Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sexism

Last night an insurance agent came to our house to try to sell us some life insurance.  This agent asked Ken what he did; then turned to me and asked if I was just at home.  The assumption being that as a woman I am helpless and rely on my husband for support.  I was offended and it showed. (Remind me never to play poker.)  I said well no actually I work at the university full time. 

The agent tried to recover and asked about our family.  Of course we told her we have three children and told their ages.  She asked if we had any grandkids.  We said no and not likely to because the girls have all said they don’t want children.  The agent then asked oh are they all boys?  We said no they are girls.  The agent was stunned and asked really girls usually want children.  Why don’t they want children? 

First that was a very personal question.  It is no one’s business but my daughters their reasons behind their decisions.  Second how traditional can the thinking be and as this person is working with the public don’t you think this person should be neutral in these types of areas?

This agent also kept stressing that since I work for the state I have GREAT benefits.  With all that is going on politically and the traditional views this person was expressing I’m sure the agent thought we were made of money. 

My biggest problem with this person, I would expect such sexism from men but this was a woman.  I did not expect such sexist views and attitudes from a woman.  Aside from the money issues, I would not have spent money with this person just because of her attitude.  How disappointing to have such attitudes and assumptions from a working woman.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Publication

I've been working hard on submitting a lot of work to a variety of places.  I'm trying to build a following for my writing and getting all sorts of my work out there.  It has been a lot of work and a lot of time spent making decisions on what poems to send where. 

When I open my email I've been cringing every time I see a correspondence from one of these publishers.  I think - can I handle a rejection right now.  In my email last week I had five such emails where I looked at them and said I'm not sure I'm up to someone telling me my work didn't make the cut.  However, I must be a masochist or something because I said okay - I'll open them. 

They weren't rejections.  I am going to have four short stories published in two different places.  I was surprised, excited, pleased, proud and a whole lot of other emotions.

Last night I avoided my email just because.  When I finally sat down to my email I noticed a response from one of the publications I'd sent my poetry to.  It was such a quick turn around I figured it couldn't be good news.  Still I opened it.  It was a nice long email explaining how my work will be published and where it could appear.  I was so excited.  The only bad part is everyone was asleep so I couldn't tell anyone. 

I'm putting my work out there.  I feel sometimes like I'm sending out bits of my soul to be judged.  However, I try to remember that it is a poem or story.  I like it and if others don't so be it.  Also it could very easily be that it isn't that they don't like it but that they didn't have room for it or that the story was good enough but didn't fit with the rest of the stories / poems for the issue they were working on. 

Rejection is hard.  It is hard to put yourself out there.  However, you have to remember if your positive the work is good (not just your opinion but others as well) then keep trying.  Probably only one or two in ten submissions get accepted (if that).  It doesn't mean you aren't a good writer.  It just means that it didn't fit.

As things become available I'll announce where I'm getting published.  I can't wait to see my work in an ezine or in a paper copy.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Unbelievable

It just gets better and better.  The Supreme Court is supposed to be our highest level of justice.  They are supposed to be blind to all but the legal issue at hand.  Now though our State Supreme Court is filled with immoral and unethical people.  It is shocking to me that such people could make the court.  After such a quick decision in the collective bargaining case, I have my doubts about the impartiality of the court.  Then I hear a rumor and read a news story. 

There is a news story that our newly elected (you know the guy who - in my opinion - stole the election) choked one of the other Supreme Court Justices (http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/124551874.html).  This of course is just the news story and I'm sure it will denegrate into a he said she said situation and of course because women have so little value in our society people won't believe her. 

Here's the thing.  This man has admitted to calling the chief justice a bitch and threatening to destroy her.  Now this report comes out.  He says (from the article) that she attacked him and he was merely defending himself.  I don't know about you but when someone attacks me I don't put my hands around their neck to defend myself. 

This man needs to resign and apologize to the entire state of Wisconsin.  He does not represent what a good judge should be.  He does not appear to set aside politics and look at the legal issues.  He seems to be out of control and is turning violent.  This is not the type of person we need or want on the highest court in our state. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Politics...

There is so much going on in our political world right now.  Perhaps I should say there is so much going on in our political world that I am appalled and disappointed about. 

Women’s issues:  The Supreme Court which is supposed to be impartial and fair, just ruled that women were not allowed to have a class action suit against Walmart.  It is interesting to note that the three women on the court dissented (as well as one man) and those who agreed with the ruling were all men.  How is this judgment by our peers?  I think it shows that women still are considered second class citizens.  We still aren’t allowed to make as much as a man.  Women are still undervalued and demoralized.  We are still considered property essentially. 

