IWSG – What I Write.. and where am I going?

Since last month’s  Insecure Writer’s Support Group post I’ve had a lot happen in my life and have seen my writing take an interesting turn. I still love to write fiction — and currently have a short-story I am editing for inclusion in an anthology — but I am finding much more of my writing lately to be of the non-fiction sort.  And I kind of love it.

I mean, I don’t love the reasons that I am doing so much non-fiction work, but I have found myself falling easily into writing about the political and social situations in the world right now. I’m being able to explore a few different kinds of writing that I enjoy – and it makes me feel more complete.

I haven’t had insecurities in my writing this past month – I think in large part because I feel like I’ve taken one of those stumbles again. Hit one of those moments that  should set you back, give you pause, but instead bring you a renewed sense of purpose and help ease you back onto the path you’re meant to be on.

I write and it feels RIGHT.

Which brings me, quite easily, to December’s question.

In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

It’s such an important question – particularly as I am spending this month reflecting on a lot of things in regards to where I place my time, attention and energy.

I vowed, quite some time ago, that I wouldn’t allow myself to think about “where I’ll be in five years” (unless required to by a job interview), because every time I set down an idea or plan I end up finding myself twisting around to something completely different.

That said… five years from now I would like to be writing in a consistent manner – both fiction and non-fiction. I am working on my writing, trying to put into place some systems and self-expectations, to help move to a point where I can be working on a number of projects at once and be putting my voice out there more.


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Monday Updates: Week 3

Welcome to Week 3 of the Monday Updates.

News

There is, of course, more news happening every day that could certainly spike your blood pressure, anxiety, or sense of concern. Try to take care of yourself if you’re watching it all – use the critical analysis approach to news sources to settle on one or two that you feel are pretty good at giving solid information without sensationalized headlines and pay attention to those.  Or find a friend who is good at filtering through the plethora of information to help keep an eye on what’s happening without being overwhelmed.

For my part, in addition to these Monday Updates (and other posts on the blog – there are things happening here, which I’ll talk about later this week) I intend to begin to utilize my professional writing page on Facebook a bit more. I currently share a lot of information as “public”on my personal Facebook page (so if you want to find me and “follow”me go ahead – just be aware I am generally not accepting friend requests at this point, simply because of the limits I’ve put on myself around friend-request acceptance on there).

What I see as the most important news pieces to pay attention to this week have been around International Relations.  Trump has taken some actions that are generally outside of proper etiquette for interactions with foreign powers.  One of the most troubling of these is the conversation with the Taiwanese president.  For those who, like me, may be a little unaware of the status of relationship between Taiwan and the US, it helps to have some context to understand this matter.

The United States and Taiwan have a variety of social and economic ties.  They are our 9th largest trading partner, and we are their 2nd largest trading partner. There are 148 sister cities between Taiwan and the U.S. and they are our 7th largest source of international students. The maintenance of these “strong, unofficial relations with Taiwan is a major U.S. goal, in line with the U.S. desire to further peace and stability in Asia.”

However, this is not a political relationship. Since 1979 there has been no official (political) relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan. The Taiwan Relations Act lays out the situation, but basically it amounts to the United States recognizing Taiwan as a part of China, and therefore being governed by the Government of the People’s Republic of China. I find it an interesting thing to know, and I now want to know a lot more about it but… like the idea or not, the reality is that there are important expectations of the President of the U.S., and having a conversation with the president of a country that we do not officially recognize as an independent country is not within those expectations. And it causes issues with China – it sets a shaky precedent that does not bode well for future relations.

If you want a general overview of more of what has been happening (and some insight into the ideas around boycotting Trump-related businesses) I highly recommend reading this article by Kareen Abdul-Jabaar.

Good News!

The Dakota Access Pipe Line – while not completely halted, is at least being delayed!  The Army Corps of Engineers is not going to grant access to lay the pipeline as originally planned,  Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Work, stated that “…it’s clear that there’s more work to do.  The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

More Good-ish News and a Thing That Can Be Done!

