Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Give Local

I don't know about you, but I always end up doing the bulk of my charitable giving at the very last minute. The word "bulk" is a bit misleading: this year we'll give more than last, but we're still not up to where I want to be, due to job outages, a new roof and an impending new well.

I listened to advice on NPR on WMFE (radio 90.7) about how to choose a charity. They say to make sure the organization is highly rated and uses your money wisely. It was fine as far as it went, but I think they missed a vital tip--give your money to groups you know.

Local charities need your help. You think the big guys lost donors? Hah!

Here are a few locals I will give to, if I can:
Suncoast Basset Rescue (Foster Homes and Placement)
SpayNSave Seminole County FL (Low Cost Spay and Neuter)
Friends of the Wekiva River (Saving the Wekiva River Basin)
Ashton Biodiversity (Studying and Saving Gopher Tortoises and their Habitat)
WMFE (Public Radio and NPR)

I also like this online place for giving, even though they do cost a little. They rate everyone, and I can remember my choices easily from one year to the next:
Network for Good

Big Guys I Like with Good Ratings:
American Civil Liberties Union
EarthJustice (Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer)
World Wildlife Fund
Carter Center (Human Rights)

Happy Giving!

Review, Rework, Revise, Rewrite

I have spent a total of an hour and half on my big plan to revise Blue Loco. Woo-woo. The colored pencils suck for a person with bad handwriting; the chapter tabs are great; and the novel is both better and worse than I remembered.

So far, this process has not been very good for me. What happened to my enthusiasm?

Well, I'll say one thing about that: I think it would be better for me to write and revise all in one connected period, then edit after the material has cooled for a while. No more writing and then waiting two years to revise. It's hard to work on the novel when I feel I'm above it, on a higher plane.

I do think that writing is the only way to get better at writing. We'll see what revising has to offer.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Civil or Savage?

In listening to broadcasts on world affairs today, it occurred to me that there is a basic philosophical question at issue: are the people of certain countries, ethnicities, colors, or creeds inherently or hopelessly mired in savagery, or are all people essentially and on average equally capable of rational thought, kindness, and civil behavior?

I think we often hear arguments based on the former. I hear that Afghanistan is a medieval tribal region that has been fighting continuously for 400 years, and so is incapable of enlightened self-governance. The concept is that some countries or peoples are caught in an earlier time in their march toward civilization, and so can't help that they are violent. The voices recommend that we stop trying to "help" these countries/ethnic groups because they are... primitive.

Is it just me, or is anyone else hearing an alarm bell?

I believe that any group of people, given access to human rights like food, shelter, education, and freedom from oppression, will choose to promote those basic rights for others in the same numbers as any other, regardless of the number of years they have been "civilized."

The people of Afghanistan are not--no people are--innately savage. I think that with access to basic human rights that we in the More Fortunate World take for granted, they will look astoundingly similar to us.

With this disposed of, perhaps we can begin to address why those in the supposedly civilized world commit acts of violence.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Re Vision

Two weeks ago I completed the first draft of a novel that I wrote in just over a month. Two years ago I completed the first draft of a novel I wrote in two years.
I am now starting the revision of the two year novel, deciding that I should finish it first, like doing my homework before I watch TV--if I don't do it now, I'm never going to do it.

The second half of the word revision is the problem: vision. It's like I was blind while I was writing the novel, and now I can see. The plot is holier than a man-target at the sheriff's gun range. I can read road signs through the holes in this plot. And the characters: far from the interesting, sexy people I thought I knew, these guys make me feel like I need special glasses to see them in three dimensions.

I have been reading and talking to people about the revision process. There isn't too much about it in the literature. I think it's like the bathroom; everybody knows you gotta, but nobody really wants to tell you about it. And you don't want to hear, either.

So far, the best advice I've gotten was to read The Unstrung Harp by Edward Gorey. Mr. Earbrass actually shares a few scraps of the experience of revision, and he comforts me.

Other advice, listed here in no order:
  • Use crayon
  • Write on post-its
  • Revise on paper
  • Don't edit while revising
  • Be prepared to do it 20 times
What I'm trying:
  • Colored pencils (I hate them)
  • Post-its (OK, so far)
  • Post-it tagging the chapters
  • Put the novel in its own plastic box
  • A pretty bag to carry the novel in
I need to throw out half of the plot points. I need to add some suspense. I need to jettison 1/3 of the characters. I need to go back to what I thought I was going to write.

How does anyone get through this? Does it get any better, ever? Most importantly, is there anything about this novel that's worth all this agony?