Friday, November 18, 2011


I enjoy satire. I just wanted to share this Brett Favre picture with you. I used Gimp 2.6 to alter the image by combining a Brett Favre crying with the image of a man protesting in New York.

I don't know what it is about Brett Favre, but the more he stays in the news, the more I find him to be a classical villain. I say he is a villain because he went to a rival team with the goal of getting back at his old boss. He felt he deserved a chance to get his old job back at the Packers, after he said he retired, but the Packers didn't want him. I am sure it hurt him, but the Packers made the right choice, and they traded him to the Jets. He played with the Jets for one season and retired again. He soon came out of retirement and went to the Vikings.He found success with the Vikings, and he beat the Packers twice as the Vikings made a run for the Super Bowl, but the Packers got the last laugh and beat Favre twice last year on their way to winning the Super Bowl.

Favre could have retired a hero, but in the end he looked like his age and he wasn't the media darling he once was because he looked like a dirty old man that didn't respect his wife. People will never view Favre the same way they viewed him 2007 when he cried on the national stage about how hard it was to retire.

He had a chance to be the good guy in the story, but in the end his ego lead him to be a good villain. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

Can you write a novel in a month?

Writing a novel in a month seems like an absurd thing to do, and an impossible task, but for some reason I took the challenge.

Right now, I am doing great on the word count, but it is only the beginning, so the adreniline of a new project is still pushing me.

I did the challenge back in 2009, when I was under the classification of a stay-at-home dad. I didn't have the distractions of a regular job to get in the way of my writing. I won't say that being a stay-at-home dad didn't have distractions, but young children tend to nap, so I had extra time to write--quiet time.

What are the benefits of writing a novel in a month?.

1. You set a goal. This goal is important, like any self-help book will tell you. The website isn't going to come to your house and yell at you if you don't write everyday, but they do send out e-mails that include little pep talks.

2. You learn to write on the days you don't feel that motivated. There is something to be said about writing everyday, and not because it is something a writing teacher might tell you, but it has more do with the fact you learn more by doing and not by wishing you could write. The amount of writing that needs to be done everyday by a writer is specific to the writer, but during the challenge it probably a good idea to write 1,667 words a day.  

3. You can find other writers in your are to talk to about writing. The NANOWRIMO website is setup in a way that you can find people in your area that are taking the same challenge you are, and these same people tend to get together during the month. This sense of community is good for that extra motivation a writer needs during the weeks of November. It isn't easy to work by yourself, and getting together with other writers is good for the writers psyche.

4. You learn why writers also have substance abuse problems. Just kidding, not all writers have a substance abuse problem. 

5.You actually write a novel. The finished product might not be worthy of publishing, but with a little work or a lot of work it will lead to something you can brag about. You might only brag to your family, or if you have a blog or facebook page, maybe you can brag there too.

There is a lot a writer can learn by trying to write as fast as they can, without listening to the censor while working. The censor in the head can kill a really creative day, and knowing that you need to get 50,000 words by the end of November should allow the writer to allow the story to go in directions they probably wouldn't of thought of it there wasn't a tight deadline. The writer will find plenty of time to revise after November.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Does Writing Improve with Age?

How do you distance yourself from your writing when you write about issues you feel passionate about? I read a few different opinions from published writers on what makes a good piece of writing, and for the most part they left me wonder how a good writer ever really distances himself from what they write.

Does it make you a bad writer if you become one with the subject?  Hunter Thompson was great at becoming part of the story he was reporting.

E.B. White was able to write about the things he saw, he was part of the stories he told in his essays.

As we age, will we see the world differently, or will we be wearing the same foggy glasses that we wore in our youth, but will those foggy glasses have new and improved frames?

I know as I age, and it is a slow process for me, because my body is aging, but my mind tends to be still in search of things I chased in my youth. Not, that I am that old, my parents aren't even collecting Social Security, yet. That is the bench mark I set for myself when it comes to feeling old.

But what does age have to do with writing?

I know that when I received my high school diploma in high school, and it was over ten years ago, I thought it would be the last time I would have to sit through such a ceremony, but that changed when I realized I didn't know as much as I thought I did and went to college.

