Sunday, January 29, 2017

Alternative Facts - A Nightmare

Time Magazine 1/2017
I had a nightmare last night. 

I was standing in front of a gymnasium full of kids talking about my newest nonfiction title. With a cool power point that played off every wall and ceiling (it was a dream after all) I shared how I diligently researched and vetted every tidbit from the weather on a certain historic day to the time it would take to ride a horse to the Milky Way, when a kid raised his hand. “What about the alternative facts?” he said with a sneer. “Does your book have those?”

My scream upon waking made the dogs bark.

It could happen.  You know how easily a word or phrase quickly becomes part of our everyday language. Think Obama care instead of the Affordable Care Act, political correctness, anything with -gate at the end of it, creative nonfiction, journaling.  New terms are soaked up by our citizenry faster than my dog Lily can snitch a napkin off your lap, especially when those words are uttered by someone who is in a position of power and assumed  trustworthy.

It seems funny now, but I’m concerned.  And I think every nonfiction writer should be, regardless of their political affiliation. We are in the business of telling true stories. We share facts with children. If kids get wind of something called “alternative facts,” it will make our job just that much harder.  Why would anyone believe us and our measly evidence-based information when its easier to go along with a flood of “fake news.”

I’m sure every nonfiction writer who goes into the classroom has been asked by teachers to address the issue of credible sources. We’ve all given the spiel about .com, .org, .gov. (I swear this is my only politically snarky remark) Will we have to put .gov in the not credible category?  How much energy will we expend each day calmly explaining that an alternative fact is just another name for a lie.  

Yes, there is something called bias, and we all have one, but that is not the same thing. I have always said that a children’s writer sees the world through a lens of hope. That is our bias. Even the bleakest subject is written to convey optimism for the future. After all, that’s where our readers live. In the future. The future that we establish with our acts and words today.  There is no alternative fact for that. 

For now I’ll just pray before I go to bed that we leave the world a truly better place. A world with hope and optimism for ALL Americans regardless of how you count them.   

***FYI – listen to ScienceFriday and learn how we can inoculate kids from disinformation 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Get to Work!

Writers are an insecure bunch.  We are always sneaking a peek at everyone else's writing process assuming our own approach is somehow insufficient. Wrong.  We need the assurance that what we are doing is within the realm of acceptance so we humbly ask, "How do you revise?"" What writing programs do you use?" " I use the Oxford comma, do you?" It isn't a malady for beginners alone. Seasoned writers do this too, convinced that better methods of note taking or editing shine on the horizon.

While learning new techniques is a good thing, it shouldn't consume more than a fraction of your writing time. I know a gentleman who has called himself a writer for years, but has never submitted a manuscript.  He is , however, an expert on other things. Like going to writer's conferences, and kibitzing in online chats.  He is constantly learning about writing, but not writing.  If my mom were here, she'd say, "If you're a writer, then write!"  Not to the man's face, of course. That would be rude.  But Mom would definitely think it.

I'm reminded of all this because I, too, have been wallowing in this pit of procrastinative learning (Like my new word?).  It tends to happen after the holidays when I'm easing myself back into the world of writing, and, thinking that other writers have marched into the new year with novel things to say, I throw myself into surfing the net,  keeping my ear to the ground,  elbow to the wheel, or whatever.  But I'm fooling myself. I'm putting off real work. I know it, and my mother's voice in my head knows it.

So, if you are reading this hoping you'll get sage advice that will catapult you onto the Newbery list, you are in luck. Here it is.  Get off the Internet and get to work!  Write something!!

You're welcome.