I started writing when my kids were small. I'd never considered myself a writer. I never considered myself much of anything - I was someone with a lot of small talents in many areas and no big talents anywhere. I played piano, guitar, flute, a little harp. I wasn't great. I could sing a little. I couldn't write songs - they were awful. My poetry was bilious. And so I admired creative people, drew little Barbie doll sketches and figured I was one of those people who appreciated talent but didn't have much of my own.
Then an old friend asked why I didn't write. He was convinced I'd be great. And for some reason I decided to try. I sat down at an old manual typewriter and banged out my first short story. It was, I was forced to admit, terrific. I got brave, showed it to a writer friend who was astonished.
"This is your first story? It's wonderful! Get it published!"
It didn't get published, but it did lead to three novels (I consider them necessary outbursts to clear the pipes for the good stuff - not anything I think I'd want to see in print anymore), a non-fiction book that's making the rounds - getting good feedback but no publishers, and dozens of short stories as well as some very good virtual friendships with people who liked to gather at Zoetrope.com and workshop stories.
But all those short stories were, I thought, just exercises. A few got published and one was nominated for a Pushcart, but it felt like a fluke. Nobody publishes short stories.
Again I discover how little I know.
One of my more depressing little efforts, "Tweezing", is going to be published at http://www.fiction365.com this week. They're planning to feature a new story every single day. They want short stories! They even pay a nominal fee! So all you closet writers out there, check it out and submit your stories.
Then I learned that e-readers are now creating a demand for short stories and there are venues interested in signing up writers.
I was contacted by Hen House Press - they don't have a website up yet but they will soon. They're looking for short story writers who will given them the digital rights to their work - and they'll split the royalties. There's also BookBaby, the newest venture from indie music mainstay CDBaby.
Will we get rich? Hell, who cares? I never did think writing was about getting rich. It was about finally acknowledging that there was one thing I do that I am confident I'm good at. Do what you love and the money will follow, they say.
I'm happy just to be able to do what I love.
Got writing buried somewhere in the recesses of your laptop? Take a look around at the new opportunities out there thanks to the digital age. It may just be your time to be published!
This picture kind of sums it all up for me. Let me explain.
I live in what is known as the most famous small town in the world. It's super-artsy, the namesake for the most famous music festival ever, the land of peace, love and do-your-own-thing. And don't get me wrong - I love it. But you'd be surprised at what really goes on here.
See that building? See that yellow sun-flourish they added after slapping on a new coat of red barn paint? That was apparently a problem here.
That barn, which is the first thing you see when you hit the main intersection leading to town, was a sickening, washed out pink for a few years. Someone bought it, started a new business, and repainted.
They got in trouble with the town. That yellow design apparently was not approved by the powers that be.
There were rumors they were going to have to repaint.
That's apparently subsided - but do you get the picture?
Let me give you another example.
There's a woman I know who does a remarkable thing - she tows an old trailer around behind her Jeep, parks at places and events around the country, and interviews people for a radio feature. Her name is Sabrina Artel and it's called Trailer Talk.
I have a radio show, too, but I think this is the coolest idea ever. Truth be told, I'm envious.
She decided she wanted to interview me, and we made plans to meet in town. She would park, talk to folks in this famous little town, and I'd stop by and talk to her, too.
She found a legal spot on the street, opened up the door and started talking. I found her and sat down at the kitchen table for my interview. She served brownies!
And then the local official showed up.
"I have a complaint that you're taking up two spaces," he told her. "You have to move."
I knew the guy (he has since passed) and popped out with a big smile. I introduced him to Sabrina, explained what she was doing, pointed out that she was parked legally.
He was not to be moved.
"She has to park out in one of the public lots," he insisted.
That, we pointed out, would put her out of the way of where people were and would make it impossible for her to work. He was sorry, but that was final. She had to move. A member of the town board had seen her there and didn't think she should be doing a radio broadcast from the side of the road.
Sabrina packed up her gear as I apologized profusely. We were both amazed.