I won't say college was easy, but I learned a lot about writing. Then I graduated. It was like I was looking at my high school self, and  after some time, I soon realized that I needed to learn more about writing. I spent a small fortune on books I thought were important to help me improve as a writer, but then I discovered something about myself. These books I thought important couldn't help me improve my confidence in my voice. I wasn't very confident in my voice, my writing voice.

My voice may crack from time to time, just because it is going through a form of puberty, and in the end it will sound differently than it did yesterday, thanks to my advancing age. My writing won't be the same naive know-it-all that I once knew, but it will be the honest voice of a man now wondering what he will leave behind and not what he can take from this life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life, No Cable, and Reading

As an English Major, I tried an experiment. I was this great experiment of living without a television in my apartment. I didn't have a television in my apartment for two months and I managed to do less than I planned. I would say that is because I listened to talk radio to fill the void left from world without a television. 

I really thought I would do more writing, but I didn't; even though, I had these vivid day dreams of myself sitting faithful at my desk and writing until I was so tired I couldn't lift my fingers to type another word. What a beautiful dream that was, but that like dreams, you wake up and find that reality requires putting in the extra effort.

Not having a television meant not being able to watch movies on a bigger screen. I love movies. I also love watching them on a screen bigger than small computer screen of my laptop. Sure, I didn't own that many movies, but I owned the movies I liked and didn't mind watching over and over, so I didn't watch as many movies as I did once I got a television and DVD player in my apartment.  

Not having a television meant I didn't fall asleep falling asleep on the couch and waking up with a stiff neck. I don't know how many times in my life, enough times to know that when I feel tired I should go to bed. 

Not having a television meant not complaining about there being nothing to watch. I think I am not the only person that feels this way.

Not having a television meant not complaining about having to pay a cable bill. I can't get over how people will pay for commercial television.

Not having a television meant that my radio became my favorite thing in my apartment.

In the end, I learned that it wasn't the objects in my life that prevented me from writing, it was me. I was preventing myself from writing by not sticking to my goals. I fixed that problem, and I didn't fix it by getting rid of my television, again, but I did it by just putting the computer in my lap and writing.

Up-to-date Media

If you have a question, you should ask it?

Why do we care so much about polls when more important things are happening right now?

Mr. Cain is leading Romney in one poll and is second to Romney in another poll. I say, so what. I want real news. I want to know what is happening in America. I want to know more about Occupy Wall Street, and why it took so long for the mainstream media to make it a news story. Is it because mainstream media is controlled by corporations, like Justice Roberts pointed out in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission?

I don't think corporations owning newspapers and television stations had anything to do with Occupy Wall Street getting little press coverage. I just think that journalist made a choice not to make it a news story, until they realized that these people weren't going away.

Like the Tea Party, the media didn't know how to take the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some media outlets mocked the protestors for doing something that can't be quantified by a simple thirty second news bite, so they just mocked the protestors by calling them dirty and stupid, just listen to Rush Limbaugh talk about the protestors.

These pundits and faux journalist, in a way, make news for themselves by being so foolish, look at how I mentioned Rush Limbaugh, these news makers see themselves as the true judges of free speech. You could call them puppets for the corporate interest, or you could call them biased, but for the most part they can't argue a point without mocking the person they are trying to argue with.

Occupy Wall Street is spreading, but so is the angst against it rising. The angst against free speech is interesting, considering the press is suppose to tell the story not tell just their side of the story.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Feel Good Major

As an American you should pick a major that will keep you gainfully employed or even get you a job. I would personally like to know if there is a major that offers this. Sure, healthcare seems to the hot pick right now. But that is assuming that people will be able to afford to healthcare in the future. That seems cynical to say, but really, if healthcare cost keep rising faster than the rate of inflation something is going to bust.

So, what looks hot right now, might mean those people with smart degrees looking for a job when the next bubble hits.

Megan McArdle has a piece in the Atlantic about the Occupy Wall Street protest, and she mentions the people graduating with a "fun degree" are now taking part in these protest. She discovered this by spending a lot of her own time looking at the Occupy Wall Street website.