All the nonsense about Planned Parenthood is another HUGE concern.  What will happen to the poor women who cannot afford health care?  If birth control becomes too expensive and cancer checks are out of reach for women (poor or not) then what will happen?  I’ll tell you what will happen.  Women will go back to having babies every year.  They will wear out their bodies to the point where they die.  Women who use birth control to regulate their cycle and help control heavy bleeding or sporadic periods will find themselves suffering every day. 

Conceal and Carry:  I’m all for the right to own guns.  Everyone touts that this is a right because of the 2nd amendment.  Well the 2nd amendment says:

Amendment 2 - Right to Bear Arms. Ratified 12/15/1791. Note
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

I’m not a constitution scholar but to me this says for the protection of and to keep a free state, regular citizens are allowed to have guns.  The historical background for this amendment is because when the British were governing us they took away the citizens guns.  This meant that in a hostile country with Native Americans and wild animals the settlers didn’t have a way to defend themselves or hunt for food.

I don’t know about you but I don’t think that any of us need a gun to hunt for food in our society today.  Having said that, I do believe we have the right to own guns.  I don’t believe that everyone should be walking around with a pistol strapped to their leg or in their purse. 

The guns of today are vastly different than the guns of the 18th century.  You weren’t going to hide a flintlock pistol easily or a rifle for that matter.  Now we have weapons that can shoot faster and further than ever before.  They are smaller and more accurate than ever.  We want to have a law that acknowledges the advancements of this field and also of our societal standing.

Yes our constitution says we have the right to bear guns but does that mean we should allow our citizenry to walk around with guns in their purses and on their bodies?  I don’t think so especially if the person is not trained or hasn’t gone through some sort of process to determine they aren’t completely nuts. 

Collective Bargaining:  I know that people are tired of hearing about this.  Hell, I am sick of the stress and difficulties we’ve had this year.  I want to preface this with a statement.  I’m a union member for five years.  I believe unions do good things in our society.  I also believe that unions have flaws. 

Pre-unions (yup more history lessons) owners of businesses could arbitrarily change any work condition or pay without repercussions.  Some unscrupulous bosses took advantage of the work force and created unhealthy, unsafe, and even deadly work environments.  The industrial revolution was great for the country – got our economy booming and put people to work.  However, it also introduced what most people would agree were horrible working conditions with people working in conditions unfit for anyone and pay was so bad that even the children in the family had to go to work in order to support the family.

Unions came in and said if we all band together than the bosses will have no choice but to come to the table and negotiate fairly with all of us.  This essentially made the work place a more level playing field. 

Here we are a hundred years later, we have safe working conditions (mostly), good wages and benefits, and a regulated work week.  The unions have been successful.  Does this mean they are done?  No because we don’t learn from our past.  The unions have to be able to bargain collectively about every aspect of work otherwise we will revert to the conditions of the past.

In fact, we are already doing that with Walker’s proposal to change child labor laws.  He wants to allow teenagers (16 & 17) to work as many hours as they want.  In a time when parents are unemployed by the millions and people are struggling to make ends meet, should we allow our children to work 40, 50, 60 hours a week in addition to going to school?  Something will give. I guarantee if it is a choice between food on the table for the family and school, school will go by the wayside so that families can eat.

Walker claims that taking away collective bargaining rights will make it easier to balance the budget and accommodate the cuts he proposes.  If he were to talk to the unions and ask for reasonable accommodations, the unions in all likelihood would give those accommodations.  I as a state worker, union member, and tax paper am just as concerned about balancing the budget.  I’ve taken furlough days to help with the budget issues.  Every payday money comes out of my check in order to assist with the balancing of the budget.  Thousands of union workers have made this concession. 

Collective bargaining isn’t just for union workers though.  It is for all workers.  It is the unions that improve working conditions.  Once a union has negotiated for better working conditions or pay then it becomes a standard practice.  This then ripples out to the non-union workers.  Take away collective bargaining and you take away all the protections that workers have – union or not.

Health care costs:  I’ve heard so many complaints about the health care system.  It is broken.  Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and for profit hospitals / doctor’s offices are running our system.  This is why the costs are through the roof.  When we look at profit rather than well-being of an individual we lose what the medical profession is supposed to be about.

We need to take a close look at this industry and figure out a way to regulate and change it so that the costs are not so high.  I don’t know the answers here but I do know that what we are doing isn’t working.  If we continue this way than we are going to end up with even more people who don’t go to the doctor when they should which in the long run ends up costing the system more.