"I have NEVER had this happen anywhere else," she said, shaking her head. "Not even in Manhattan."
Then there's the neighbor down the road who sent us an anonymous letter complaining about the pale amber lights on the back of the studio building.
"We moved here for the country ambiance," he wrote. "This is not the city."
A backyard neighbor, now a friend, mentioned the letter to our unhappy letter writer (he was sure of his identity)..."Can you believe it?", he asked. "We LOVE those lights! Who could be so mean - and to write it anonymously!"
Hard to believe, Mr. Cranky agreed.
It's an old town these days, not the mecca for young folks it once was. Now the kids loiter around the convenience store and gather on the wall across from the pizza place. There's nothing much to do. So the town proposed a curfew.
That was a stunner - this was the town where young folks used to camp out on the village green. One strange guy lived in a hole in a tree.
It got voted down - that was apparently just too much. Now the town is figuring out how it can improve its youth program.
It's a great little town and it's always been a little schizophrenic - the free spirits irritate the hell out of the folks with their roots planted deep and they both have had to co-exist for generations here. Plus we've got the we-live-here folks vs. the weekenders or the fresh-from-the-citiers. On and on it goes.
Today it's blisteringly cold and there's a heavy blanket of ice-crusted snow over everything.
It seems very peaceful.
Wait til spring!
It's a brave new world and I don't think I understand even a half of it. Sure, I blog. I've been doing it for a few years now and I have seen it as a way to write my thoughts, kind of a public journal. I've made some lovely discoveries along the way, finding some wonderful folks with whom I now "virtually visit" on a fairly regular basis. But I'm no blog phenomenon nor have I really tried to be.
But I think it's time to learn the tricks. I'm making serious plans to make use of my pretty hefty resume in the communications and media relations field. So I did some outreach the past few days. Let me tell you - it was an eye-opener.
I spent an hour or so with the very nice Ric Dragon of Dragonsearch Marketing. The economy may be on life support but Dragonsearch is growing, and growing fast. He offers website optimization - which basically means he'll help you spread the word about your business or website. He's good and there's a reason - he told me that if you really want to try to keep up with a field that's changing moment by moment, you've got to become a fanatic.
"Lots of late nights," he warned me. "Lots of reading. Lots of writing."
I'll share with you one concept of the many he threw in my direction: Twitter isn't about promoting yourself or what you do. Its biggest use for business is to create connections - start conversations - develop a wider network of acquaintances.
I hate Twitter - to me, it's an endless barrage of banal announcements.
Coffee's cold. Ew!
Stuck on the LIE!
I hate Mondays!
But Ric left me thinking of Twitter as a massive cocktail party - there are dozens of conversations going on, lots of introductions, short bursts of information. And out of those connections can come real, useful business relationships.
I'm not going to doubt him. I met him on Facebook.
So let the learning begin!
Any of you been struggling with this one? Any tips to share to get up to speed?
I'm considering the world from a different viewpoint these days. Do you ever thing about tipping points?
A woman at work loaned me this book. The Tipping Point She said I should read it because she considers me a "Connector". That's a good thing, apparently, and it's defined in this book as someone who makes many connections which then create the opportunities for inter-connections for the people in that group. In other words, I know a lot of people and I like to introduce them to other folks.
But what I'm also getting out of this is a realization that we're surrounded by tipping points. I tend to think of events as gradually building to a crescendo, but in reality, things build to a certain point, then they tumble madly together into an event.
The attack in Arizona: vitriolic rhetoric has been building since the Bush Administration - partisan anger reached a crisis point, and then tipped into violence. One sad, unbalanced, pitiful kid has destroyed his life and many others because he apparently bought into the zeitgeist. He came to believe that he had the right, maybe even the obligation, to kill.
This is not the start of a new day of peace and love. It's not over. The anger at Sarah Palin, the anger FROM Sarah Palin, it's there and building again. I read a thread on Facebook this morning that left my jaw hanging. The initial post called for reflection on the violence and the part that partisan rhetoric played in it - and specifically called for his friends in the Tea Party to find some middle ground with what he called the Bleeding Heart liberals.