Yes, some people with fun degrees do graduate with a lot of debt and no real job prospects. Ms. McArdle graduated with a "fun degree," but she also went on to get her MBA, and her allegences are strongly tied to business, so her arguement always takes a pro-business bias. But in her piece she also fails to mention that a lot of college students are graduating with a lot of debt because college keeps getting more expensive.

Maybe people shouldn't be allowed to get degrees if they can't afford them, because in a free country free people might pick majors they like or feel are the right fit for them. Maybe those degrees the business class think won't yield a job should be minors, instead of majors, but who is to say that those fun degrees might lead to those fun degree holders doing well in a MBA program or law school program. .

The important thing is to remember is this recession is unlike any other recession, because we know what caused it, but yet nothing concrete was done to fix it so it doesn't happen again. The Dodd-Frank bill isn't strong enough to fix the problem. So, voters should be mad. Nothing is being done to fix the problem, or so they feel and they making their voices heard.

What is really discouraging about the Occupy Wall Street protest is that their doesn't seem to be an honest debate on how to fix what ails our country.  The media seems confused that Americans would be made about being unemployed for so long, and both political parties seem willing to wait for the next election to do anything to help. A side can cry "class warfare," but people are waking and discovering "trickle down economics" really means the rich get richer.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gridlock helps no one

Justice Scalia told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Americans we should "learn to love the separation of powers, which means learning to learning to love gridlock, which the framers believed would be the main protection of  minorities." We should love gridlock because it helps what kind of person? Did he actually say minorities?

The definition of minorities is a tricky one when it comes to defining the unemployed in America, because right now there are 14 million unemployed Americans.So the number of unemployed represents a minority of working Americans who aren't being protected by Washington's gridlock. They weren't protected by a government so happy to deregulate business. They weren't protected by a Congress that wants to see the president fail. They aren't protected from courts that rule in favor corporations, like the Supreme Court making it harder for women to sue Walmart. They weren't protected from the 1% of the population that destroyed the economy because politicians need wealthy donors.. Maybe Justice Scalia definition of minority is the rich in the United States. They just can't seem to catch a break when it comes to the government helping them.

Justice Scalia believes in the "original intent" of founding framers when he writes an opinion. But that is really no different than people that believe the Constitution is a "living document," because both sides are deciding laws on their own views of the Constitution.

How would Jefferson want a Constitution interpreted today? No one really knows, and can say without a doubt that he would still view the Constitution the same way he did when it was created. It is hard to argue that he would be proud of how real debates are replaced by PR produced candidates that can only regurgitate talking points, or proud of the elitist that don't know the difference between right and wrong.

Justice Scalia wants to say that he doesn't use his own opinion when it comes to the Constitution, but he should read  his own opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, because it is clear that he is using his own view of free speech when it comes to corporations. Justice Scalia said: "The Amendment is written in terms of "speech," not speakers." Because what found framer said something like that when it came to protecting corporations speech?

A branch of a government, a branch of government that is in charge of coming up with laws that protect citizens of this country, decided to write a law that sought to limit the powers of corporations in elections. The Congress believed that true free speech was being limited by corporations that were able to monopolies the kind of 'free speech" available to the public. 

Corporations should be allowed to speak, but they shouldn't  have a branch of government making new laws to protect their speech--a branch of government that has ex-corporate lawyers deciding in their favor. 

Justice Scalia might think he knows best when it comes to the Constitution, but when the results of his decisions hurt the minorities he claims to be protecting, well, he is greatly mistaken. He and his colleagues have done enough damage in this country by protecting the people the Constitution wasn't meant to protect.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Brett Speaks

Brett Favre knew Aaron Rodger was going to be good, or so he claimed on a radio show on Tuesday.

Packers fans are mad at Favre for his comments. But why are they mad?

Brett Favre was exciting to watch, because you never knew what team he was going to throw the ball to on any given play.

At times, mostly regular season games, he looked like Superman, and in the big games he still looked like Superman, but in the big games he treated the football like it was kryptonite and he needed to just get rid of it before it zapped his powers to text young women pictures of himself.

