Writing by the seat of my pants (pantsing) makes NaNoWriMo so much fun for me. Here I talk about being a pantser on the blog of writer and editor Keri Rozansky..
Okay, I know I can’t speak for every woman writer. But on most of my writing Facebook pages, the talk is about NaNoWriMo . Thank the Lord there are places to go where no trace of politics can be found. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month which is November. Writers’ blogs and writers’ Facebook groups are filled with angst-ridden posts asking, “Who’s doing NaNo this year?”
We’re writers. Why the distress about doing what we love to do? You know how marathon runners stress about finishing their next race? Well, WriMos stress about completing 50,000 words in 30 days. Not just any, 50,000 words, but arranged in such a way they qualify as a novel. A rough draft of a novel, not one you can send out to agents yet (although some have, much to the chagrin and amusement of agents and publishers.) Or maybe it’s the mere beginning of an epic fantasy or a future detective series. Or a novella. Finding time to write that many words amidst the doings of everyday life is a challenge for many folks.
That’s no so much me anymore since I’m unemployed. But I remember those days. this year, besides NaNo, I’m also taking an online course with the University of Iowa Writing Workshop, and sending out queries for a revised former NaNo project, working on book 3 of Lilyland and working with a critique group. Writing, writing everywhere and not a royalty in sight. Sigh.
Since I started NaNo-ing in 2008, I have completed 8 rough drafts (although two were for the same novel). Two of those have been revised, edited, polished, and self-published. Another one I’m currently querying literary agents with. Two others I am currently revising.
If you think you have a novel in you that’s screaming to get out, give NaNo a try this year. Sign up here. You’ll meet a great online community to cheer you on and who will understand what you’re doing when no one around you does. You can meet other actual people face to face at local write-ins. You can drink gallons of coffee and nibble Skittles, M&Ms and pretzel nuggets like mad. Hopefully, you’ll be able to get your family or roommates to understand. If not, it’s only 30 days.
Share this with your teens and talk to them about it. It mostly addresses girls, but teen guys are trafficked, too. Kids from ALL kinds of families fall prey to the greedy wiles of traffickers.
Here it is January again. And once again it’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The problem hasn’t gone away and like most of this nature has most likely gotten worse.
When I started volunteering as Twitter account manager for StreetLightUSA, a local provider of comprehensive services for sex trafficked girls, in 2014, the emphasis of the anti-sex trafficking/stop child rape movement was getting the justice system and society to stop referring the human merchandise being bought and sold as prostitutes and throwing them in juvenile detention centers like their adult counterparts get sent to jail.
Education and awareness have changed this*. This girls and boys are now considered victims because it’s become clear that these young people do not willingly sell their souls to pimps who in turn sell their bodies to buyers, but they were coerced into it and coerced to remain. The pimps prey on basic human needs like food and shelter for runaways, love, and acceptance for kids who don’t feel that at home or are rebelling against it. Pimps play with the minds of their victims like experts of the human psyche. Drugs, rewards, punishment, fake love and more keep these now damaged children hostage. Some don’t realize they can escape and those that do fear for their lives if they leave.
Who would knowingly enter into a life like that, to be raped 10, 20, 30 times a day, to be beaten and drugged and manipulated in the most inhuman ways? All states and many countries now have decriminalized minor victims of sex trafficking, keeping them out of jail and placing them with services for recovery and restoration, although this system needs much improvement.
A more recent focus to eliminate selling our children to be raped is reducing demand or making it more dangerous and less worth it for men who pay to rape children. Many states and municipalities have introduced laws meant to discourage men from soliciting sex with children. In Phoenix, AZ and it’s surrounding cities, such a man is faced with heavy fines, sex school, his picture being published online and being labeled as a sex offender with all the ramifications that go with that.
Just as we’ve thought of child victims as mini-prostitutes who want to do what they’re actually being forced to do, we want to think of the sex buyers of these children as creatures so disgusting the only way they can get sex is to pay for it. This is false. These men are professionals, or businessmen or men with decent jobs, often married with children. Most now solicit and arrange for sex with children using the internet. They are the men we see every day in our professional and business dealings. For some of us, they are our family members.
One way police are capturing these people–mostly men–are by sting operations. They place an ad, set up in a hotel and arrest the men coming to them expecting to find a teen, or even younger. But they find the police and handcuffs and arrest and shame. This is one way of reducing demand.
