Fact Checking? We don’t need no stinking fact checking!

Oh, boy! My first rant!

Normally, I like to keep the Cafe rant free, but this really got to me, and I realized that it’s better to write about it than go charging out with a pitchfork and torch towards the nearest newspaper stand. That wouldn’t go over well, considering that I’m Christian, black and a woman.

Names are not mentioned to protect both the innocent and the guilty. I’m not that horked off (man…is that even a word? See, I’m making up my own swears now. This is how mad I am.) that I’m gonna do something stupid as say names and then have it later bite me on the ass. Besides, if you really want to know specifics, you’ll employ your super Googling skills to find out what I’m talking about. It’s easy…which makes what happened even more baffling.

A bit of background: some time ago, I went to my writer’s group, where we had someone new join us. This person, who works for a newspaper group, proceeded to tell us in great detail how said newspaper is lousy when it comes to writing articles. According to her, they basically slap a bunch of names and details together and print it without any thought for accuracy. I didn’t take her seriously, with her being a new person and all. I chalked her rant up to basic journalistic bitterness.

A week later, my hubby brought in a copy of the paper by the same group. Someone very close to me got interviewed for an article, and it finally came out. I glanced at the paper and immediately saw that the name was spelled wrong.

Then I read past the first word of the article and saw more things wrong.

It’s as if the reporter had conducted the interview on a different planet. Details mixed up in a great goulash of inaccuracy. Quotes rearranged and taken out of context, giving them a whole new meaning–the wrongest type of meaning. By the time I finished the article, I was flabbergasted at just how bad the article was–not just for the factual errors, but completely dissing the subject of what the article was about. If someone else read this article, they would be given a completely negative view of everything in the article.

Uh-oh. Here comes the cynical LaShawn with her soapbox. This is the same woman that took five years of journalism in college and almost chose to go not go to her own graduation because she hated it so. Be warned.

Cynical LaShawn: Well, naturally, they got all the details wrong. It’s a newspaper. You can’t believe everything you read in a paper because every article–even the most neutral ones–are written from the bias of the writer.

Naive LaShawn: Yeah, but it’s the duty of a reporter to write the truth and not put any personal bias in the article they write.

CL: Oh please. It’s easy. A writer can conduct an interview and then decide what to use and what not to make the story interesting. If that changes the context of the words, even better.

NL: But that’s so wrong! I read the article and instantly knew that it was wrong! Whatever happened to journalistic integrity? The reporter couldn’t pick up the phone to check the facts or go online to check them? I would think Google would be the reporters best friend.

CL: It’s not about getting facts right. It’s about getting a product out at deadline.

NL: But still, it calls into question other articles that this paper has done. If they got this article wrong, how many others are wrong, too? How can we trust anything this paper puts out?

CL: <shrugging> Before this article came out, you didn’t care if the articles in it was true.

NL: Well, no…I didn’t.

CL: So what makes you think the people of this paper care? They read it, think, “that’s nice” or “that’s bad” and turn the page to the next article. They’re not really thinking about the accuracy of the articles. They just want to know what the article is about and move on.

NL: That’s really depressing.

CL: <lighting a cigarette> Yeah, ain’t it?

NL: <staring at CL> Ummm…we don’t smoke.

CL: Yeah, and I’m not real, either. So I can do what I like.

NL: Okay…I think we had enough of you. <booting CL off her soapbox and climbing onto it herself>

I suppose I could call the paper, tell them they got all this stuff wrong, and get a correction printed. But why bother…and on another note, who will care? Only the people who got interviewed for the article are miffed, but life will probably go on for them. Those who know these people know the truth. And for those who don’t…well…it probably won’t change their opinion about the subject anyway.

But for me, as a writer, I’m appalled. When I was in college, I decided that journalism was not for me. I’d much rather write fiction because it was more real than writing newspaper articles. Who knew that fiction existed in newspapers, too?

Cynical LaShawn is shouting from the back of the Cafe, “Duh!” I think I’m going to throw the soapbox at her to shut her up. Then I’m going to take the article, give it to Daniel to rip into shreds, go have some breakfast, and dwell on the fact that newspaper readership is shrinking due to the Internet.