Brett Favre, if he could be any fictional character, would probably would be Iago. He would be a great villain, because at times he seemed like a likeable guy and he was on your side, but in the end, his motivations weren't pure and he paid for it dearly with his career ending the way it did. He stabbed his head coach in the back with his play, and in the end he had to watch his old team win the Super Bowl. Plus, he will never get to hold another Super Bowl trophy, at least, not as a player.

Packer fans can get upset with Favre for his comments, but in the end his comments are just comments, and they don't mean anything when it comes to the current success of the Green Bay Packers. His comments won't cause Aaron Rodgers to suddenly become depressed and maybe think about retiring every spring for the next ten years, and they won't cause Aaron Rodgers to start throwing the ball to the other team. His comments in the end, like 336 of his passes landed in the hands of someone else, the media this time, and in their world they ran back for a touchdown.I believe they are still doing their touchdown dance.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

English Major = critical thinking skills

Never start a piece of writing with a questions, so that is why I mentioned that fact.

What about critical thinking?

English majors are great at critical thinking, maybe. I can remember a final paper I wrote in college that my professor told me lacked writing and critical thinking skills. He didn't give me a very high grade for the paper, and somehow I still passed the class. The class was my capstone class in Humanistic Studies, and the professor loved to talk and his discussions led to great debates in the class. I can't say anything bad about his class.

I don't even remember what I wrote about in the paper, and his critism did sting. I did a little bit of soul searching on my way home from class that day, and soon realized that this wouldn't be the only time someone would question my writing ability. Not everyone is going to like what I write, and not every argument I make will stand up to the bright minds of the critics out there in the world. The important thing to remember is how to learn from what just happened and it apply it to what I write in the future.

A lot is said about the importance of critical thinking skills and their applications in the real world, but at some point critical thinking skills seem to lose to the impulses of human nature. The impulses of human nature are the cryponite of critical thinking, and at times have lapses in critical thinking, but not all lapses are counted in your final grade.

Obama still tough on terrorist

President Obama did the right thing when he allowed the CIA to kill U.S. born Anwar al-Awlaki.

It is hard to argue that Anwar al-Awlaki was protected by the fifth amendment because he was a danger to the public. Just because he was hiding in Yemen, doesn't mean that the government wasn't within it rights to eliminate his threat.

Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization, and by joining al Qaeda Anwar al-Awlaki joined the enemy. I am not trying to sound like George W. Bush, but al Qaeda is an enemy of the state and set on committing acts of terrorism against the U.S. by any means necessary, and Anwar al-Awlaki had a record of inciting hate against the U.S. and linked to some recent terrorist attacks.

Some groups will argue that Anwar al-Awlaki was protected by the fifth amendment because of his citizenship, but at what point do you given up your citizenship rights when you become a terrorist?

Monday, October 3, 2011

English Major?

What happens to an English major in today's economy and what  can an English major expect, they picked English as their major.

Who were his parents that let him pick English as a major, never mind the fact he was an adult when he did it.

Why didn't he pick a useful major like accounting, maybe something dealing with healthcare, and even business? At least you would be using your degree.

How do we define "using" when it comes to a college degree? Because doesn't a college degree give a student an broad education in the workings of the world?

Am I using my degree in my job? I will say no and yes.

No, I am not being paid to be a writer in my current job, but I made $2.02 on Digital Journal, and need to make an additional $7.98 to actually get paid for my writing.

I self-published a short story, and am working on a novel. I know that sounds like a cliche, doesn't it? Yes, and using cliches in writing is one of those commandments you shouldn't break. 

Yes, I am using my degree, because my degree is just about English, it is about the liberal arts education that I receieved from the honorable University of Wisconsin system. That means that in order for me to get a degree in English, I, poor English Major, had to take general education classes, and those classes taught me more than just how to read and write. I learned, be it simplified, business ideas about supply and demand. I learned about improving production by streamlining processes. I also learned basic sociology, psychology, math, and science. I also don't want to recount my 12 credits in history. Did I mention my minor was Humanistic studies? 