Health is something that should not be dependent on financial status.  Health care should be available to all and at a cost that any can afford even if they only make minimum wage.

There are more issues like the environment, wars, medicare/Medicaid, social security, education but anymore and my head is going to explode… 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Post Visit Exhaustion

The past four days have been a whirlwind of activities with Virginia and Stephanie flying in on Friday.  Every minute of the last three days (four really if you count the prep time) has been scheduled and executed with almost military precision. 

Friday night we had family time with dinner out and just hanging at home talking before everyone crashed from exhaustion.  Saturday there was my niece's graduation party that the girls put in an appearance for, plus Virginia's godson's birthday party, plus lunch out, plus our own party.  By the time I got to bed on Saturday I was nearly falling down with exhaustion. 

Sunday Ken, Virginia, Stephanie, Beth, Vicki and Alex went to the zoo.  They spent the day away.  I spent my time watching DVR stuff (warming up from sitting in front of the a/c vent) and submitting different writing items.  I got about fourteen items submitted and a few guidelines discarded because my work didn't fit. 

After dropping off Beth (Alex drove himself) at home, Virginia, Ken and Vicki came home exhausted.  I enjoyed the quiet but would have preferred more time with those visiting.  It is hard because there are so many people they want to see and so many who want to see them.  Stephanie went to visit friends and didn't get in until after 11.  She was exhausted. 

Today was a bit calmer but not as fun.  Ken and I took Virginia and Stephanie back to the airport.  My house, which was so clean last week, is trashed.  My energy level is about negative fifty and I need a vacation from my vacation...

Tomorrow I go back to work.  I am hoping it won't be horrendous after being gone for five days.  I hope I can catch up fairly quickly and without too much stress.  It has to be calmer than the last five days, right? 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Slippage

How is it possible for an entire week to slip by so quickly?  I can't even say it slipped by unnoticed but it just whizzed right by and left me gasping and wondering why I didn't get enough stuff done.

Work was good. I got almost all the things done I wanted to before I left for vacation.  I even got organizational stuff for my desk and got it reorganized.  I left a list for my student workers, changed the voice mail, out of office message and got the tasks done I needed to. 

Yesterday was supposed to be super productive.  We were supposed to get all these errands run - which we did - and the house completely cleaned and a whole list of other things.  My cleaning person got a good chunk of my house clean but still there is more to do.  Why is it housework is so time consuming?

This afternoon the girls fly in.  We have to pick them up.  Then from that point on we are booked.  It will be a very busy weekend and I'm stressing a little about how much is going on. 

Taking a step back from the chaos of the weekend, I cannot wait to see the girls.  It will be nice to have my whole family together.  I just hope we aren't so busy doing that we actually have time together to laugh and just be. 

Tomorrow is the big party.  Normally big events with lots of people make me nervous but this one isn't.  I'm just looking forward to being around the people who are important.  I am hoping for good weather so it can be more an outside event than an inside event. 

Ken has gotten so many projects done in the house.  They are bigger projects which we thought would take more time and money but they didn't.  I really like the changes in the house.  It makes me feel like we are claiming more of the house. 

On one hand I'm really glad that the week has slipped away since I'll get to see Virginia and Stephanie this afternoon.  On the other hand I'd like another day or two to get ready.  Isn't that always the case?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Submissions

There are a million articles out there that will tell you how to create a fabulous submission package.  You can read those and they might help with improving your package.  There is one thing you have to do in order to get your foot in the door.

READ THE DIRECTIONS

Carefully and thoroughly read the directions.  Follow them to the last minute detail.  Don’t assume you know better than the editor / publisher.  If they provide a style sheet follow it.  If they provide specific fonts, font size, margin width, double vs single space, follow their direction.

Editors give specific directions for their own reasons.  It may help them through the printing process better or it may level the playing field when comparing different submissions. It doesn’t matter why.  If you want your writing to be considered then follow their directions to the last detail. 

Submissions always take time for me for this very reason.  One thing I try to do is put the title of the item in the subject line of the email.  If they are responding back it helps me to know which items they are referring to.  However, if they have specific directions on what should go in the subject line make sure you follow them rather than my tip. 

Ultimately you want your writing to be as pleasing and readable as possible for the editor.  You want to be that annoying student at the front of the class, raising your hand and getting their attention for your good work.  Following their directions will let your work stand on its own rather than have it be another poem (short story, essay or whatever) in the wrong format.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is the issue abortion or privacy?