Ah. I feel better already.


31 Days Hath Sucktober…

Okay, it’s official. October is hearby renamed as “Sucktober”. I’m coining this new word right now. If it ever takes off, you’ve heard it here first at the Cafe.

October has really sucked this year. I’m not going to get into specifics because I didn’t plan for this blog to be a place to moan and gripe about my life. I don’t want the stuff that’s happening to linger in the confines of the Internet for a good long time. I can say that on the whole, things are good. Hubby is fine, boy is fine. We’re all somewhat healthy. It’s just that October has not been good to us…or to our friends, for that matter. October

What has been good in all this is that we’ve been praying a lot. Amazing how hard times can bring us closer to the Lord. While things fall apart around us, God is still holding us up. I’ve seen it not just the little things that’s been happening, but in the general peace that’s been surrounding me as so much chaos takes place around me. That’s been nice. It’s nice

Another thing that’s been good is that my writing hasn’t faltered. Workwise on Willow, I’m now outlining the main plot, and it’s been cool to see things coming together as far as the storyline goes. I’ve also been sketching out the subplots a bit more, and I can see things coming together nicely. Again, I’m being vague…but I’m learning that what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet, and that includes drafts of books and whatnot. So I guess you’ll just have to wait until the book comes out.

Wow, this is probably the vaguest post I’ve ever written. I think I’m going to just head to bed.

Snip, snip here. Snip, snip, there. Trimming the branches of “Willow”

I think I’m going to have to take my Willow Synopsis down.

Last week marked the first edits of Willow…well, if you don’t count the reworking of the first fifteen chapters when I got back into writing it. I officially started my editing by whacking out a supporting character’s plotline. I also started an outline of the main plot and not only saw places that I could easily cut and/or rearrange, but I found a very decent spot where I comfortably end the book.

Granted, that also means that the remaining arc of the story will have to be its own book. Which means that this will definitely not be a trilogy. More of a four book series, which is what I expected. When I first saw my massive word count, I knew there was a good chance that I would have split Willow in two. The question was how to do it so that the first book had an ending that didn’t feel forced or incomplete.

All in all, I have trimmed Willow to a word count of 260,000 words. Much, much better. It’s so much easier to handle. Granted, I’m still working on outlining, so I won’t know what will be in Willow for several weeks, but this gives me a good idea on where I’m heading. In other words, I’m putting away the chainsaw and taking out the hedgeclippers so I can trim Willow to a nice, pretty shape.

Daniel wants breakfast now. Guess that trimming will have to wait until later.


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A bunch of book reviews

So the past couple of months have pretty busy, so much so that I haven’t been able to do my book reviews like I wanted to. Rather than do a long one separately, I decided to just lump them together in a bunch of mini-reviews so I can get these already-read books off my desk.

Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda

A friend of mine forwarded an unproofed copy to me, so I had a chance to use the skills I learned from workshop this summer to read and analyze this book. A group of strangers become the unlikeliest of roommates: Camille, an artist who barely eats and just beginning to draw again after a relapse; Franck, a gruff chef who works hard, rides his bike hard and wrestles with terrible guilt when it comes to his grandmother’s welfare; and Philibert, an stuttering aristocrat reduced to selling postcards in front of a museum.

This is a dialogue-heavy book, pretty sparse on details. You get to know the characters through internal monologues and conversations with each other. Usually, Gavalda write the dialogue without mentioning who is saying what, so sometimes you get a bit lost. But the interaction between these people is a wonder to behold, as they begin to open to each other and you learn about their pasts. You can feel the intimacy between them as they grow, particularly between Camille and Franck, almost to the point where the reader feels excluded. There’s a scene where Franck shows Camille his knife collection that’s done completely in dialogue. Because we can’t “see” what’s going on, we can only guess what the knives look like from their conversation–and from the casual way they speak, it almost feels like eavesdropping.