I do remember learning that ethics was covered with a lot of passion in college, but what I learned in college about ethics in business never matched the one seen in the real world.

Yes, I have an English degree, but it is more than just that, because it is a college degree that proves a commitment and willingness to do the work required to get the job done.

I might not get rich from my possession of an English degree, but there is more to life than just money, I think.

Another great book by Kurt Vonnegut

I would love to make an argument that "Mother Night" is Kurt Vonnegut's best novel. I know in school "Slaughter House Five" was required reading. I read it a couple times in college, because I had, by my standards, good professors that knew what they were talking about when they talked about Vonnegut. But, I really wish they would have made us read "Mother Night" too.

"Mother Night" is a great novel for younger people to discuss, because it deals with how we judge people. Do we judge them by how they appear on the outside, or do we judge them by what is on the inside? Questions like this are important to discuss when going through our early adult life.

When you read about Vonnegut's life; especially, how he survived the bombing of Dresden. A reader of his novels can't help but see why his books make such great points when it comes to the mental state of people that survive wars.

You don't have to fight in a war to know that wars change people, and Vonnegut, excelled at find his voice when it came to writing about how World War II changed him. Yes, his work is fiction, but it is the fiction from a mind that survived  the war and didn't know what to think afterwards.

It is hard to say why it took him so long to write about the war, but maybe his war books wouldn't have been as good if he tried to write them right after war. 

"Mother Night" captures the schizophrenic mind of  Howard Campbell Jr who is an American spy in Germany. In Hitler's Germany,  Mr. Campbell is a propagandist for the Nazi state.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away, and I won't, but I will say that it raises some good points about character, what a person believes, and what we really know about the people.It also raises questions about how we need punish a few people for horrendous acts perpetrated on society, when it is obvious that more than a few people are guilty.

Maybe my argument wasn't strong enough for "Mother Night," but read the book and see why Vonnegut was a great writer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ron Johnson, is he just lazy?

Ron Johnson thinks unemployment benefits leads to people sitting at home until a good paying job comes around.

Does introducing only bill in eight months show signs of a motivated man? Ron Johnson introduced one bill that eliminates federal regulations until unemployment hits 7.7 percent.

Wow,  Ron Johnson better pace himself, or he might actually do what the people of Wisconsin sent him to do, and that is fix Washington. He is probably pacing himself, because the heck schedule of working part-time in Washington is probably harder than creating a  business with your in-laws' money.

Where is the anger in Wisconsin towards Ron Johnson's work ethic. One bill in eight months from a man that talked tough on unemployment benefits. It seems he lacks the work ethic to do anything but collect a check for just showing up for a job.

What about limited government Mr. Johnson talked about when he was running for office? Oh, government needs to help the struggling oil industry by subsidizing, if you go by Mr. Johnson voting to keep the oil subsidy. It sounds like he is for smaller government.

Maybe, Ron Johnson won because of voter rage, but where is the rage when it comes to his laziness and apparent flip-flop on smaller government. Why can't an account introduce a bill to change the tax code?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Free Trade

Mitch McConnell is using his bully pulpit to push Obama to sign the three free trade deals with Columbia, South Korea, and Panama, and he is doing it by means of an op-ed piece in the Washington Post.

The editorial raises some good issues about getting the deal done, and the importance of signing the deal. But, the best part of the editorial is his claim that "21/2 years have taught us anything, government spending isn't the solution." These are great words of advice, considering Republicans started two wars on the backs of tax cuts, and that means increased government spending on the backs of IOUs.He didn't seem to have issues with that kind government spending increasing our deficits.

Hypocrisy shouldn't be the issue right now, but it does seem odd that the push to save 380,000 jobs seems more important than finding ways to create jobs for the 14 million unemployed and 8.4 million working part-time.

Free trade doesn't have a track record of creating jobs that it hypes, but it does offer Americans a chance to buy cheaper goods, if they have a job. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What about Ron?

Does Ron Paul deserve more respect?

After Ron Paul lost to Michele Bachmann in the Ames Straw Poll by less than one percent, you would have thought he would be featured in more news stories, but thinking and reality are two different things when it comes to politics.

