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Friday, August 29, 2014

Being Thankful

   
Today I’m thankful for the end of the Facebook Thankful Challenge. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but between the Ice-Bucket challenge and this new challenge to list three things for three days, I’m getting the vibe that people might be overwhelmed. (I certainly am.)
     Let me be clear: this blog hop (which is Celebrate Small Things for those wanting to join us) is lovely. It’s just the right amount of thankfulness, thank you very much. A weekly inventorying of tiny triumphs is far more appealing to me than listing huge, far-reaching things (like family relationships and trips). As an added bonus, most of the participants are writers, so the celebrations usually deal with things that only writers can appreciate. Like adding a paragraph to your book. Or sending out a query. (Most everyone else would read that on a list and think: WTF? Seriously, that’s what this person is thankful for?) They’d shake their heads in pity as they scroll away.
      Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing what inspires gratitude in friends and family. Still, I find the facebook version to be somewhat skewed. When you know all the responses are going to be viewed by EVERYONE, your answers tend to change. They’re filtered through your impressions about what everyone else will think. For instance, I probably won’t be posting that I’m thankful my daughter practiced her bells on our deck today to get back at my obnoxious neighbor who starts his riding tractor up at 8 a.m and cuts his grass every three days. I'll put up a good front and be thankful about the things normal people are thankful for.
    See, I’ve been thinking a lot about the mentally ill in our nation (still can’t get over Robin Williams’ death. Click here to find out about a cool thing he used to do to help the homeless), and it worries me that so many people in crisis might be bombarded with everyone else’s huge triumphs while they are at their most vulnerable. I believe a lot of depressed individuals turn to facebook for support. This might be okay on a normal basis, but when the Thankful Challenge is going on, probably not so much. Anyway, I participated in the Thankful Challenge because my friend asked me to, but I will not nominate anyone else. The buck stops here. (Um, no it actually doesn't because the chain proceeds, with or without me.)
     The same goes for the Ice Bucket challenge. An interesting note about the Ben Affleck one (above) is that he and Jennifer Garner have been in suburban Detroit all summer. They've been spotted everywhere--at restaurants and traffic lights--and have been gracious to all Detroiters. Thus the tee-shirt. The "kid laughter" in the background makes this worth a watch.
     My advice for future social networking fundraising campaigns? (Because you know they’re coming!) By all means, take the opportunity to learn about the illness or issue, but don’t ever feel obligated to participate in them unless you want to. These campaigns are geared toward celebrities and the extremely wealthy who can, and should, help out. Donate money—or time, if you can’t spare the money—to the charity of your choice in private and whenever you feel it’s appropriate. And click the link below to join this blog hop hosted by Vik Lit (Scribblings of an Aspiring Author) and co-hosted by Diana WilderLG Keltner @ Writing Off the EdgeKatie @ TheCyborg Mom, and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse  for just the perfect amount of thankfulness.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Celebrating Anonymous Media Whores