I really liked how the relationships played out, especially as you get to know the histories of the people and why they act the way they do. A very nice read. 4 paintings out of 5.

Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas

I first heard of Sacred Pathways from the reJesus blog, where the writer spoke of a test you can take to evaluate your ‘spiritual temperament. I took the test itself, and it so intrigued me, I wanted to know more about the 9 temperaments listed, so I read this book. It completely changed how I view worship.

Thomas’ theory is that there are nine temperaments geared towards worshipping God: intellectual, contemplative, enthusiast, caregiver, activist, ascetic, traditionalist, sensate, and naturalist. Each chapter starts with a description of the temperament, gives Biblical examples, demonstrates the outward actions of such temperaments, and he describes temptations of how not to fall into idolatry.

Thomas has a easy speaking manner that is good on the eyes, and he doesn’t go heavily into Christian jargon. He delves deep into every type of worship, from lifting of hands to the use of rosaries. He explains the history behind certain rituals.

This book really opened my eyes to the different styles of worship, and I can tell that it’s impacting how I do worship now. 5 rosaries out of 5 (and it turns out that I’m mostly a contemplative.)

Real Sex by Lauren F. Winner

Winner is becoming more and more my favorite female intellectual writer. I had read her book Girl Meets God and was really taken by her quest to know God more. Therefore, when we were up in Michigan last week and I saw this book in the library there, I snatched it up.

Winner offers an interesting. take on chastity. Delving into her own history first, she risks much in disclosing that she did have sex before marriage. What comes out of the risk is a very realistic view of a single Christian struggling with chastity, how sex has become far from its original plan not just in the secular world, but in the church as well (I enjoyed her argument on how Christians are hammered so much into not having sex when unmarried, that when the marriage night comes, it’s hard to switch from “no sex!” to “have sex! have sex now!“). She tackles the usual hard subjects about sex, but also talks about being single person living in a time where churches are heavily focused on families.

In some ways, I wish this book was available when I was still single–there’s a lot of hard and honest truths in this book that would’ve impacted me back then. Still, I think this is a great book to read if you’re single or married. 5 rotundas out of 5 (and if you read the book, you’ll understand what I mean).

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More thoughts on being published

So the reason why I haven’t been able to go to the Midwest Literary Festival was that our family spent a week up in Cedarville, MI at the Intervarsity Cedar Camp there. Naturally, this meant that once we got back home, we had a huge pile of mail waiting for us. And the first thing on top of the pile was two copies of Kaleidotrope. And right there, on page 3, was “Click”.

Very, very surreal.

I’m not talking about the story itself, which can be described as surreal, I guess. I’m talking about seeing the words that I have slaved over for several months not hovering on a LCD screen or in loose-leaf, double spaced printed format with red ink all over it. I’m talking about Times New Roman single spaced, two columned, italicized, bound in a book with several other stories. With a graphic: A gargoyle/demon/wraith thing that fits so well with the story…but also looks disturbingly cute. I want to take it home and call it Iggy. He shall sleep in the shed and I’ll throw it raw chicken bones for dinner…

Err…ahumm…sorry…got a little carried away there…

I had mentioned in my post for the Writer’s Block that there’s something different about seeing your work in print. That it’s tangible. You can trace your name with your fingers. You can even smell it (and yeah, how weird is that? For some bizarre reason, I’ve been taking to holding the zine up to my nose and sniffing it. It’s most disturbing…and yet…I just can’t help it. It smells real!)

But there something else I didn’t count on in seeing my story in print…and that was almost the strange disconnected feeling as I read it.

I know the words intimately. I can almost close my eyes and recite the beginning off the top of my head. But when I open it up and look at it, it’s almost as if I’m reading something that someone else wrote. And as I get drawn into what I wrote, I think: I wrote this? Me? That can’t be right. This is…good!