It is hard to fault the media for not having more stories about Ron Paul, because Ron Paul is the only consistent candidate running for president. People now where he stands on the issues. He would pull American soldiers out of foreign countries. He won't beat the war drum when it comes to Iran. He doesn't like the Federal Reserve printing so much money. He wants to get rid of income taxes. He believes government and insurance companies make health care unaffordable. There isn't much about Ron Paul that the media hasn't reported already.  

However, his Republican opponents lack the convictions of Mr. Paul. Imagine if Michele Bachmann didn't have an interesting husband with a homophobic background. She probably wouldn't get much press, either.

Mitt Romney is good at raising lots of money, and has the support of his party. Mr. Romney is acting like he already won the Republican nomination and spends most of his time attacking President Obama, while not having any plans different from what mainstream Republicans want.

Don't forget Mitt Romney is Mormon. Religion is an important subject during election time, but never that important after the election. His religious beliefs shouldn't matter, but they do, and that makes for good news stories.

Newt Gingrich has the advantage of working for Fox News, has two ex-wives, is a "devout" Catholic, and started his campaign by bashing Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare. He tried to retract any comments he made about Paul Ryan's plan but the damage was already done. Newt does the kind of crazy stuff that makes for good news stories. 

Sarah Palin isn't running for president, not yet, but she sure likes to be around cameras. She also likes to dress for the part, too. It just seems like their isn't anything she won't do to get on camera. Put her family on cable television, why not, if it helps her get elected president. Her comments and other tactics makes for good news stories.

Donald Trump thought about running for president, but for some good reason he decided not to run for president. He still gets attention because he is Donald Trump. He is rich and doesn't like president, so that makes for good news stories.

Rick Perry, Governor Good Hair, sounds like Ron Paul. Perry is governor of the state of Texas, like George Bush once was. Perry likes to bash the president. Perry likes to flaunt his religious beliefs for his own political gains. His tactics makes for good news stories.

The media might get bashed for not mentioning Ron Paul, but why should they. Ron Paul  is so consistent that there isn't much for them to report. Sure, people at Fox News look bad for not talking about Ron Paul, because he is a Republican, but they are the "Fair and Balanced" network. Fox News doesn't have an agenda when it comes to Ron Paul.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When Cuts Hurt

What will it cost to go to college in the next couple years? Does it matter? College students can take out student loans. I wonder what kind of debt future college students will face when they graduate from college? Will they be forced to live with their parents or even be able to find a job?

Why so many questions about the future?

The last couple weeks the news coverage concerned the debt ceiling. "Oh, the debt ceiling is too high," cried Chicken Little(The part played by the Tea Party).

It is amazing how the debt ceiling debacle distracted Americans from the real issue of figuring ways to improve the economy. Unemployment is still too high, and too many homeowners owe more on their house than it is worth, and these issues aren't getting enough news coverage.

What are some ways we could improve the economy? We could increase government spending. But will it work?

Let us take a stroll down memory lane, or maybe just open a history book, if you aren't old enough to remember points in American history that involved increased government spending to improve the economy, but you need to ignore those annoying Republicans yelling 'Socialist.' Who wants to listen to those hypocrites talk about smaller government, anyway, when the truth is that their god, Ronald Reagan grew the federal government like it was a genetically modified crop from Monsanto.

But, what does history teach us about cutting government spending during a tough economic period? Well, Roosevelt tried that in 1937 when he cut government spending and added the Social Security tax, but he did so because he believed the economy was doing better. It is hard to say that a lot of politicians feel the economy is well enough for cuts in federal spending, but they do like their phony baloney jobs and cutting spending seems like great Newspeak.

But what about the point I wanted to make about college students and increased debt? Could this be holding back the economy? A student in debt can't buy a lot of things that might help improve the economy.

According to, about 50% of recent college graduates have at least $10,000 in student loans. Then you add the $4,100 in credit card debt that the average college senior has on top of the student loans, well, it doesn't make it easy for students to do much but give their paychecks to the banks that begrudgingly gave them loans and shinny credit cards.