Trump’s conflict of interests are a huge concern. The president-elect has taken to Twitter to inform us that he will be holding a news conference to tell us about what will be happening as far as “leaving” his business, but since he seems to think that letting his children sit in on meetings with foreign officials and that having them take over ownership of the business counts as a “blind trust,” I have my doubts that he will actually be able to separate himself from his business interests.

There has been a push to get the House Oversight Committee to investigate Trumps conflicts of interest. 17 committee members sent a letter to Jason Chaffetz, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, urging him to start the work of the oversight committee to investigate these potential conflicts.

The good news here – within this letter they note “Americans across the country have flooded our Committee’s office with thousands of calls in strong support of this investigation, jamming our phone lines with more calls than we have ever received in response to any other issue.”

PHONE CALLS HELP!  All these coordinated call efforts, really making our voices known, does do something.  So, let’s keep it up.

Call Chaffetz and implore him to begin an investigation into the conflicts of interest, immediately. His DC office number is (202)225-7751.  Keep up the calls to press him, and others on the committee, to make this happen.

Be aware, the reception you receive when you call Chaffetz office might be less than cordial – from anecdotal accounts from people they have encountered staff that seem none to happy about the calls. Even more reason to keep it up — squeaky wheel and all that.

Since it can also be nice to do something to say thanks – give a call to folks who signed the letter and thank them for keeping the pressure on Chaffetz to do the right thing.

Even More Good News, and a Super Simple Action

The webpage Brietbart, which is a “news” source that perpetuates a half-filled, racist rhetoric, has seen advertisers pulling their adds!  Corporations such as Kellogs have pulled their advertising from the site, stating that Brietbart does not match their company values.

This is great, but there is something we can do to perhaps make an even stronger dent on Brietbart. Google Advertising currently contracts with them, but we can encourage them to stop. If you go to the Brietbart page and find a Google Ad you can click on the little triangle that appears near the top of the ad.  This will take you to a new page that talks about Google Ads, but if you scroll to the bottom it has a space where you can report the page the advertisement appeared on.  There is a box that says the site you were just on promotes racial intolerance.  Click this, and then be sure to put something in the comments (it can be simply reiterating what the statement you clicked on says).  Then submit this.

It may not make a difference, but it is a simple action to take that could result in some big results.  If Google gets enough of these reports perhaps they, too, will look at the ways in which the site does not complement the stated values of Google Corp.

One Final Action Suggestion for The Week.

Finally, I would like to recommend that people start thinking about writing letters and reaching out to the media. There are a number of media sources that are doing things which normalize what is happening in our country right now, that continue to refer to the “Alt-Right” despite the AP guidelines to name then as they are as White Supremacists. Write letters to the editor calling these out, calling attention to what is happening – reiterating the increase of hate crimes, the conflicts of interest, the dangers of those that Trump is looking to appoint to his cabinet.

We’ve already seen that phone calls can have an impact, so let’s continue to raise our voices in as many forms as we can. Speak out, Write out, and don’t fall into complacency.

If We Were Having Coffee… Getting Into The Season

If we were having coffee I’d ask if you’d heard the Hamilton Mix Tape yet.  I’m in love with it – but I already knew that was going to be the case. So many of the songs had been released early, and I found most of them really awesome, a few really moving.  I’ll admit, this week I listened to “Immigrants (We get the job done)” and “Wrote my way out” on repeat for perhaps an unhealthy amount of time.

I’m starting to get into Holiday mode. I celebrate Christmas (though more as a secular holiday than a religious one for a variety of reasons), and love the bringing of green into our homes, and all the lights!  Last year, as a Christmas present, my little brother gave me a little living-Christmas tree and we’re going to be bringing it in this weekend.  I’m hoping that it will be able to live up on the table that I’ve made into a perch for Midnight Monster – my brother thinks it’s the kind of tree that the Monster shouldn’t be too interested in eating or tipping… and, of course, I won’t be putting any ornaments on it — but maybe a string of lights.  We’ll see how it all settles… this is the first Christmas that I’ll have my cat, so it’s going to be an interesting experience.