     “One of my favorite authors is Anonymous.” Ever hear that? And when’s the last time you saw by Anonymous, the New York Times Bestseller emblazoned across the cover of a book? 
Okay, it can be done. But today in honor of Celebrate Small Things, a blog hop hosted by Vik Lit (Scribblings of an Aspiring Author) and co-hosted by the following bloggers:
LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge
Katie @ TheCyborg Mom 
CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse 
I’m grateful that publishing usually requires that authors display their names prominently on their products. Because otherwise, I probably wouldn’t.   
     One of my favorite authors, Tawni O’Dell, has a darkly humorous personal story about having to fight to use her given name in her debut book. I say darkly because it has some really horrible undertones of the discrimination women authors still face (yes STILL). So it’s more than just a funny anecdote, and a great read for anyone hoping to publish. But I’m saving that for my next post on All The Crazy, a group blog I contribute to every sixth week or so. (Until then, you should check out the posts of my fellow contributors. There's something for everyone!)
     There are writers who rarely get their names on their work, and I was one of them for about ten years. Copywriters, PR people, writers for the wire services. In those industries, a code of honor is what keeps people from claiming work that isn’t theirs. The collaborative nature of the industry makes it hard to figure out just who did what.     
     So when my daughter’s softball team went to the playoffs for the third year in a row, I sent a write-up to the local paper again. I’ve been sending press releases all along, since I feel that it’s especially important to feature girls’ sports whenever possible. Besides, all you have to do is email names and a picture to the editor. When another mom said, “Did you see the girls in the paper?” I nodded and we talked about their great season. My husband was like “Why didn’t you tell her you wrote it?”
In First Place. Note the lucky rabbit.
     Because I didn’t really write it, I argued, I emailed names and a picture. Then I thought about my real motives, which trace all the way back to elementary school. Fifth grade was a bad year for me. It was the year my father tried to kill himself three times. There were probably more attempts over the years that I didn’t know about, but that time he was forcibly committed as a result of a psychotic break. My mother’s valiant attempts to keep his mental illness under wraps (even from me) failed when the police and the court system got involved. I had no idea what was going on and was, frankly, afraid to ask.
     At school—where I always thrived, probably to make up for the bad vibes I felt at home—there was an ongoing food drive. I happened to mutter the phrase “Don’t be greedy, help the needy” within earshot of a teacher. She liked it so much that she included that line in a PA announcement. Maybe I’d heard it somewhere before, but I like to think it was my first advertising tagline, circa 1981. When it sounded over the PA, my heart burst with pride, so much so that I mentioned to my best friend I’d come up with it. She stared at me. “You came up with that?” Not only didn’t she believe me, she proceeded to elicit opinions from the entire class. They all thought I was lying. The consensus was that teachers write the PA announcements, and Mrs. Kuechle, a charismatic, lovely teacher, whom I loved as much as any of them, definitely wrote that one.
     My best friend didn’t know that my dad was suicidal. She didn’t know that I really, really needed credit for something. Anything.
     Hurt at receiving cattiness instead of the congratulations I’d expected, I didn’t ask the teacher to clear it up. Deep down I was afraid that she too would deny it. Although I’d never been a boastful child and wouldn’t dream of taking credit for something I didn’t do, I realized that people must perceive me as being horrible. It’s like they knew that something bad was in me. Maybe the same bad thing surrounding the mystery of what my dad had done to wind up in an institution. Soon I began to doubt whether I’d written the stupid thing in the first place—or if it even mattered. I vowed to be more careful about sharing my ideas.
     Fast-forward to the present. When the playoffs ended, and the girls had won their championship, I sent another blurb, and parents commented again. This time, I admitted I’d sent the information.
     “You wrote that?” one of them asked skeptically.
Season Champs
     I gulped, exchanged a look with my husband and said, “Yeah.” Then I winced, waiting for the criticism, knowing I either spelled a name wrong, switched kids in the picture, listed the sponsor from last year instead of the current one. There is no end to the list of potential pitfalls.
     “Wow, that was so nice of you. The girls were excited to be in the paper, twice now.”
     I took a deep, relieved breath.
     “But won’t people think we’re media whores?” the parent added.
     Watch out, Kim Kardashian. Thanks to me, you just might be dethroned by the Brandon Township Girls’ Softball team.
    
    



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Space Age (It's Not What You Think)

     This Wimp-out Wednesday is devoted to a discussion of whether or not there should be one space or two after a period. The change in direction comes as a result of my ennui. My job hunt has gone stale, as has my work in progress. Besides, I have always loved the word ennui. My first exposure to it came as a result of being in the play Anything Goes. I memorized all of the phenomenal Cole Porter lyrics during my brilliant stint as a passenger on the ship. (Yes, that is another way of saying I was an extra.) Ennui is from I Get a Kick Out of You. Isn't it cool? Ennui Ennui Ennui.
   