The rising cost of a college education doesn't seem to concern Washington right now. But, imagine a world, yes, touchy-feely thing to do, but just imagine a world were college students don't graduate with so much debt. Imagine what they could do to get this economy going.

I know that college students bear some of the blame for taking out loans and using their credit cards, and I can't put all the blame on politicians for the high cost of a college education.

However, I can put the blame of politicians for not heeding the warnings of 1937.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Writing Classes

Writing classes are a great way to get feedback on your writing. That is probably the best cliche any writer can ever write.

I remember one writing class I had. The class was in the darkest corner of campus, and the room was always poorly lit. The class size was small, but yet never seemed to fit into the small room--it almost felt like the professor needed to remove a few bodies from the room, so we had room to breathe.

I did look for Rod Serling to appear in the classroom, but I realized he probably got kicked out of the building because the building was smoke free. 

I took many writing classes as an undergraduate, but none like this class. The professor was middle aged and still lived with her mother. I don't think she had any friends, except for her mother, because all her personal stories involved her mother, if she told a personal story.

This professor was waiting to publish her first novel, but seemed a little bitter about the publishing world, because she never had anything nice to say about it, even her own publisher. I don't remember her ever having anything nice to say about anyone stories, now that I think about it.  She had a way for making a positive comment seem negative. It probably had more to do with the fact she had no range in her voice, because it always seemed condescending.

My classmates were an interesting bunch, too. I can remember one woman was taking medication for a psychotic disorder--she could share she had issues but not what kind of issues. I can remember one woman was still learning English, so her stories were hard to follow. I can remember one guy never spoke, unless he had no other option--he didn't even show the day his story was critiqued. I can remember another guy who was oblivious to any reference to popular culture--he was a product of homeschooling. I could tell you about the rest of the class, but I think I made my point that it was an interesting class.

What should you learn in a writing class? I liked asking myself this question when I sat there listening to my classmates talk about writing. You should learn how to write a good story and learn how to spot a good story--another cliche. You should learn how to give feedback, and you should learn how to receive feedback, and these are skills that require some sensitivity, because in a small setting you don't want to be known as the mean person.

I really can't say that I remember anything this professor said about writing and how to become a better writer, but I do remember that she loved Faulkner and made use read a lot of his short stories. A few clever students even went as far as to borrow some of Faulkner's themes for their stories, and this seemed to temporarily please the professor, because she loved to talk about Faulkner.

I would say that all my other writing classes were normal in comparison. I won't say that there wasn't some classmates that stuck out in a room full of writers, but creative writing is a strange subject to pursue in college. 

I do believe writing classes help writers improve their skills of critiquing another writer's work, but I am not sure these writing classes help improve the skill of writing a good piece of fiction.I believe to learn how to write good fiction you need learn how to write for yourself and not for what you think will make another person happy. I am not saying that everyone in a writing class does this, but just pay attention to the second story a writer shares with the class.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Being Walter Mitty--Writing Prompt

What if you were Walter Mitty and how would the story change if you were Walter Mitty?

I am including a link to the Walter Mitty story if you never read it, or if you would just like a refresher.

You can post a link to your story in the comment section.

Getting Paid

A few months ago, in the distant past, I joined All Voices. I joined their website because I wanted to write opinion pieces and news stories about current political issues, and get paid for my writing, if I got enough page views.

I found I was spending too much time on All Voices, and for the amount of time I spent on the site, well, I  just don't get paid enough. I know any pay is better than no pay.

I just spent too much time on the site reading stories written by other writers and then commenting on those stories. You have to do this to increase your rating, and an increased rating means more money for all my page views.

The comments I found on my news stories were along the lines of "nice piece and keep up the great work." It seems these comments cheat the system and count as a writers contribution to All Voices.

Yes, there are people on the site that don't mind writing and not getting paid for their writing, but that isn't the reason I joined the site. I joined the site because they offered to pay writers for their writing, and maybe in the future they will pay writers more for the time they have to spend on the website.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Childhood Memories and Influence on Writing

What do you remember about your childhood?