Vicki told me about a man who paid for a billboard to demoralize and degrade his ex-girlfriend.  This man who is 35 was dating an 18 year old.  After they broke up she had a miscarriage (according to her).  He posted a billboard showing him with an outline of a baby.  The text of the billboard is “This Would Have Been A Picture Of My 2-month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To Not KILL Our Child!”

Whether you are for or against abortion, this is a horrendous thing to do to this young woman.  The decision faced by every woman with every pregnancy is difficult, particularly when it is an unplanned pregnancy.  Regardless of whether this woman had a miscarriage or an abortion, her privacy should not be so violated by this man putting it out there. 

He claims he didn’t have her name on the sign but he started an organization using her initials and that was on the billboard.  The town it is posted in is small enough that people KNOW they were dating so could easily identify who he referred to. 

He claims he wants to further the cause of father’s rights.  I say there are ways to do that without destroying someone else. 

To me this is a horrible case of harassment.  He made it known to all what he thought of her which is fine till he starts revealing her personal information.  He couldn’t post her social security number up there or her other medical information.  Why should he be able to post this information? 

I think he should be forced to take the billboard down.  I think he should be forced to compensate her for the harm he’s done to her.  How that can be done I don’t know.  I think he shouldn’t be allowed any kind of contact with her ever again.  Hopefully she can recover from the pain this cruel man has inflicted on her.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rejection

By the time I was done on Sunday I’d submitted over thirty poems and articles.  So far one short story has been rejected and five poems have been rejected.  About a sixth of them total have been blown up. 

I’m bummed sort of but not in a “oh my I have to stop writing” bummed.  I’m just bummed that I wasn’t able to fulfill the needs of those publishers.  I know the story and poems are good.  It is just a matter of finding a home for them.

Still I have thirty babies out there being perused and critiqued.  It feels good to put them out there.  Even if they are all rejected, I can at least say I tried.  What more can I do?  I don’t have the funds to start my own publishing company so that all my stuff gets published.  Therefore, I have to try to get published based on the whims and needs of editors and publishers. 

I’ve spoken with other writers who are brilliant but fearful of trying to publish their work.  My advice to them (for what it’s worth) is to do it.  All the publisher can do is say no.  You have to trust in yourself enough to believe that your work is good enough to be published.

The first step is scary.  I remember my first steps in getting published and they were terrifying but the reality is if you want to be a writer this is the avenue you have to go.  A rejection is just one company’s comment that your work doesn’t fit that particular issue they are publishing.  It’s like a say my poetry is a snapshot of a moment in my life.  The rejection is a snapshot of the moment in which the publisher / editor read your work.  It didn’t fit the needs of that moment.

If you get a rejection say okay and move forward.  Put that piece back in your pile of work and look for a new home for it.  Keep trying.  Eventually you will find a home for it.  If your message, your writing is engaging then keep at it.  Eventually someone will see the value in it and publish it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Working on Writing

This weekend I was determined to get through my pile of submission guidelines.  I was supposed to submit something to every single one I had.  All you experienced writers stop laughing - I might have done it.  Okay so I didn't.

I did go through and submit a large number of fiction and poetry to a variety of places.  It was so much easier now that I have things organized the way I want them.  I was able to just grab a stack and work.  However, submitting work is never as straight forward as just attaching a file to an email. 

No you have to research and look at the type of work that the magazine publishes.  Then you have to figure out which of your pieces best fits the criteria.  You have to read it and make sure it doesn't need editing, make sure it follows the guidelines that they set down.  Some of these guidelines are as simple as we want fiction to as complicated as a nuclear bomb. 

If you are submitting poetry some want it in the body of the email, others want it to be one file.  You have to follow their guidelines to the smallest minute detail.  If you don't, you are rejected.  Hell even if you do, you are often rejected. 

I got 35 items submitted this weekend and I'm only about a third of the way through my stack of guidelines.  One of which has already been rejected.  I've also discovered a new place to look for leads for publishers so I have to now find time for that too.  I know I got a lot done this weekend but I still feel like I have just scratched the surface.  Perhaps because my pile of guidelines is still too large and there seems to be no end to the possibilities. 

If only I could go without sleep I could get so much more done. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Violence

I’ve had a blessed life.  I was raised by two loving normal people.  I had siblings who were protective and loving for the most part.  While I grew up during tumultuous times, I don’t remember that tumult touching my life.  My world was peaceful, safe, and loving. 

This was a blessing but it also made me a very naïve and innocent pre-teen / teenager.  I was told by my parents I could do or be anything.  I felt invincible as I’m sure most teens do. 

