Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It Depends on Your POV

     Writers like to debate the relative merits of different POV's (point of views). Is a story best written from a first person, third person, or omniscient POV?  
      On a recent road trip with my husband, we visited Marietta, Ohio where I thought about an entirely different aspect of POV. We found that this charming town is known not only for great pastry,
Creighton enjoying a delicious bear claw. (Yes, he saved me a bite or two!)
but also for its history. It's hard to believe now, but in 1788 it was a frontier town that was the first permanent American settlement in the US Northwestern Territory. Due to it's location across the Ohio River from West Virginia, Marietta was also a key city in the underground railroad as far back as 1812. Scroll down this site to find detailed maps and information. 
     We biked from one historical marker to another, but this one stopped us cold:

     It might be difficult for you to read the inscription, but it says that the monument was "Erected in memory of the soldiers of Washington County, Ohio who lost their lives in the U.S. service in the war for the suppression of the rebellion in 1861." (emphasis mine)
    In the south, you still hear some folks refer to the Civil War as the "War of Northern Aggression."  
    Which is it? 
    My husband's great-great grandfather, Joseph Brown, moved from Leesburg, Va. to Ohio because he was an abolitionist and served as a physician in the Union army. But his family left behind kin in Virginia who became the enemy. Doubtless they had radically different perspectives on the war.
    Affections, loyalties, and life-determining choices are affected by geography, politics, religion, and a host of other socio-economic factors. 
    Does the character you are creating live north of the Mason Dixon Line or south? Does she live on the east side of the Berlin Wall or the west?  Does he live inside or outside the Gaza Strip? Was he born a light-skinned free man or the son of a slave? 
     Was the war between the states a war of aggression or was it the rebellion of 1861?
      I guess it depends on your POV.

War monument, Marietta, Ohio

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

If Costello Wanted to Buy a Computer from Abbott

A friend of mine recently emailed me a part of this interchange. I googled the Internet and found that the author is Tom King of Flint, Texas. He granted me permission to post it here and noted that "Drama teachers are using it as a humor exercise - teaching actors how to use comic cadences to generate laughs. The skit, because of its resemblance to the Abbot and Costello style allows the actor to learn what it was that made Abbott and Costello funny... As writers, capturing a living person's delivery style in your writing is an art." 

I thought that upper elementary and middle school students would enjoy acting this out--probably fighting over who would have the chance to be Abbott and Costello! Class discussion could focus on how word contexts are critical in reading and writing.

ABBOTT: Super Duper Computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.
COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.
ABBOTT: Your computer?
COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.
COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.
ABBOTT: What about Windows?
COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?
ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?
COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look in the windows?
ABBOTT: Wallpaper.
COSTELLO: What if I don't like wallpaper?
ABBOTT: Just change it.
COSTELLO: Isn't that expensive?
ABBOTT: No, it's free with Windows.
COSTELLO: I have to buy the Windows to get the wallpaper.
ABBOTT: It's free if you buy the computer.
COSTELLO: They give you windows for your office if you buy a computer.
ABBOTT: Certainly!
COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
ABBOTT: Software for Windows?
COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What have you got?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?
ABBOTT: I just did.
COSTELLO: You just did what?
ABBOTT: Recommend something.
COSTELLO: You recommended something?
COSTELLO: For my office?
COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!
ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.
COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, lets just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?
COSTELLO: What word?
ABBOTT: Word in Office.
COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.
ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?
ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue "W".
COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue "w" if you don't start with some straight answers. OK, forget that. Can I watch movies on the Internet?
ABBOTT: Yes, you want Real.
COSTELLO: Sure I may want to watch a real one, maybe a cartoon. What I watch is none of your business. Just tell me what I need!
COSTELLO: Well, I don’t want a fake one!
ABBOTT: Of course.
COSTELLO: So what do I get?
ABBOTT: Real Player.
COSTELLO: Yes, I want a Real Player.
ABBOTT: And you’ll have one
COSTELLO: A Real Player?
ABBOTT: Certainly.
COSTELLO: OK, I'm at my computer and I want to watch a movie. What do I do?
ABBOTT: You click the blue "r".
COSTELLO: I click the blue what?
ABBOTT: The blue "r".
COSTELLO: The blue “r” what?
ABBOTT: Just the blue “r”
COSTELLO: The blue “r” what?
ABBOTT: The blue “r” nothing.
COSTELLO: If the blue “r” nothing, how do I watch the movie?
ABBOTT: You click the blue “r”
COSTELLO: Is that different from the blue w?
ABBOTT: The blue "r" is the Real Player and the blue "W" is Word.
COSTELLO: What word?
ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO: But there's three words in "office for windows"!
ABBOTT: No, just one. But it's the most popular Word in the world.
COSTELLO: What is?
ABBOTT: Yes, but to be fair, there aren't many other Words left. Word pretty much wiped out all the other Words out there.
ABBOTT: Woooord, dude!
COSTELLO: I don’t know what you’re talking about! What about bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?
ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer
COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?
ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.
COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?
ABBOTT: One copy.
COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?
ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy money.
COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?


ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?
ABBOTT: Click on "START"..
COSTELLO: Now don't you start that again....
ABBOTT: But I thought you wanted to "STOP"
COSTELLO: That's right. This thing has been on for 3 days and I can't find the "STOP" button.
ABBOTT: Click on "START"
COSTELLO: I don't wanna start!
ABBOTT: But you have to click on "START".
COSTELLO: Why do I have to click on "START"?
ABBOTT: So you can stop.....
COSTELLO: So I have to click on "START" to "STOP"
ABBOTT: That's so you can log off.
COSTELLO: I click "START" and then I log off.
ABBOTT: That's right, you log off.
COSTELLO: I log off
ABBOTT: That's right, now go ahead and log off.
COSTELLO; What if I don't have a log. I DON'T EVEN HAVE A FIREPLACE!!!!!
ABBOTT: No, you don't need a log. You just want to get the computer out of Windows
COSTELLO: Which ones?
ABBOTT: Which what?
COSTELLO: Which Windows?
ABBOTT: The only Windows you've got.
COSTELLO: So it doesn't matter which Windows?
ABBOTT: You just want to get out of Windows.

(sound of wood and metal scraping followed by breaking glass)

ABBOTT: Lou, what was that?
COSTELLO: Oh, I threw the computer out the front windows! You said it didn't matter and the front windows were closer than the back ones....

Copyright 2011 by Tom King. Used by permission. http://twayneking.blogspot.com

Click here to read the original "Who's on First" script or watch it on You Tube:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Woman With a Vision

I recently participated in a one-day writing workshop sponsored by Write2Ignite! During our informal luncheon I asked Jean Hall, the founder, to describe her vision for the organization. In this guest blog, she shares that vision with you.  Without further ado, here is Jean:

“In 2008 God called me (and other wonderful writers) to organize and lead Write2Ignite! At first I was a most unwilling leader, something like Gideon of the Old Testament. However, God verified for me that this is His plan for me at this time in my life, and I now willingly embrace that call.

“I envision Write2Ignite! as an organization that provides conferences, workshops, support groups and other services to Christians who create, publish, represent or sell literature for children and youth. I view our role as that of teachers, encouragers and inspirers.
“I hope that Write2Ignite! participants will leave our conferences with three things:
  • The knowledge that they heard from God during the weekend about something specific in their writing and/or personal lives
  • Improved or new skills to use in writing and/or publishing
  • New or strengthened connections with other writers, illustrators, teachers, librarians, agents, editors, reviewers, and/or book sellers
“I envision Write2Ignite! as an organization for the Southeastern USA, that hosts at least two conferences each year, one in North Carolina and one in South Carolina. However, of course, there is always the possibility that God’s purposes are larger than that.
“My vision also includes the following:
  • Smaller, local Write2Ignite! workshops in cities across the Carolinas
  • Smaller critique/support groups either face-to-face in various locations, or online
  • Possibly a thriving Write2Ignite! Yahoo Group
  • Monthly online Write2Ignite! Chats (possibly via Skype)
  • Possibly a quarterly Write2Ignite! online newsletter
"I am amazed at the ways God works to accomplish these things 
step-by-step for Write2Ignite! I am also amazed at the generous, 
dedicated volunteers who work hard to put God’s plans into place. 
But we can always use a few more.