I did some major Christmas shopping today, and now just have some crafting (and mailing) to do.  It’s nice to be at least a little bit ahead of the game, it will allow me to actually relax a bit on the few days I have off around Christmas and New Years.

I’d tell you that my concussion seems to have healed up.  I’m still a bit baffled at how I managed to get one with a simple whack to the head, but I think it was due in large part to WHERE it hit – the edge of the table caught me just above the eyebrow at a point where my skull seems to go in a little bit.  At least, I think it’s always gone there — I will not get paranoid that I chipped my skull or something, I imagine that would have hurt a LOT more.  I’m still getting a slight headache now and then, but nothing major and it doesn’t seem to last long if I pause and close my eyes for  a few so… that’s good!

I should get to work on some of the projects that have been languishing today – I need to remind myself that a bunch of shopping in the morning is going to mean I’m not likely to be very productive for the rest of the day… hopefully that’s the last (and only) big shopping trek I have to take for quite a while. MULTIPLE stores were visited, you guys.  I HATE shopping so.. that’s kinda huge!

How have you been doing?  Do you celebrate any holidays during this winter season?  If so, which ones?  What are some traditions that you’re looking forward to?

Be sure to make the coffee rounds – you can find the links over at Part Time Monster!

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Fight Fake News – Know Your Sources!

There has been an epidemic of fake news throughout the election, and it continues now.  It’s been a problem on all sides (because there are certainly more than two “sides” going on right now).  A lot of misinformation gets spread through this fake news — and some people seem to think that they can draw information out of the air and turn it into “fact.”

It’s important to be able to be critical of your sources. It’s something I’ve been taught since I was pretty young – in the academic world you have to approach your sources critically, look at what their bias is, and how that might influence their arguments.  The same concept applies.  We all need to learn how to think about and analyze what we’re reading — and be willing to do a little digging if it is needed in order to determine if it’s a worthwhile source, and to understand the bias it is approaching it’s presentation with.  Because, face it, there is no such things as “just the facts.”

Let’s start simple – try to find sites that are actually reporting information that has a basis in reality and in actual events.  Find a few sources, if you aren’t sure, to see if you can corroborate the information (and don’t just look at sources that are linked from your original source – branch out… and please, please, don’t cite wikipedia as a source for anything… the academic in me will be very displeased- if you find support for what you’re reading there then go to the source that they site for that information!).

There are some good resources that have grown out of the recent issues of false-news which can help you in trying to vet the news that crosses your path.  There are some guidelines to help you as you approach the information, as well as lists of sites that perpetuate fake news (misleading, click-bait, and satire are included in this list, as well as an explanation).

My friends over at Comparative Geeks have gone all-librarian to give some good insight and information on sifting through your news using the C.R.A.A.P test.

And here are some more steps to consider before passing along that news you came across, or that link your friend from elementary school just shared.

I’ve made the mistake of re-sharing some information that is more questionable, of not critically engaging with my source, and I am trying very hard to be more attentive to what I share.  I hope you will too!

The more you know…. and all that.🙂

Monday Updates: Week 2

Update:

There is… so much. Again.  From the continuing rise of hate, and the “Trump Effect” seeming to embolden and encourage such hate continued troubling appointments,  interference by Russia, and major questions and concerns about Trumps personal holdings.

Add in Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipe Line…  Something that’s been overshadowed in many ways in the election but is still very important to pay attention to and take action.

At the moment there is also a lot of talk about the audit in a few key states, and Trumps ongoing Twitter behavior around the recounts… the implications of his actions, and the blind way that some people seem to follow his statements, when there is absolutely no backing to it, is truly frightening.

Inspiration:

Well…It’s hard, honestly, to find good news right now.  But I will say, I’ve seen people opening their hearts to one another in various “secret groups,” as they struggle with what the holidays mean in this time.