An incident happened in my early teens that changed me and wiped away some of that innocence and naiveté.  One of my sisters married a man and they lived just down the road from us.  One day, this sister and I returned to their farm.  I can’t remember where we were but I remember what happened when we walked into the milk house.  The milk house is where the tank is kept to store the milk in after the cows are milked.  We walked in.  Her husband stormed in with murder on his face.  I was frightened by his look, stance, and actions.  Just before he put his hands on her, I remember my sister pointing to me.  He didn’t see me I don’t think.  He grabbed my sister by the throat. 

To my utter shame, I was so scared I fled the milk house.  I remember running out of their barn and all the way home.  I know that his brother called to me as he had just arrived at their farm.  I just kept going.  I didn’t tell anyone about it.  I just fled.  I’d never seen a man put his hands on a woman like that.  My parents’ interactions were all loving.  I can’t remember them even shouting at each other.

To this day I’m ashamed of my reaction.  If I could go back, I’d fly to her defense.  I’d try to get between her and him to stop the abuse and violence she suffered at his hands. 

She is a strong woman and left the man under her own terms.  It horrifies me that she suffered any of that.  I wonder if I’d had the courage to stay to help her if she would have left him sooner.  I wonder if I’d had the courage to tell someone what I’d seen if it would have changed anything.

I know that this incident taught me a number of lessons about standing up for people even when others don’t.  It taught me to be a proponent for women.  It helped define the type of behavior I allow in my relationships.  It helped me teach my kids to stand up for themselves.  I know that I never want to feel that helpless and frightened again.

My sister and I have never spoken of that day or the incident.  I hope she has forgiven me for not defending her.  I’ve also never spoken of this because I was so ashamed of my actions. 

It is my hope that sharing this incident will help other women.  It will help them free themselves from bad relationships and dangerous situations.  I experienced one incident of violence.  It changed me forever.  If your child or children are experiencing this type of violence in the home, they are changed forever. 

It doesn’t matter if it is emotional, physical, or verbal abuse.  If someone is hurting you, I urge you to severe the relationship and protect yourself before there are children involved.  We as a society need to tell abusers (regardless of gender) that it is wrong and they HAVE to stop.  Until we do that, the abuse will continue.  Lives will be lost.  Souls will be damaged, possibly irreparably. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Whatever it takes

As a writer, I want to spend my time writing, producing great works of literature.  I want to sit with pen and paper (or laptop) and create.  If that was all it took to be a writer then anyone could do it.  It would be a matter of sitting down and putting your thoughts down on paper.

However, the other side of the writing coin is being published.  There is no other feeling than to open up a magazine or book and see your name in print.  It is exciting and fulfilling.  It blows my mind to know that people will read this and it will last until the print is no longer there.

These two things are not in conjunction with each other.  To get published you have to be persistent, determined, and confidence.  You can’t get a rejection and give up.  Well you can but it won’t do you much good.  To write you have to be creative and sensitive. 

The dilemma comes in finding some semblance of balance between these two opposing sides.  How many times can a creative person be told – No we don’t want your work - before they start to question whether their work is good enough to be printed. 

Some days it takes just one rejection and other days it could be a million of them.  It also depends on the project.  I know some projects are so dear to my heart I have to see them in print.  I have to put them out there for the world to have.  It doesn’t matter if it is poetry, fiction, essays, or anything else.  I just have to get the story out there.  Since I’ve got this urge to have an item published, rejection doesn’t affect me as much.  I’m more willing to say – okay you don’t like it fine I’ll move on to the next publisher and the next and the next… until I find someone with the vision to publish me. 

There are days when I want nothing to do with a rejection.  I’ll get a letter or email that says thanks but no and it crushes me.  I feel like I am the worst writer and will never be successful.  These are the bad days - the days where everything in the world plots against me to dump me in a deep dark hole.

Every writer is allowed to have these days (moments) but the thing is to say – fine I’m in this hole.  While I’m down here I’m going to find the strength to write something about it – a poem, short story, essay, whatever.  Then I’m going to use my pen to carve out stairs in this hole and climb out to tackle the next project and look for a home for one more article or manuscript. 

As a writer you will fail more than you succeed.  You will be told no more than you will be told yes.  Only a small portion of your work will be published (if at all).  However, if you love to write, you will keep trying.  You will put the rejections behind you in order to keep building and learning from them.  In reality can you even stop writing?  

I know if you take away my ability to write my thoughts and stories, my head will explode.  I’m not cleaning up that mess…

Catching Up

Over the weekend, I got three manuscripts edited and worked on two other manuscripts.  Ken and Vicki did all the errands on Saturday.  Sunda...