Not this Space!
Now back to spaces after periods. I vote one, but never felt too passionate about it until I saw this blog. (Nothing Says Over Forty Like Two Spaces After a Period) The blogger treats the extra space as some kind of writing (typing?) tell that, once noticed by the young 'uns of the world, pegs the writer (typist) as A Person Over Forty.
     I call bullshit. I know a lot of 35-year-olds who learned the exact same rule. Last I checked, they are considered to be under forty (unless someone has fiddled with the rules of number progression while I was knitting in my creaky rocking chair). I resented that this blogger was manipulating the debate to make it more about generational differences than industry standards. In my opinion, she was inciting drama where there should've been none. Calling people old.
That Space!
     For a nanosecond, I felt as if leaving two spaces after periods belied my age as blatantly as the wrinkles around my eyes. I was humiliated, wondering if I'd left any of these tell-tale spaces in the manuscripts I'd sent to agents and publishers. Was everyone laughing at me behind my back?
     She's too old to be an author! In the slush pile with her! 
     I mean, I learned the one way, but I'd changed my habits to stay in tune with the ever-evolving industry of communication that I love so much. I prided myself on being Madonna-esque in adapting. (Oops! Another age-belying slip.) Discovered Find/Replace (It changed my life.) In fact, I recommend it to the twenty-something office worker who griped on facebook about how hard it was to go through old documents and make the change. After all, Find/Replace would be quicker than begging all the teachers of the world to pass the one-space rule on to their students. (Then again, it is pretty tedious to drag down that menu. Aw, heck, why not just wait the multiple decades it would take for turnaround?)
     Thanks to this blog's bullying title, I was briefly ashamed of my over-forty status. But then I realized this: Nothing says under forty like suffering from the delusion that you can appear to be an age you're not. I've worked in advertising long enough to know that much. My advice to younger generations (and it is sage advice): Don't fall for it.
     On the record, the rule seems to be: One space in publishing, online writing and advertising. Two spaces in engineering, law and academia. Like many things in life, it really has nothing to do with age.
 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I'm a Sharpie

This Wimp-out Wednesday, I'm voicing my most recent professional aspiration: to be the Sharpie marker of the writing world! This isn't as weird as it sounds. Think about it. When a person strikes out to pursue a profession, doesn't he strive to be the expert in his field? And who's the king (or queen) of markers? Yes! No! (Crayola? Seriously, dude? Go home, you're drunk!) The answer I was going for is Sharpie, of course! (Duh!)
     As a Sharpie marker, I'd be a household name synonymous with bold writing (or at least writing in bold).
I'd embrace all colors. I would not wash out--except with hand sanitizer. (Interesting side note: as an enabler of resistant bacteria, hand sanitizer just might be the death of us all.) Where was I? Oh yeah, I'd cling to many surfaces, refusing to run (unless someone's big, clumsy hand smears over me before I've dried). I'd be the badass marker equivalent of Katniss Everdeen, representing order and justice, ensuring all items get back to their rightful owners.
    That's not to say I don't have a mischievous side. (Far be it from me to take myself too seriously.) Who better to "tattoo" a passed-out person at a party? Or--in a more innocent scenario--the first teen to succumb to Mr. Sandman at a sleepover? At concerts, I'd become a Sharpie Harpie, stalking bands to get an autograph and illustrating my superior persistence.
     As a Sharpie, even my scent would be intoxicating to some. Inhale at the risk of getting high! I'd be the quintessential team player. G'head, pair me with name tags, and I become a must-have at every social, professional and academic function. I'm also the tool of choice when you can't afford a ton of mistakes. The less confident choose pencils. The con artists opt for Etch a Sketch. Only the self-assured go right for the Sharpie. I'm as permanent as permanent gets.
     Just to clarify: I'd be an original Sharpie, not a Rub a Dub. (Rub a Dub? What's the point of a Sharpie that's not permanent? Oxymoron alert!) Then again, I'm not one to resist change. If a non-permanent permanent marker will enrich someone's life, I'm all for it. Like I said: the Sharpie marker of the writing world. Excuse me whilst I screw my cap back on.
Only thing is, if I persist in this sedentary writer's life, I could end up a Magnum!