Department Of Do You Think They’ll Print This Letter?
Monday afternoon I sent the following letter to the editor of mindful magazine.
In the December 2016 issue of mindful, the article The Mindful Gift Guide contains the advice, “As consumers we have the power to choose gifts that don’t just speak to those we care about, but that have an impact in the world.” This is certainly true. Thus, as a writer, I cringed to read the article’s suggestion to “Do a Book Swap:”
“If your family are avid readers, skip the gift-shopping and instead do a book swap…. Each of you walks away with a stack of goodies for little-to-no cost….”
Please be mindful of the reality facing authors, whose income has declined 30% over the past seven years, due to the fact that there are so many ways “for the customer to gain access to a book, without a penny going to the writer.” (The Author’s Guild Bulletin, Fall 2015). The little-to-no-cost you mentioned comes at an increasingly great cost to writers, who receive no payment from used copies or book swaps.
It is logical to assume that avid readers might – or should – respect and care about the labor which produces the books readers admire. The suggestion should read, “If your family are avid readers, buy them books.”
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Part 2, Possible Solutions
I don’t have any. DAMN!
Remember, a mere week ago, my rant articulate and passionate explication of the need for dialogue between trump voters and everyone else, and my promise that I’d offer solutions this week? Here’s the rub: I don’t know how to dialogue with someone who can’t understand – or worse yes, doesn’t want to understand – reality.
Differing opinions, fine. You can have your own opinions (as to what facts “feel like” to you); you can’t have your own facts. As friend CC recently despaired, if someone for whatever reasons will not or cannot be convinced of the reality of global warming by the decades of evidence that climate scientists have amassed, what good is it going to do for them to hear the same evidence coming from me?
What common ground can be trod by a natural world denizen such as moiself who thinks that people should be in charge of their own bodies, and people who believe that female bodily integrity is subject to (overwhelmingly male led) legislation and superstitious/supernatural (read: religious) prohibitions?
More diplomatic minds than mine will have to work on these and other issues. The only advice I can offer is hardly original, but also the only thing that has ever worked:
Keep aware, and get involved.
Have your legislators’ office numbers on your speed dial.  Avoid compassion fatigue – there will be no shortage of worthy and even urgent causes; pick one or two close to your heart and support them with time and money, the best you can. Be wary of spreading out, and thus diluting, your resources. As one nonprofit manager told me, better to donate five hours of your time and/or $200 dollars per month to one organization than 15 minutes/$20 dollars per month to ten.
Here’s a worthy cause for those concerned with the far right’s anti-science agenda:
- So cool!
- Relevant to all the subjects that I teach [Physics, Chemistry, and Biology]
- A great resource for students
- Really improves student learning
- (Shows them) the scale of time
- Generates a good amount of discussion
- [Helps our teachers] know and understand how to better teach evolution to students
- Amazing resource
- An awesome addition to my classroom
Surprise! – those are not comments from Satisfied Customers ® who’ve recently began following my blog (but thank you for jumping to that conclusion). Rather, they are some of the raves expressed by science teachers regarding a superb teaching resource from The Brights. The Evolution Poster Project‘s poster, “Earth and Life: changes over time,” helps students visualize and learn about the scale of evolution by uniquely depicting the course of biological and geological evolution from 13.7 billion years ago until today.
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Department Of At Least I Have One Thing About Which To Feel Smug
“It’s terrible. I don’t think it sells a single book. I don’t think social media sells anything.”
(author Ayelet Waldman, in the Writer, on using Twitter as a marketing tool)
A few weeks ago the Twitter universe  got its collective knickers in a knot  over yet another literary defection from their ranks. Author Chelsea Cain, interviewed on the OPB program Think Out Loud, talked about her decision to deactivate her Twitter account. 
Despite the urging of select publishers and PR people to pursue more social media “exposure,” I long ago made the decision to not expose moiself to the opinions (whether praise or slag) of strangers. Thus, I skipped the first step in what seems to have become almost a literary ritual:
- join ______ (insert social media site name)
- amass site followers
- pen an article/sit for an interview about “Why I am Leaving ____ (social media site).”
When you’re a writer, the thinking is that you simply must have a social media presence. But is that even true? In the six-plus years I’ve been writing for pay as my exclusive revenue stream, I can’t think of a single time social media got me a job.
I’m also not terribly interested in interacting with my readers, or even knowing they exist. Sorry, guys. The one or two of you that are cool to meet don’t outweigh the legions of semi-literate lunatics still emailing me at least once a month over an article I wrote about hating Pearl Jam four years ago.
(“Why I Left Social Media,” www.manmade.com )
By simply not joining Twitter, I never had to worry about how to deal with the distraction, the hate mail, and – special bonus for authors with lady parts! – misogyny and death threats. But, dang, I am thereby disqualified for any future Why I Quit Twitter gigs. Another lucrative career opportunity down the drain.
Still, I treasure the rare opportunity to feel smug. Also, according to computer science professor Cal Newport, you don’t have to be a writer to benefit from stopping the massive time and intellect suck eschewing the energy drain of social media (my emphases).
Perhaps more important, however, than my specific objections to the idea that social media is a harmless lift to your career, is my general unease with the mind-set this belief fosters. A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.