But it’s just a drop in the bucket. Some traffickers still work by word 0f mouth, some sell their children, young relatives, their girlfriend’s children out of houses and apartments. These people need to be caught, too.
Increasingly, traffickers arrested and convicted are facing many years in prison, but the buyers do not. The risk of getting caught and the current punishments for buyers aren’t fearsome enough to deter them from paying a few dollars to rape a child. Without a market, a commodity is no longer needed, the business goes out of business.
We’re a long way from the perfect society where sex does not rule the minds, bodies and souls of many people. We’re a long way from respecting each other when it comes to sex. Until that day arrives when there is a worldwide epiphany and we understand how we hurt each other and determine to change our behavior, we must keep making progress to protect out most vulnerable citizens and punish and hopefully rehabilitate offenders. We must educate, and when that fails, prosecute. Otherwise, our society is doomed.
I’ve been doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge for the last two years. I set my goal at 20 books each year. I only made it to 17 in 2014. I got bogged down in a long “bestseller” and an equally long “award winner” that I might have been able to finish had they both better content editing. I did exceed my goal for 2015 by 2.68 books, though. I’m a slow reader (Michael Fassbender admits to being a slow reader, too. *sigh*) so I don’t set lofty goals.
My non-scientific and random review methods based on the fact I’m a writer, I get moody and other things that may vary day to day.
***** So compelling I’m willing to not do things I love (like write and sleep) to keep reading.
**** The characters are compelling or the story so interesting they follow me around until I can read again.
*** Good enough I’ll keep reading, maybe for enjoyment or maybe another reason.
** Gave it a good try, but probably won’t finish.
My ***** for 2015
- The Lady of Lakewood Diner by Anne R. Allen. I believe Ms. Allen is an indie author. If you grew up around or are interested in the 1960s, you’ll especially enjoy this.
- All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer. I’m not a big fan of things about World War II, but the characters and the prose are stunning.
- The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. A library book sale big time score! Loved everything about this book.
- Horse and Buggy Mennonites by Donald B. Kraybill and James P. Hurd. Nonfiction research for Zook’s Corner. A readable interesting detailed account of Old Order Mennonites in Lancaster County, PA.
The lowest I gave was a *** to The Outcast by Jolina Petershiem. I think I was feeling generous that day.
Everything else received solid ****.
Sometimes I inadvertantly pick up books around the same time with the same settings or themes. In 2015 I read At The Water’s Edge right before All the Light We Cannot See, both WWII settings. Then both set in Seattle were Safe with Me and Firefly Lane. The Robber Bride is set in Toronto (which I’ve actually had the pleasure of visiting) and something else was Toronto based in my life then…maybe a movie?
I think the most disappointing was The Girl on the Train. Wildly popular and I got it for cheap on Kindle. It was a great read until the ending which was just “meh.” In my opinion. You may think it’s brilliant.
I did abandon a book, Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. It’s YA. I found the first person over-obsessing of a guy by a teenage girl annoying. Not a bad book and I have some questions that won’t get answered because I don’t like the voice, but just not for me.
Maybe if you click here, you’ll go to my Goodread page of my 2015 books. If not, sorry. If so, click on the book if you’re interested in my rating/review.
Lined up for 2016, I have The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. First I have to After the Rising by Orna Ross, whose Blue Mercy I really enjoyed in 2014. I think I’ll keep my goal at 20 books. It’s always feels better to exceed a goal than to not meet one.
What was your favorite book in 2015? Anything on your reading agenda for the New Year?
Note: Thumbnails are of other books I read in 2015 by indie authors (except Everything I Never Told You isn’t indie.)
You know how every month is now some kind of awareness month? Everything from
ethnic group history to diseases to food and activities. September has its share. It includes Suicide Prevention Month, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Childhood Obesity Awareness, Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness, Alzheimer’s Awareness, Ovarian Cancer Awareness, Backpack Awareness (this is by Occupational Therapists so I guess they’re concerned with the effects of too-heavy backpacks), Sepsis, Atrial Fibrillation, ITP (involving blood platelets) and lots more. One thing I didn’t see on this list was Blood Cancer Awareness Month.
Blood cancer is not as prevalent as breast, lung or prostate cancers. I’d post some statistics, but honestly, I think it’s too late in the day for me to do that without too much thinking (my brain can only handle math between 8 and 11 AM) so I’ll post some links below.