It’s not an ego-boosting thing. Trust me. Nor am I saying this with a boastful air. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m astonished to see a story of mine in print, and I’m humbled that this was printed at all…compared to the other stories within the zine. And trust me, there are some very good stories in this zine. I haven’t finished it yet (when you read a short story zine, it’s best to read it in bits, I’ve learned. That way, the stories stay with you more.) but I did take a look at the bios at the back, and was blown away by some of the writers’ creds. There’s this one story, “Guy, Sky High” by Edd Vick about a guy dying that brought tears to my eyes. And my story is published in the same zine as his?! That blows my mind.

I guess that’s why it looks so strange to me. I’m not used to seeing my work in print like this before. And you know what? I want more. I want to get more stuff printed. Just to see what my stuff will look like.

That’s not to say that I’m giving up on the net market too. I find that getting published on the Internet is just as important. In fact, it looks like that article I’ve been working on all September will be getting published after all…and that one will be on the web. More details coming as soon as I get them.

In the meantime, it’s back to the grindstone. I got more stories that need to be polished and sent on their way. Aaaaand, starting next week, it will be back to work on The Weeping of the Willows. Huh…I wonder what it will be like to see that in print?

Guess I better start working on it so I can find out.

“Click” published in Kaleidotrope Issue #3


kaleidotrope cover

The latest issue of Kaleidotrope is out, and it’s got my story “Click” in it! I haven’t gotten it in the mail yet, but I should soon.

I had lots of fun writing “Click”. I love stories that screw with the reader’s mind. I had no idea this piece will turn into a commentary on women’s issues, but I hope it makes readers think.

You can get issue #3 of Kaleidotrope by clicking on the image above or the link here. It costs around $4. If you’re in Chicago, you can also pick up an issue at Quimby’s. Head down there right now. Go on. Supporting local bookstores is fun!

October Scheduling (or time to get down to business…eventually…)

October already, huh?

It amazes me how time simultaneously crawls and speeds. When Kaleidotrope sent me the acceptance note for my story “Click” back in April, I didn’t think I could wait until October for it to be published. And now, here it is, October 1, and it feels a little weird.

It’s not just a new story for me that makes this month eventful. This month was also my start point to start editing Willow again. I’ve been letting it sit on the back burner for just about 2-1/2 months now. I already know what my first step is going to be…and it’s cool that I’m itching to jump into it. But I can’t do that. Not yet.

My schedule, which I had perfected at the beginning of September, has been thrown off a bit. A couple of glitches have occurred–and I stress glitches. They aren’t major crises or anything like that–that has me scrambling to repair them. One of them is the fact that I’m taking more time than I thought with an article I’m writing. I thought I would be done with it in two weeks, tops, but it’s now stretching into a month. Luckily, I’m in the last stages of it, so I’m hoping to be done with it by Friday at the latest. But in doing this article, I had to put other projects on hold. It’s not terribly bad–it’s a good reason why I had blocked off August through September as a time to keep my writing light and easy–but this has ballooned into quite a project. I’ll be glad when it’s over.

Another glitch is that this weekend, October 5-7, is the Midwest Literary Festival taking place in Aurora, IL. There’s going to be a lot of authors there, as well as some wonderful looking workshops. I’ve attended it for two years now…but I won’t be there this year due to a conflict in schedule. I don’t feel bad about missing it–after attending the Midwest Writing Workshop in July, I’m pretty good as far as conferences go for the year. Besides, I think I will get a whole lot more out of the festival next year, when I plan to have Willow ready to pitch to agents. So all of you going to the festival this year, have lots of fun for me, and let me know how it goes.

I’m not going to completely turn my back on networking, though. When I learned that I wouldn’t be able to go to the festival, I decided to try something new and go to an online conference. The Muse Online Writer’s Conference boasts that it’s the only conference of it’s kind, with most of its workshops being down in chat rooms. Registrations are closed right now, but you can go to see what kind of workshops they have. I’ve only participated in a chatroom a couple of weeks ago (I’m not really the type of person who does chatrooms) so this will be a new thing for me. The conference goes from October 8 through 14, which I think is timely because then I can just dive into Willow on the 15th.

So, basically, October is shaping up to be quite a busy month. Stay tuned as I attempt to juggle the days and keep my sanity intact.