A few thoughts on “Colin Kaepernick and Non-violent Civil Disobedience”

Colin Kaepernick SittingI wrote a draft originally of an essay here at this blog on Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner before football games. The full piece has now been published over at Medium.com in The Coffeelicious, one of the premiere original Medium e-zines out there. You can read the whole piece here.

It starts out as follows: “San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is following his conscience by not standing for the national anthem before football games. I get exactly what’s going on here and I am glad that our national “conversation” on race is being pushed harder than people want by someone with at least a bit of influence.”

I have been disturbed ever since the violence we saw in Ferguson, Missouri about how people who want to see more social and environmental justice [Read more…]

Why I Wrote a Novel by a Girl: When a Dude Figures Out the Power of Emotion in Literature

Cover Music for New PeopleI just finished revising the second draft of my next novel, which means I now have Draft #3 to print out. I’m doing that as I write this post. The whole process started back in October of 2013. Draft #1 clocked in at about 160,000 words (630 pages). Revisions for Draft #2 in December of last year shrank the book to 140,000 words. I was surprised at how many unnecessary sentences I’d written and how many extended metaphors showed up that a reader didn’t really need.

Draft #3 was an extraordinary process. My goal was essentially to lop 60,000 words off the beast. I’d gotten a fair amount of input from a few First Readers. In particular, several poet colleagues were concerned about the number of sub-plots I was offering readers. They wanted focus and brevity. Poets!

I took a few weeks to think through their advice. I also got an interesting letter from a prospective agent saying, in essence, “I can’t take a look at a coming-of-age novel that is 140,000 words long.” Agents!

I began work on Draft #3 at the beginning of February. I finished that process last week (February 22). Music for New People is now a 90,000 word novel — 330 pages long. It may be possible to cut more, but [Read more…]

Sounds Like a Job for Supergirl: Empowered Girls and Women in the 21st Century

Supergirl 1

Melissa Benoist as the new Supergirl (aka Kara Danvers)

I kept getting goosebumps every time the promo pieces for the new Supergirl show came on TV in the first three weeks of October. The week before the show debuted I told my wife that I simply had to watch it. She gave me a funny look, but didn’t argue. When we finally sat down that first night, I was surprised at how excited I was. And when the moment came for Kara to say, “To hell with trying to hide who I really am,” and she went running through the dark streets of National City, leaping into the air (in fits and starts) until she was soaring through the sky on her way to save a sure-to-crash jet, I burst into tears. Seriously. No shit!

I am a 57-year-old father of three young men. My boys were all stud baseball players from the age of six all the way through high school. One of them is now a minor leaguer in the Phillies organization. I have been a lover of most male-oriented sports all my life. I revere macho writers like Hemingway, Kerouac, Henry Miller, and Charles Bukowski. And I’ve been in love with sexy [Read more…]

That Warm Gooey Feeling: The New View of Climate Change

Source: NASA Apollo 8

Source: NASA Earthrise from the moon – Apollo 8

Over at Mashable they just posted an interesting article on social media’s perception of the climate change issue. According to the article, “Internet has revelation that climate change action won’t kill the economy after all,” during the last year or so there has been a tremendously positive shift that “reflects the increasing realization in the business and policy-making communities that the transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and other emerging technologies constitutes an economic opportunity rather than an economic obstacle.”

Even though they present wonderful graphs and data to prove their case, Mashable rightly points out the biases of the researchers. They also note that studies about social media are often fraught with [Read more…]

Fighting Violence and Terror with Art, Joy and Youth

We’ve all been wondering how to counteract the lunacy and mayhem that seems to have seriously marked 2015 throughout the world. Right? It’s not just terrorists, out-of-control cops, and criminals. There’s a lot of hatred a certain category of people have been spewing on TV, social media, and, probably, in your neighborhood and workplace.

You may have your own answer, but to me the most powerful weapon global society has against all this fear and negativity is the freedom and joy of young people and the art they are making. Watch this video trailer below:

The full video can be accessed by clicking here: Community of Dancers Boston Edition. This is my youngest son Conor’s project. He is a 20-year-old film student (and hip-hop dancer) at Emerson College [Read more…]

Summer 2015: Books I’ve Read and Books I’ve Been Working On

Clarice Lispector

Clarice Lispector

I want to share some thoughts on what I read this summer, just so you know what writers do with all that spare time they have. At the end of this essay I also report on some of the stuff I have been working on.

This was my first summer being an empty nest writer. For the record, half of what writers do is read each other’s work. That’s probably why the job seems so great every once in a while.

My goodness, there is so much brilliant literature coming out these days — particularly by women. Beginning in July, I stumbled into all sorts of work by Renata Adler, Joy Williams, Cesar Aira, Shirley Jackson, Elena Ferrante, Mat Johnson, Lucia Berlin, Roxane Gay, and  Clarice Lispector (she who barks at God, see photo above). All of these folks are pushing language and literature forward. We worry, [Read more…]

All the Light We Cannot See: A Quick Review

allthelight-209x300There’s no question that Tony Doerr is one of our most lyrical and thoughtful writers. If you haven’t read any of his work, I highly recommend his two collections of stories as a good place to start:

The Shell Collector (Scribner, 2001)

Memory Wall (Scribner, 2010)

I just finished his award winning new novel All the Light We Cannot See last night. I stayed up late reading in bed to finish the final 100 pages. The novel weaves two young people’s stories together during World War II. Werner is a young German orphan genius with a penchant for radio tweaking and communications hacking. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl whose father is the lock master in a museum in Paris. Both young people must deal with the utter horror of that war of wars, and the reader must go through the grueling trials and tribulations with them. We know it is inevitable that they meet. A great deal is inevitable in any story about [Read more…]

Thank-You for Making Your Broken Bird World

Yesterday I bid adieu to my Facebook wall and all the people who live there (for as long as I can, I think).

It felt really interesting to wake up this morning. That strange convolution was no longer tangled up inside my skull, cloaking my brain. What a strange thing not to realize every day for seven years.

So, maybe, it’s back to communicating the way I used to. The poem below is adapted from a letter to a friend I shall miss daily now, because Facebook isn’t bad, it’s just there and it makes using words easier than maybe using them should be.

Thank-you for Making Your Broken-Bird World

(For Nancy Anonymous)
Your land of broken birds is a set of 
427 switches 
So delightfully random yet crafted
As if out of scented wax, feathers, 
Star crusts and weed flowers. 
The effect of reading them is the same 
Effect you'd get in a deep forest 
When you find a lever on a tree 
That you click up and down really fast 
To the point where you don't know if it's 
Your eyes fluttering open and shut, or 
The whole world is flickering and you're 
The only one that notices 
Because, of course, the biggest problem 
In life is getting so used to things that go 
On and off people take them for granted
Or let them become boring, like love, it seems now,
Which is why I stand with my hand on the lever
And why your work is so important. 
This is what you have called 
A Broken-Bird World. Right?

Divesting in Trustee Wussyness: College Campuses and Climate Change Action

Climate Divestment Whose Side

This spring Swarthmore College’s students, alumni and faculty stood up to demand that the school’s Board of Managers (their trustees) divest funding in fossil fuel businesses and technologies. I reported on that here in “The State of the War on Climate Change” a few weeks ago. The Board of Managers voted down that option just days later.

What I also reported on in that essay was that this is just the beginning of campus actions to divest in [Read more…]

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