When the country is engaged in these conversations that delve into completely different lines of rhetoric (“Get over it, Trump won” is not really a fitting response to someone whose concern is around the emboldened nature of white supremacists (so-called alt-right) and the overt hatred, sexism, bigotry, and racism that is being enacted in our lives) many are finding themselves at odds with their family, friends, and loved ones.  Some discovering things about those they love that they had no idea.

It’s hard to see the story after story about people who are struggling with this divide.  But, it’s heartening to see every single one of these stories met with love and support from hundreds, even thousands, of complete strangers who have found their way together in these groups.

While it may be hard to find inspiration in the news, it’s important that we reach out to those we can draw on, to the families and friends that we have created in our lives, to lend us strength as we face – head-on – the struggles that we are all working against right now.  If you don’t have a community like that, you can find one.  If you don’t know how, just let me know  – I’m happy to help, and I know that there are many others who will be delighted to reach out a friendly hand.  Because, despite it all, we are not alone in this.

Action:

I know, I know, I said I’d give one but…. I just can’t.  So, here are a few to get you through the week.

Call Senator Lindsey Graham’s office at 202-224-5972, push 2 if you get the recording.
Tell the staff member “I support Senator Graham’s investigation into Russia’s participation in the election of Donald Trump.”

Call the House Oversight Committee at 202-225-5074
Tell them you support the call for a bipartisan review of Trump’s financials and conflicts of interest.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
DC (202) 224-5972
Pee Dee (843) 669-1505
Low Country (843) 849-3887
Piedmont (803) 366-2828
Golden Corner (864) 646-4090

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D- MD 7)
DC (202) 225-4741
Baltimore (410) 685-9199
Ellicott City (410) 465-8259

Don’t allow for Trump Normalization.  When we start to allow terrible things to sound as though they are just “a part of every day,” we are giving those actions more power.  Reach out to news sources that are doing such things, glossing over information, twisting the language used to lend some sort of an air of “normal” to the crap that is happening right now.  Because, it is NOT normal.

Weekly Action Online – If you’re looking for some clear action every week, there is something – a call/outreach and a fiscal action you can take, along with articles and information.  Basically, similar to what I’m trying to do here but… different.

Pay Attention – with so much going on it can be hard to pick out one thing from another – and it’s highly likely that some things are being used to distract from others.  So pay attention to as much as you can, but prioritize your actions. Share and act as you are able.

Support Standing Rock – Follow the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Facebook page. Learn how to support and help them as they fight for the rights of use on their land.

Weekend Coffee Share: Wait? I’m Awake!

If we were having coffee I would have a story to tell you.  Curled up, sipping hot cocoa (because I am still not drinking coffee… for the reason I am about to explain), I might look a little tired.

See, last week, when we were having coffee, it turns out I had a concussion.  I just… wasn’t having any symptoms yet.  I’d smashed my head on the corner of a table and, while it hurt in the moment, I didn’t think of it as anything more than a solid hit.

So I wrote up my coffee share, and then went to a wine tasting with my Dad and Stepmom.  It was fun – we were there for a few hours, did the Manequin Challenge a few times with the entire tasting room, and I had my go at two rounds of trivia (I got into the last round for one of them… on complete guesses).  But it seemed like the wine was impacting me more than it normally does at these tastings, I was light-headed far earlier, I had trouble focusing, and I just started to feel super-tired.

Well, took me coming home and falling asleep for an hour (something I very rarely do mid-day), waking up feeling nauseous and with a headache for a few more hours (after heavily hydrating) to realize that I might have a concussion.  Spent a while on the phone with a nurse-line, and then with a doctor to confirm it.  So began the week of sleep.

Seriously, aside from another call to the doctor, and an appointment on Monday morning at the doctors, I pretty much spent the entire week sleeping, listening to music, and spending a little time listening my way through a few audio books (when I could stay up long enough).

This is what much of my week looked like.
This is what much of my week looked like.