What I really want to talk about is today, 9/22 is World CML Day. This is actually pretty clever. CML is Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. It’s of particular interest to me because I am surviving this thing. Yay!
Somewhere along the way, a couple of my regular chromosomes decided to do something funky:
The Mayo clinic explains it:
An abnormal chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome is associated with chronic myelogenous leukemia. Your cells each contain 23 pairs of chromosomes that are made of DNA and hold the instructions for every cell in your body. The Philadelphia chromosome forms when chromosome 9 and chromosome 22 break and exchange portions. This creates an abnormally small chromosome 22 and a new combination of instructions for your cells that can lead to the development of chronic myelogenous leukemia. (here is Mayo’s page on this)
So, this is where the 9 and 22 come from.
Why did this start happening to me? Don’t know. I don’t have any of the common risk factors: exposure to certain chemicals or excessive radiation, a family history or past chemotherapy.
If left untreated, the uninvited Philadelphia chromosome would cause the stem cells of my blood to create many more white cells than needed. These funky white cells would take over because they live longer that regular white cells plus they don’t do their job of killing off germs. As time goes on, I would make fewer red cells to do their oxygen carrying thing on top of my body being unable to fight infection.
Blood cancers are often discovered in people by accident, as was my case. I had elective surgery and my white blood cell count was found to be a little high. A few months later I was hospitalized for an unrelated infection. The heavy duty antibiotics didn’t take lower my elevated white count. I’d also had other infections in the previous months such as several UTIs of which I’d had one previous in my entire life. So this was concerning and further testing, including a bone marrow biopsy, were done, and well…here I am.
For which I am grateful. CML is one of the very first cancers to have responded to targeted therapies. My treatment, Gleevec, went into us in 2001. It was considered a magic bullet. Before that, someone diagnosed with CML in the early stages, as I was, had a 3-5 year life expectancy. The five-year survival rate for CML today is about 60%. I’ve been on Gleevec for 6 years. I had an early complete response and went into remission within the first 9 months with minimal side effects. Since then, there had been no detectable glitches in my chromosomes/DNA. I take a Gleevec pill once a day. It targets the causes of the overproduction of defective white cells. There are several other similar treatments available, now, too. Each has potential long-term side effects. But hey, I now get to live long enough to see if I’ll develop them or not.
It was as first thought it would be necessary to be on this treatment for life, but clinical trials are being run to see if it’s possible to go off as long as careful monitoring is done.
Gleevec and drugs like it are very expensive–$90,000 a year and more. Really. What a round of normal chemo might cost, is what one year of this kind of therapy costs. The quarterly blood tests are expensive, as well.
So, how does this knowledge affect you?
- Monitor your health. Don’t ignore unusual fatigue, infections and other changes to your good health. I’ve met people (men!) who almost died because they waited until they could barely get out of bed to see a doctor. The further the disease progresses, the more complicated and risky the treatment. It could involve stem cell transplants. Folks have died waiting for a compatible stem cell donor. This goes for people in your care, too. Don’t wait for odd symptoms to go away.
- Support legislation that provides for parity of cancer treatment costs, oral and self-administered vs. traditional chemotherapy and delivery.
- Support control of prescription costs and coverage by insurance companies.
- Know, that while rarer than other cancers, blood cancer can strike at any age. Some are more common to certain age groups.
- Know that if it hasn’t happened already, you will be affected by cancer, either you or someone you love. It’s a sucky fact, but true.
- When you are affected by cancer, yours or a loved one’s, get educated. Don’t panic. Deal with your emotions, but don’t dwell on the negative. Reach out for support.
I’m grateful I’m still healthy and that despite job setbacks I have never had to go without my treatment.
Well, 9/22/2015 is over for most of the world. Today, about 8 people found out they have CML. Tomorrow, the same and on and on until there is no such thing as cancer.
If you’re on Facebook or some other social media, you probably have a mental list of types of posts that burn your grits or you would like to leave snarky comments for.
At the risk of alienating my friends and being unfriended, unfollowed, etc., here are a few of mine and the comments I don’t post:
The vacation selfies–the poster in some exotic place with a huge smile or open mouth, etc.
Comment: If you’re having such a frickin good time why are you spending so much time posting pictures? Brag much?
The posting of a hundred individual photos of a the same place/event/person.
Comment: Haven’t figured out how to make an album yet, hmm?