The replies were astounding. The debate was played out right there, one comment after another, with escalating anger on both sides, accusation and the obligatory comments by someone who seemed, as we used to say, a few bricks short of a load. It was honestly scary.
Apply tipping points to anything - computers. They got small...a few folks got them, a few more...then everyone had them. Cellphones? Same. Fame? Most celebrities are "overnight sensations" - not because they suddenly started doing work, but because years of work hit a tipping point and suddenly everyone noticed. (The exception to this would be the fake celebrities of reality TV, of course.)
I don't have any wise conclusions on this - I'm honestly just surprised that I never thought of things this way. And once you see it, nothing looks quite the same again. It certainly gives you a sense that you can see what's coming.
The birds and fish mysteriously dying all over the world have really got me thinking. And not just wondering what's going on. I'm finding my own reaction to my questions pretty odd. Maybe you're experiencing the same thing.
Thousands of birds are dead. We're told it might be fireworks. Millions of fish and crabs are dead. It might be a temperature phenomenon.
I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty weak to me. And yet, the minute I start to question whether we're being told the truth, a part of me steps aside and starts to shake her head.
"You're becoming a conspiracy theorist," she says sadly. "Wack job territory lies ahead. Beware."
How have we been conditioned to so blindly accept everything we're told by those "in the know"? Hasn't it been proven time and again that the official reaction to a potential problem is not unvarnished truth but, instead, a bland and comforting message to keep reaction to a minimum?
I understand that. If there is a serious problem, there is some incentive to try to avoid a mass panic. But that breeds mistrust. Far better, in my opinion, to honestly say "We just don't know. We're trying to figure it out." Treat people like adults. Act like adults.
And if there is something going on that might lead to a problem and the link is made, tell people. There's nothing like public pressure to speed up reform and change.
This country was built on rebellion (along with some other traits which I'm not proud of). The settlers who arrived were misfits and outcasts who would not conform. They, of course, then tried to impose their own rules on the new land but eventually the freedom of a wild country won - and the mistrust of authority finally led to our independence from Britain.
The sixties, a time of intense turmoil and upheaval, were a time of intense questioning of authority. It seemed like everything was changing and, perhaps, the harsh light of day might burn away the worst of what had accumulated on this experiment in democracy.
But we've been tamed. We're told we must work within The System. Connecting the dots of motive and corruption is called conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theory is a synonym for paranoia.
We've bought it. We're the sheep we never believed we would be. We sit through ten minutes of commercials for drugs, makeup and useless garbage for five minutes of reality entertainment again and again without any action.
We spend hours telling people what we're having for lunch on Facebook. We escape into mindless computer games. Our kids frantically text each other in an effort to prove they're interested in each other's lives.
We are watching life happen instead of living it.
Our food is mass produced junk full of chemicals that is contributing to not only to our obesity and declining health, but animal cruelty and pollution. But say something and you're a crackpot.
Our climate is having wild mood swings that would seem a logical extension of the massive changes we've imposed on the environment. But that's crazy talk.
We glance disapprovingly as Pennsylvania dumps chemically polluted water from its horizontal gas wells into its streams and pure water all over the world is increasingly scarce. Investors are buying up water futures. We know it. And to say we're heading to a global drought is paranoia.
What is wrong here? Why, when you connect the dots, is it crazy? Why aren't we demanding things change? Why do we doubt ourselves?
Conditioning, apparently, has been successful. I'm not convinced there's a single person or group responsible. I think it's our philosophy that's doing it.
Capitalism, the great god Profit, is a master at protecting Its interests.
And even as I write all this, and believe it to be truth, I wonder if I'm just another fruitcake.
Writer, journalist, house junkie and Pollyanna.
Maybe there's something to this astrology stuff: Geminis have a little trouble focusing on one thing.
I also very occasionally post some of my dad's writings on a companion blog, Alfred C. Barnett. Stop by for a read.