I made it through a very laid-back Thanksgiving meal with my family, though by the end of it I was pretty thoroughly exhausted.  My ability to passively watch non-brain-engaging things on screens seems to be improved vastly, and I am sleeping far less (I don’t think I even took a nap yesterday!) I still have to be careful with more active, focused, things (such as typing up blog posts, or doing things on social media), and I haven’t tested out the whole “actually being active and interacting with people” thing yet.

It’s hard to strike that balance between giving myself the time I need to heal, and doing the gentle pushing to let my body be sure of its limits.  Like, right now, do I want to take a nap because I need to, or because it’s just what I’m used to doing after a week of sleeping every 2-4 hours?

I am aiming to get back into the flow of things this week – but also making sure I pay attention to the signs and signals my body is giving me.  It’s just… so hard!

How was your week?  And weekend?  Are you one of those Black-Friday shoppers? Did you have a good time with family or friends?  How are you doing?

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Monday Updates: Week 1

I hit my head this weekend and have a mild concussion – so am not being able to put as much into this as I had hoped.  But, as promised, News, Uplifting, and Action.
I may be out of commission for a little while – hopefully not much more than another day or so but… if there’s radio silence on this end, or delay in approving comments… that’s why

News

Well, the inability to be online has limited my intake of news the past day. But, I want to share this – they’re getting flack for it (which is news and something to keep an eye on itself, what with the threat to freedom of expression) but… if you haven’t seen the little speech that was given when Pence went to visit Hamilton, it is certainly worth a listen.

 

Uplifting Moment:

The massive amount of donations the ACLU has received since the election – this link also tells of the great amounts of donations other nonprofits and charities have been receiving.

Three Action Items: 

Copy and pasted because, well, minimal screen time right now

Phone call agenda for next week , and pass it on to others:
These phone calls are effective and only take a few minutes to make:
Mitch McConnell at (270) 781-1673
Paul Ryan at (608)752-4050
Diane Feinstein at (310) 914-7300
Barbara Boxer at (213) 894-5000
Nancy Pelosi (415) 556-4862

Say:
“My name is ____________, and I from the State of_____________. I am calling regarding propagandist Stephen Bannon being selected as taxpayer-funded advisor to Donald Trump. I do not approve of a racist and antisemitic propagandist holding a senior advisory position in the White House. I am calling on you to demand the appointment be rescinded.”
Copy and paste this message and post on your wall instead of hitting share. Most won’t see messages you share

Monday and Tuesday, 21 & 22 November
Call your representative on the Hill and at home (http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep; live link in comments) to urge them to support Rep Clark (MA-5)’s bill HR 6340, the Presidential Accountability Act to identify and resolve Trump’s conflicts of interest. And then call some more Representatives! Join us in jamming the phone lines.

Postcard blitz to protest Bannon. **IMPORTANT: Please do not send your postcard until NOV 26th**

Instructions to participate:

1. Get a postcard from your state – any picture that represents your state.
2. In the message section, write this simple message: NOT BANNON!
3. Sign your name if you wish
4. Address it as follows:
Donald Trump
c/o The Trump Organization
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022
5. Affix a stamp – you can use a 35 cent postcard stamp, or a normal letter stamp.
6. Take a picture of your postcard that you can share on social media using the hashtag #stopbannon #postcardavalanche

7. Drop it in the mail between Saturday, Nov 26th and Monday, Nov. 28th to create a concentrated avalanche of postcards.

If you can’t send yours until later, don’t let that stop you.

**IF YOU CANT INVITE, WE RECOMMEND SHARING THE INSTRUCTIONS, PHOTO IN COMMENTS **

Now invite, invite, invite! The more voices we can get in the mail, from the more states, the better. To make it go viral we will all need to share the details with our sphere of influence in whatever ways we feel comfortable. Feel free to copy and paste the details or even post your own public event. The more the merrier!

If you are unfamiliar with Steve Bannon, he is a white supremacist who is also the head of a media company that proliferates misogynistic, homophobic, and xenophobic views. The Donald is about to make him chief White House strategist. We have to stand up for American values against this man!

Let’s go national and send a message the old fashioned way!

A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.

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