The grandchild/ grandchildren. “My new grandson, Antler, is the sweetest, cutest blessing that’s ever been created ever by God, man or anything else. He’s so amazing and beautiful and smart, just sleeping here in my arms all squished up like a person who’s just been pushed through a narrow tube that was too small for his big round and now misshapen head.
Yup, your new precious blessing is the best thing to happen to you. Way to make your kid feel like trash. Also, learn to make a photo album. Don’t post another photo of Antler until he’s five.
Couple selfies at the beach, date night
Yup, you’re a great looking couple that looks twenty years younger than your contemporaries. Thanks for making me feel old, boring, and ugly.
“Here I am at the airport waiting for my flight to New York/London/Abu Dhabi/Scranton! Vacay here I come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
What, you’re on vacation again and you’re only 30? It took my husband 20 years to get a lousy 4 weeks a year for vacation. Do you have a real job? What is it that you do that you can afford to fly places at least once a month and stay at hotels and eat out and go to concerts? Does your employer hire old people? Or do you live in a refrigerator box under a bridge the rest of the time?
I’m sick of people who create drama in my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My feelings are so hurt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know my family hates me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Someone just said something that makes me want to commit murder!!!! You know who you are!!!!
Well, I don’t. What did this person say???? What do you do that makes your family hate you????? I WANT TO KNOW!!!!!!!!! Stop vaguebooking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The poster you can tell just got off work. You see you have 15 new notifications and 14 of them are from this person sharing some meme about positive thinking or the meaning of life.
Um, don’t you do anything? Can’t you at least tell me what you had for lunch once in a while?
Sadly, actor Bobby Bundy, 95, was found dead last night in his Bel Air mansion by his lifelong faithful friend, Spot, who activated the alarm system. Bundy is best known for The Bobby Bundy Show that ran from 1954-1961. He will be missed. Followed by comments like: “This is so sad.” “I’ll miss him so much.”
Spot will miss him. And his agent who hadn’t gotten him a job in thirty years. Having a TV show or being in movies never made anyone immune from death.
There. I feel better now. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
What kind of social media posts would you like to see less of? What snarky comments do you keep to yourself?
Yesterday I happened upon a Yelp review for the local family-owned garage we use. The review was in the not recommended section. A user identified as Jeff discussed an unsatisfying phone experience. “I seemed to offend the VERY RUDE women [sic] whom answered the… geese lady. You need medication, it’ll help with the hot flashes.” (emphasis mine.)
Of course, I don’t know if the woman was actually rude to this man or if he was being a jerk (because jerks usually don’t admit to it). I’ve most likely dealt with the woman in question and have always found her pleasant and exceedingly helpful. But we all have bad days and people dealing with customers might have them more often.
What I object to is the reviewer insinuating the problem was caused by the state of the woman’s hormones, of which he knows nothing. This is an example of the age-old sexist thinking about women. I could go on about how women’s hormones have benefited Jeff over the course of his life, but I won’t. I could go on about this kind of treatment of women even in this day and age (Donald Trump, et. al.) but I’ll do that another time.
Yes, maybe there is medication to help with hot flashes, but unfortunately there are not any to help with being a misogynist asshat.
I’m looking at you, Jeff.
Or maybe, Jeff was eperiencing universal karmic payback for all the times in history that women have been intellectually and finacially abused by males while getting their cars worked on. If that’s the case, Karma must have believed he deserved it.
While I’m on the topic of parenting, what are your thoughts about posting pictures of your kids on places like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.? This wasn’t an issue when my kids were small. The internet was a baby itself that most people had no idea that such a thing even existed. The most instant photography we had were Polaroid cameras which developed special film in the camera and spit out crappy pictures. Everything required film and sending it off for developing and if you wanted far away people to see the pictures, you had to have prints made and snail mail them. (I still have rolls of undeveloped film from when my kids were younger.)
Now, we snap a photo with our phone and tap the screen a few times and everybody you want to see can see it. Depending on the privacy settings on your social media, maybe many more than you imagine can see it.
In researching this, my main concern was that pedophiles can easily access photos, download, and share and sell them with other like-minded creeps. And this is true. Some investigators believe this doesn’t happen that often. Other have seen that even innocent looking family photos can attract unsavory attention. There are websites where predators interested in exploiting children can place orders for the type of photos they are looking for, specifying age, gender, race, etc. Others of the ilk send/sell what they have. Some will even go out and take pictures at playgrounds, etc.