"If you are interested in becoming part of the Write2Ignite! Conference Team please contact me at write2ignite@jeanmatthewhall.com.  To find out more about our conferences and workshops, please visit our website or our blog."

Thanks, Jean, for sharing your vision with us. I hope many of my readers will find their way to Write2Ignite!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Riot: Multi-Racial Read #6

This powerful novel written in screenplay format, takes place during four hot days in July, 1863. Walter Dean Myers layers conflict after conflict into this little known story about the riot between African Americans and Irish immigrants in New York City. 

On the national level, the Civil War rages and Abraham Lincoln has just instituted the first draft law. Wealthy businessmen can pay $300.00 to any man willing to take their place on the battlefield. Tensions are high as Irish immigrants compete with blacks for jobs. 

Into this hot stew of passions and emotions, Myers places Claire, a 15-year-old light-skinned daughter of a black man and an Irish woman. Her struggles for racial identity and adulthood scaffold this dramatic narrative.

Here are some of the poignant questions which she asks during these tumultuous days. During the riots she asks, "If it's my skin that makes me unsafe, can I take it off and put it in the drawer somewhere until the streets are safe again?...Can I change [my skin] like I change my dress or my apron?"

To her mother she asks, "Where is this safety you're talking about? And if I'm black and you're white, where is this family you're talking about?"

As she muses about her own experiences during the riot she says, "I just wanted to be a human being...without a race or a place in life. What is so wrong with that?" And, "Our skin made us targets, not our hearts."

She realizes she is growing up when she says, "I'm finding a black woman where there was only a girl before."

She thinks about the future, after the war, and asks, "Will we be trapped in our skins? Forever held to being different because we are not white?"

Towards the end she concludes hopefully, "If we can't go back, we should try even harder to go forward."
I listened to the audio book which was enhanced by sound effects of the street scenes and period music, including a moving African American spiritual. The interview with Myers at the end was also insightful. I would recommend Riot for girls and boys of ages 12 and up; it will enhance American history classes as well as discussions on prejudice, immigration, economics, and race relations.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Two Tech Toys and One Book

It has been quite awhile since I have posted about a technology tool that I have found useful. In the last ten days I've used two that I want to share with you.

During a recent class at Central Piedmont Community College on "Crafting Characters that Connect" I brought Joyce Hostetter into the classroom via this wonderful tool, a Microsoft RoundTable camera.

Photograph courtesy Saad Khan

The students enjoyed interacting with Joyce as she answered questions about character development, staying focused as a writer, and receiving critiques. 

Photograph courtesy Saad Khan

A week later, I spent time researching for Half-Truths in the Carolina Room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library. Hours sped by as I looked through the Charlotte News (Charlotte's afternoon paper) and the State of Zion (the weekly newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church) from 1950 on this machine:

A teenager walked by and asked me what it was. Microfilm machines aren't new technology, but they're helpful for reading old newspapers and magazines to gain an understanding of a time period. Unfortunately, they don't have "search" functions and this type of research feels very similar to sifting through sand to find treasure. 

But the real treasure that I found was this book:

The Charlotte City Directory for 1950 provided such interesting details as the names of the jailer and sheriff  as well as a list of area dentists. I found a listing for the Coca-Cola company that will play a small role in my book. Each page was packed with information.

Not only were people listed with their phone numbers, but there were also street listings that included an assortment of information. A small icon of a telephone indicated whether or not an individual had a phone,  a "r" showed that the person lived in the rear of the building, occupations such as maid, cook, lawyer, or company president were listed, and a c with a circle around it stood for "colored."

Technology carries us forward providing many new educational possibilities. But history provides a great many lessons too. 


  Although I moved to WordPress for my new website , I'm still having issues with sending out blog notifications. Here's this week&#...