Monday, June 29, 2015

To Write is to Write, Right?

    Last evening, my wife read to me an essay I had written fourteen years ago, when we lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a lovely observation of Sand Hill cranes flying overhead, possibly flying south from the field visible from the museum where I worked before leaving Alaska.

    I made a wistful comment about not writing much any more, realizing I hadn't written anything quite so elegant in a very long time.

    Perhaps that was a wake up call.

    Writing is as writing does. I keep thinking of story ideas for a new novel, but get bogged down in the planning process. Perhaps I should just write and let the ideas flow, and then pick and choose ideas for lengthier works. Or not.

    Perhaps I should just write.

    Hence, this blog.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Writing by hand, cursive and other anachronisms

The other day I saw a signature by a young man of 17, written in crude block letters, printed, not cursive. A signature!

This reminded me that cursive handwriting is no longer taught in many schools. Cursive is seen as superfluous in this age of ubiquitous computers, laptops, pads and smart phones. It takes a long time to develop facility with cursive handwriting, and, with test-focused outcome instruction, teaching handwriting skills is increasingly viewed as a waste of time.

What is lost when children no longer learn to write by hand? In addition to the cultural loss of communication skills, self-identification and self-reliance, it seems that cursive writing exercises mental processes that are not employed in writing and taking notes on a computer.

Recent studies indicate that taking notes by hand results in greater retention and comprehension than taking notes on a computer. Apparently, when we take notes on a computer, we are less selective and attentive to what we write, taking down notes verbatim very quickly. While this may seem more efficient, it seems that we process the information we write down by hand in different ways than when we write on a computer. Hand writing involves choices of what to write down, since it is slower than typing on a keyboard. So we are forced to pay more attention to what is said and how we translate it onto the page.

Cursive writing, in particular, involves complex motor skills that are not developed when children write on computers or print. Cursive is a form of personal expression that can add personality and individuality to the written word.

Most importantly, children who do not learn cursive handwriting are unable to read handwriting from their parents or grandparents, creating a generational rift that will be hard to cross. With so much archival writing recorded in cursive script, young people will be barred from access to primary documents.

We old poops always decry change in the younger generations, citing irretrievable loss of traditions and cultural norms. In this case, loss of cursive handwriting will have an unforeseeable effect on future generations, which may not be fully evident until it is too late.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Social Media... or is it?

Michael Moore has decided that web sites and email don't make it anymore for spreading his words through cyberspace. He probably has a point there, in that those embedded in cyberspace eschew such time consuming and thought provoking activities as blogging, emails and web site authoring, let alone, reading the printed page.

Then again, do we really want to encourage more head down, attention in the electronics focus that results in people bumping into others on the sidewalk as they assume the new position of hand out, holding the cell phone, all attention to whatever it is that happens in that tiny box? Then again, that's where they are and to get to them, one has to send that message to their tiny boxes in outstretched hands. See the video, Look Up! HERE

As usual, I'm skeptical... and curious.

So I'm going to try organizing my posts in the various "social" media: Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc. I haven't figured out how to use Pinterest and the other picture-based sites. Seems more work than necessary, but then, I'm not a "Selfie" kind of guy.

We'll see. Check back here for updates.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Too Much Fun!

I'm having too much fun today... if that's possible.

I've been working on a new web site, integrating all the things I do... well... most of them.

Took some journalistic photos today (see at Santa Cruz Pics). Worked up me Photography Page on Words Arranged.

Who knows what'll come of all this, if anything. I'm having fun!

Anyone ever see the film Why Man Creates?

Friday, March 21, 2014

A New (Old) Beginning

With the launch of my new web site, Words Arranged, I'm starting a new era in writing... and photography. Well, for myself at least.

Wait a minute... "Words" arranged?


I'm searching for the perfect photo haiku.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dog Gone!

Well, here it is, a year later, and I'm still fighting off the dogs. It's a strange world out there, getting stranger by the minute. Should be plenty of topics to agitate anyone's quill, but it sure takes up a lot of time... time that could be spent writing about something else.

A new web page in the making, soon to be revealed, and then back to the desk, the pen and the dreaded blank sheet of paper.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Subsequent Events Intervene (SEI)

As usual, best laid plans succumb to the SEI principle: Subsequent Events Intervene.

I had plans to work furiously on Rings of Truth, and then Dogs Off-Leash reared their heads again, and now I'm spending my time writing a proposal for local government.

It's OK, it's all good writing, and this is particularly satisfying as it is science based. And, it's not writing fiction.

I have to pay attention to what my writing is telling me. After all, it comes out of my head! And right now, I'm not writing fiction. I have my desk side table full of books on Bering Strait archaeology and climate science, preparing to revise an old scientific paper on St. Lawrence Island archaeology with new climate data.

So it goes.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rings of Truth

I've just turned a corner in my next novel, Rings of Truth, passing from research to plot completion and outline.

My first novel, The Environmeddlers, was a compilation of earlier writings, with characters and scenes created to fill in the story. It was difficult and, I think in the final analysis, not too successful.

This time I am plotting out the story in advance, and working out the characters' personality descriptions, so that the characters react to the story in ways motivated by their character traits.

I have an ulterior motive! Once the characters are solid and playing well together, I hope to bring them into new scenes in future stories.

Did anyone say "sequel?"

Friday, November 16, 2012

Is Research Really Writing?

It's time to poke my head above the writing waters and take a look around.

I've been working on two large research projects over the past couple of weeks, work that has kept my head down and focused all day every day. So I haven't written anything for some time... or have I?

We all know we have to do research in order to write, even if we write fiction. Usually, the writing comes first, setting up the plot, defining the characters, setting them in locations. We have to do the research to make sure what we write is authentic, real and, above all believable.

The difference between fiction and fact is that fiction has to be plausible.

This time, I've been doing the research first, if it ever does result in a story, essay or novel. I've been doing genealogy research, finding documents and stories about my ancestors back to the 17th Century, and researching family history for a friend.

It's absorbing work, this research, requiring long hours of internet interaction, downloading and organizing. The results tell a fascinating tale of human lives over generations, living with everything Life throws at them, getting by as best they can, dealing with the societies, cultures and relationships in which they find themselves. It's the human drama, spun out in census records, marriage and death certificates, birth records, divorce decrees, family histories, transcription errors, legends and sometimes outright false stories, deceptions, half-truths, lies and silence.

It's one of the reasons we do genealogy, if for no other reason than to make sense of the strange things that happen in our own lives, and the decisions we make every day in dealing with them.

I think I'll include genealogy in my research for my next novel. Even if it isn't true!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Marketing Surprises - surprising markets

The writing world is full of surprises, and the marketing of writing world is no exception.

This morning I discovered sales of five copies of my family genealogy, Descendants of Edmond Lewes of Lynn, Massachusetts. This is a book I'm not actively marketing, as I wrote it as a genealogy reference for fellow researchers in my Lewis family line. It sells for 30 cents more than what it costs to print it at, so I don't make any money at it. And there's a free PDF download offered as well.

It just goes to show you, people buy books when they want to buy books. There's no accounting for buying patterns.

Of course, readers have to know a book exists before they can search it out and buy it, so I guess that's what marketing is for. It must be good for something.

So my next question is, "Do I go eBook or not?"

Ruminations on that question tomorrow!