I only ask the question because I am currently reading A Fistful of Fig Newtons by Jean Shepherd. An author that wrote about childhood like it was something worth being sentimental about and worthy of our time. His style is clever, while being humorous. If only we all could mind our past like he did, and write some beautiful prose.

The book isn't what I thought it was going to be, or what I hoped it would be, because A Christmas Story raised my expectations to the point that every printed word would be magic and every description would leave me wanting to copy his style, just as A Christmas Story drove me to read his stories.

Don't get me wrong, the book is worth reading, if you like laughing.

But, what does that book have to do with writing?

As a writer, one of the cliches that is repeated in books written about technique is to write about something you know. Yet, how many of us as writers truly explore our childhood for material? I know that I don't. I tend to explore the present or not so distant past, because I can understand my motivations and yearnings in a way that wasn't present to me as a child.

I understand the ability to look back at a childhood and skew the memory to fit the current acceptable psychology of the moment, but my childhood wasn't that clear, because the truth is that fear and acceptance is what motivated my childhood.

I had the misfortune and fortune of attending a parochial school. Eight years of my life spent in a small red and brown brick building. It was so small that it only had four classrooms, and of those four classrooms, I spent six in the same classroom. I never experienced the whole school like my sisters did, or the freedom of a different learning environment.

The reason I spent six years in the same classroom was that three of my teachers ended up getting the rooms due to the class size.

What can a parochial school teach you about writing?

It can teach you about real fears. I had two teachers that didn't mind yelling and using tactics that might make a nun blush. Did I mention this was a Lutheran school? 

It wasn't all gloomy, because the classroom I spent six years in had the best view. Two of the other classrooms overlooked the swamp behind the school. Did I mention this school was in the country? The third classroom overlooked a pig farm. It was a good thing that I wasn't in that classroom, because the farm offered too much stimuli for this daydreamer.

My classroom of six years did offer me a view of a field, and sometimes a cow or two would wonder into my view. Nothing too distracting, so I will always remember it for the great view that didn't get me into trouble.

The point I am making is that in just a short time I described one building and the strongest memories I left me. Those memories offer me a starting point to a story full of fears. The swamp is a nice place for fear, considering the swamp had old headstones in it, because the founders of the church moved the location of the current cemetery closer to the church.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What to Read

There are a few books I turn to when I have questions about writing.

"Elements of Style" by William Struck is the main book I turn to when questions arise. I don't know why I don't have the thing memorized, yet? The book is small and ease to carry around. It doesn't occupy a lot of space on the bookshelf, or desk, depending on where it is best accessed.

"Portable MFA in Creative Writing" by New York Writers Workshop is another good book to keep around as a reference. The book offers quality tips on creative writing, and is cheaper than getting your MFA. I am not here to bash MFA programs, but this book might just be what you are looking for when it comes to improving your writing.

"Lies That Tell the Truth" by John Dufresne is a good read for those looking to write fiction. The book offers good amount of pointers, and Dufresne's writing style is easy to read.

These are the three main writing books I turn to, and I there are some other writing books that I own, but they mostly gather dust on my bookshelf.

I think reading essays, poetry, and short stories are important to any writer, because Ray Bradbury recommended it.

Reading will make you a better writer, but only if you understand what and why you are reading.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Protagonist Need Growth

Does Your Protagonist Grow?

Your protagonist is the main character of your story, and in most cases, the reader is usually rooting for him or her to win in the end.

A writer you have to think of your reader who does not want to sit and read a novel or short story where the plot just moves along in a nice steady pace and the protagonist does not learn something in the end. The reader wants change, not to steal from the rhetoric of our politicians, but they want the protagonist to learn something about themselves that they did not know when the story started.

Grab your favorite short story or novel and look closely at the protagonist. Does the protagonist change because of the story or does he change because of psychological reasons?

I know, homework, but the best way to learn to write is by learning from the masters. They do not keep secrets, but expose their techniques on the pages of their story. You will discover something by closely examining their works.

Do not be shy about typing out passages that illustrate how a protagonist grows. This exercise gives the feeling of actually writing the piece for yourself, and teaches you what to include and not include when you write about your protagonist growth.