There are also “less” frightening incidences of people digitally kidnapping children by reposting photos of kids and claiming them as their own, creating a fantasy life with other people’s children and posting on Facebook, etc. as if it is real. There are also cases of photos of children stolen from posts that appear in ads without the permission of parents.
Personally, I understand the desire to share photos with family and friends. My husband and I have mostly lived in other states than our siblings and parents and have missed out on getting to know our nieces and nephews as they grew up. And now they are having kids. The best way to stay in touch is by Facebook. I love seeing the newest members of our families, and my friends grandkids and the kids of my kids’ friends I drove around when they were younger. It’s their choice to make these available to me, trusting me to respect their privacy.
A few things to consider:
- Some parents don’t post photos at all on the internet. Others are more trusting of human nature and post whatever they want. I would bet there many who haven’t given it much thought.
- Be aware of the privacy settings you use on social media sites. I am most familiar with Facebook where you can set up lists of specific people you selected to receive a post. You can also change and audience after you post something.
- Remember it’s possible for someone to download a photo, even if you disabled sharing. It only takes a couple of extra steps.
- Be careful who you chose to share with. Maybe you connected with a friend at a recent class reunion and you’re now friends on social media. But you don’t know what this person has been up to or become in the intervening years. This even holds true for relatives and co-workers, unfortunately.
- If you chose to post pictures of your kids with other kids, be aware other parents may not want their kids to appear on the internet.
- Resist the urge to post locations of photos. This feature can be disabled on apps.
In my volunteer work with StreetLightUSA, I come across much information about the numerous ways that children are exploited. The internet makes this so much easier today, in many cases bringing the victim right to his or her exploiters/pimps/ johns. I haven’t even touched on the apps that make it easier for teens to meet the wrong people.
All this to say, be aware of what you do online, especially where your kids are concerned. You’re the first and best line of defense between them and the nastiness or even careless stupidity in the world.
More articles on this topic:
How to Protect Photos Online via Parents
Photos of Kids You Shouldn’t Post Online via Parenting
Family Photos Could Be Pedophile Targets and Facebook privacy tools via Battle Creek Enquirer
My daughter and son are adults now. Somehow, my husband and I managed to raise two well-adjusted adults through the 1980s and 90s without a baby monitor and with only four well-used Tupperware sippy cups and dozens of cloth diapers.
I’m friends on Facebook with some of their friends who have reproduced as well as young parents from church. It floors me to see the kinds of things available to raise kids these days.
A plastic “grass” mat to air dry child feeding tools. One less than one square foot is just under $16.00. One just about a square foot is $30. Then the little plastic sci-fi looking flower things are $6 a pop to hold nipples or whatever. So we’re looking at about $50.00 worth of plastic here. Plastic, people. To actually change seasons, you can get a winter version in all white with gray twig-like structures.
This is how my kids’ feeding things were washed and dried. Then I’d just put the bottles/nipples/cups/lids any place they landed without falling on the floor. Sometimes I used nothing more than a clean dish towel.
And of course, I always smiled when leaning oner the sink doing dishes. My favorite thing in life.
(The woman is more from my mom’s mothering days than mine. But the technology was the same.)
Here’s a new baby swing. $120 worth of plastic that needs batteries or a plug to work. Of course, it does play 16 songs and includes nature sounds AND rocks back and forth or side to side.
We had one like the picture below. It’s metal with a cloth seat and runs on crank power that often wakes a sleeping baby up when you go to rewind it. It had a soothing click-click-click sound as it swung in its only direction. When the kid gets older she can practice hand-eye coordination by reaching for and grabbing a front leg and stopping the swinging motion. This means more parent/child engagement when you go and restart the thing and the baby smiles and chuckles to see you again.
One of our favorite things was the jumper. I’m glad to see they’re still available. We had a doorway jumper like this:
What babies NEED most are loving parents, food, shelter and security. That’s how infants have become adults for thousands and thousands of years. If anything else gets in the way, stresses parents to provide or care for, frustrates the baby in some unnecessary way or otherwise detracts from the peace of a home (which babies are known to do to begin with!), it’s worse than useless.
Modern baby equipment may or may not be better or even safer. Babies are huge business and new parents can be easily induced to feel guilty about what they can or can’t provide for their children. Good strong loving parenting is what every baby even needs the most of. Don’t let stuff get in the way.