours later. Needless to say, we were famished by the time we sat down to eat.
We spent the following day in Prince Rupert, British Columbia where we enjoyed fresh seafood meals. The weather was great and we stocked up on halibut and prawns before returning home on Sunday morning.
As tiring as it was, the scenery was breath taking, the locals were entertaining and the food was delicious.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

#9 Grundpark Road

Today was a neat day! I received another query about my next novel. I can’t express how gratifying that experience is. I can only hope that sort of thing continues to happen and that interest continues to grow. Most importantly, I wanted to thank all of you who have read my first book and I wanted to let you know that it shouldn’t be too long before “#9 Grundpark Road” is available.
Thanks again, everyone!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Censorship in Schools

Censorship in schools—now that is an emotionally charged issue. I am a teacher as well as a writer and I do not advocate censorship. I’m a proponent of common sense, the not so common kind, it seems.
In my twenty years or so of classroom teaching, I have seen the odd lynching and it’s a phenomenon that every teacher usually does the utmost to avoid. Whether or not any given resource is appropriate classroom material is irrelevant.
I don’t think that all materials should end up in the classroom, but those that do, ought to be justifiable. Several things need to be considered when choosing a resource. How does the material relate to the curriculum? Is this the best resource for the lesson? What is the nature of my clientele? A teacher can’t ignore the fact that every student in the class is someone else’s #1 concern.
A seasoned and intelligent teacher will not ignore these issues. The appropriate information should go home explaining the nature of the project and maybe even a sample of what students will be exposed to. A portion of that letter should explain how the lesson cannot be taught without the use of the selection. Finally, parents should sign at the bottom denoting their approval.
Parents who are adamantly opposed might be reasoned with or be given other options, but unless the opposition is a screwball looking for a fight, confrontation should be able to be avoided.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why do I Write what I do?

Yesterday I was thinking about this thing called writing. I don’t think it’s a term that adequately defines what it is that I’m doing. Everyone who has gone to school and learned to scrawl his name is a writer. I ask myself, what is it that makes me a writer and another person not a writer?
I think that we should be called expressers or creationists or idea makers. I can’t think of a good word right now, but there must be an eloquent phrase that describes what it is we do.
What we create has very little to do with the market place. I create because I like to. I enjoy it. It’s taken a long time for me to come to terms with criticism and I think I’ve made the journey. I know that the value of my writing cannot be reflected by market trends or any other kind of popularity contest. If I’ve expressed myself well, then it’s up to other individuals to respond to it. Maybe they'll buy it, maybe they won't.
I do hope that one day I’m able to sell enough to make a living, but that doesn’t really matter. My writing is how I express myself. Any idea that I might claim to be unique or have a smidgeon of truth, can only be called such if it comes from within me as an interpretation of my knowledge and experience. It can’t come from a chart or graph or someone who claims to know what will sell.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Protocol

Some years ago I ran onto an old book at my grandmother’s house. I believe it was called Answers to Questions (printed in 1926). There was an entire section on etiquette. There were questions such as:
Does a woman precede or follow her escort down a receiving line?
When stepping by people already seated in a theatre, should a man face the occupants of the seats or the stage?
When a couple leaves a street car, should the woman go first?
Should a young lady ask her escort to come in when he brings her home from the theatre or from a party?
How long should a formal call be?
These were only a few of the questions and when I first read through the book, my thought was that they were the oddest things to worry about. But then I pondered it awhile and I realized two things. The first was that, most of the answers were simple logic—for anyone concerned about others. The man in the theatre should avoid knocking knees with those already sitting. When leaving the street car, the man should get off first so that he can help the lady down.
In 1924, there seemed to be a concern about the rule, but not so much about the why of the rule. That was interesting to me as well. But when I thought about it, it seemed that in many cases the answers were not necessarily straight forward. Should food be passed to the right or left? I realized that one important advantage to observing protocol is that reduces the chances that any person is inadvertently embarrassed. Again, something very important to someone concerned about the wellbeing of others.
I think that what we have lost over the years is actual caring for our fellow man. We may claim it. We may send $24 to an orphan in Africa or help out at the homeless shelter now and again, but what do we do to protect the feelings of others every day? These are concerns worth revisiting.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Combat Criticism

One haunting question that writers have is, how do I withstand and rise above criticism. Criticism comes in all kinds of forms. It can come from a family member who doesn’t think you’ve got what it takes. It can come from a reader who is offended by or doesn’t like your subject matter. It can come in the guise of a critic who challenges your writing style. It can even come from an editor or agent who questions your skill.
Developing a thick skin is not the solution. One cannot become impervious to negative feedback. The real coping skill comes from understanding criticism and embracing it.
Family members do not always have it in them to recognize you as a writer until you’ve already become successful, or persevered. You are the only one can know whether you are a wannabe writer or not.
Getting past the armchair critic takes only a keen ear. These critics don’t have the writing skill necessary to offer any depth to their ideas. They usually hate your writing or love it. Neither of these positions is helpful to the writer if there is no solid reasoning to back it. The hater is easier to deal with because we naturally want to ignore groundless negative criticism, as it should be. But we should also ignore the armchair critic who praises without substance. As nice as it is to hear an ‘at-a-boy’, what use is it if it carries no substance?
Good criticism contains an element of reason. Since writing is all about reason, writers should be able to listen to criticism and judge the value of it. If a writer validates a particular point of view, then heeding that perspective can only strengthen a project and therefore improve a writer’s skill.
Listen with your own critical ear and act accordingly.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I've Returned

I’ve been gone a long time and I’ve probably lost every reader I’ve ever had. It’d be great if you’d prove me wrong and join my blog. In the meantime, I’ll work at writing new and interesting articles. I hope you enjoy, comment and then ultimately—stay.