…. you’re deluding yourself if you think that Twitter messages, posts and likes are a productive use of your time. If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
(Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend On It, Cal Newport, writing in the NY Times)
* * *
To those trump supporters who posted links to the I Am. article on Facebook, and a personal appeal to the article’s author:
I am not racist. I am not homophobic. I am not sexist. I am not a misogynist. I am for free market. I am for stronger foreign policy. I am for small business. I am for my family….I think it is important to clarify something: just because I am Republican does not mean I am heartless.
Blogger Cassie Hewlett wrote the I Am article to “highlight what it felt like to be a Republican college student” after the election:
On November 9th, I went to class and in every single one there was a somber attitude. Pre-lecture discussions were filled with phrases like “I am scared for our future”, “I am scared to be gay”, “How did this happen?”
Ms. Hewlett, I don’t know you, but assume you are around my daughter’s age, and thus am disposed toward viewing you kindly. I will assume you are well-intentioned. And I can’t help but wonder, do you really understand why, post-election, a somber attitude permeated your classrooms?
I am aware that many Republicans did not intend to vote in malicious, fear-mongering, sexist, racist, homophobic ways. I hope you in turn are aware that your party’s candidate campaigned on malicious, fear-mongering, sexist, racist and homophobic platforms and rhetoric, and that this fact is very personal to the majority of us who cast their votes for the other candidates.
You write, I am not racist. I am not homophobic. I am not sexist. Your candidate has:
* chosen as his Vice President one of the most anti-LGBT rights politicians around. Pence has been listed as one of the top “villains” on gay and civil rights watch lists for years – this is not mere current election political trash-talking.
* casually admitted to and joked/bragged about committing sexual assault, consistently dismissed and ranked women – including his own daughter – according to their physical attributes, and said he would appoint SCOTUS justices who would overturn my right to make medical decisions about my body.
* told anti-gay conservatives he’d appoint SCOTUS justices who would overturn gay marriage 
* called Mexicans rapists and said that an American judge could not do his job because of his Mexican heritage.
* declared he wants to register all Muslims in the US.
Your candidate has, for crying out loud, been endorsed by the KKK and other white supremacist, Neo-Nazi and secessionist groups.
You are not racist; You are not homophobic; You are not sexist. But Your Candidate has said and done all of these things, and more. Your Candidate‘s blatant and consistent appeal to racist, homophobic and sexist sentiments are not the reasons you voted for him, but his racist, homophobic and sexist appeals did not stop you from voting for him. Thus, the “somber attitude” you detected.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
I am for free market. I am for stronger foreign policy. I am for small business. I am for my family.
Sure, Mussolini may have been a fascist dictator who outlawed contraception, raised penalties for abortion, regulated women’s clothing and banned homosexual acts, used chemical weapons in Africa, muzzled the free press and imprisoned his political opponents and executed prisoners without trial….but he made the trains run on time.
You personally may not consider yourself racist or bigoted, but you who are willing to overlook – who have the privilege to overlook – a candidate’s bigotries because he supports policies which you’ve decided are of greater/personal good for yourself scares the living feces out of moiself.
Please, Ms. Hewlett (and other self-described non-bigoted trump supporters), remember that talk is cheap. Your words disavowing personal prejudice are cold comfort considering the rise in hate crimes  since the election. I’m glad you protest that you are not one of the haters; I challenge you to prove your protestation by holding your candidate accountable for the consequences of his rhetoric.
One more thing, Ms. Hewlett: fire your graphic designer.  Re the GOP elephant-USA flag symbol used to illustrate your article, the stars are  sideways/upside down/backwards (read: just plain wrong). Star points in the USA flag face up, not down.
* * *
Department Of It Didn’t Quite Come Out The Way I’d Intended,
But You Know What I Meant To Say
MH was considering whether or not he wanted to make soup for our Thanksgiving potluck dinner we hosted. He asked for moiself’s advice, as I have been on a soup making kick recently. I went through my notes, trying to find a soup that everyone coming to the dinner would like and, more importantly, that everyone could eat – food preferences and sensitivities among the attendees include severe tree nut, peanut and seed allergies, gluten and dairy sensitivities and “plant-based flexitarian”  preferences.
I found just such a soup, a recent culinary experiment of mine that turned out well, if I do say so myself (and I just did). “Here’s one!” I crowed to MH, pointing to my notes in excitement. “There’s nothing in this soup that anyone could eat!”
* * *
May you dialogue when you can;
May you be mindful of choices which may benefit you yet be costly to others;
May you have (at least) one thing about which to feel smug;
May your soup be suitable for all;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
And a belated but sincere Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Phone calls are more effective than emails or signing on-line petitions.
 I know, I know, it’s the “Twitterverse,” but I just can’t bear to use that term.
 For a couple of days or so – which is the equivalent of years to many users of the website, who have the attention spans one might expect of people who limit their reflections to 140 characters.
 Simply put, for her, the negatives came to outweigh the positives.
 “I am for my family,” you wrote. What about other people’s families? Overturning gay marriage would dismantle thousands of families, including, to make it personal, that of my daughter’s favorite teacher.
 Documented by the FBI, and civil rights groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center.
 Or yourself, if that’s the case.
 Like the reasoning of trump supporters, IMHO.
 Eats certain seafood items, but no meat or dairy products.