Dancing outside my comfort zone

Posts tagged ‘checking the facts’

September 17, 2014 Harsh Reality

I put my baby out into the world and she’s already learning that she needs to step up her game.

I write well, or so I’ve been told. I knew there would be a lot of changes once others saw my work. I just didn’t realize the magnitude. So now, I step back, take a deep breath and do my best to do right by her.

A lot of what I’m hearing sounds a great deal like the copywriting course I started and have yet to finish. Show, don’t tell. Grab the reader’s attention right away. Know your audience. Sadly, I didn’t get this kind of information in the creative writing courses I took. Yet, as it is presented to me, I understand the value in all of these suggestions. Those who’ve already made the Best Seller list can be a little sloppier. But those of us who are just trying to get noticed, and sell a few hundred books have to follow the rules. It’s no different than any other undertaking. You have to prove your value before you get to make a few rules of your own.

Every learning experience has value and builds on those which came before.

The first thing I’m learning is that the birth of a first novel is a long process which is often frustrating and tedious, but it is also a huge series of life lessons. I am being called upon to not only take my writing to a whole new level, but to learn new skills and be extremely cautious about accepting information without running it past several other sources first. I’ve gotten conflicting information on everything from word count to small house publishers to writing style to selection of genre. A year ago, it would never even have occurred to me to know my audience before I even started writing. Now, I’m learning that it’s just as important as it is when writing ad copy or sales letters. Either way, you’re trying to sell something, and to do that, you have to tailor it to the people who would be likely to buy it. It doesn’t mean that your target audience will be the only ones you ultimately entertain, it just means that you have to start somewhere. It makes total sense now. But then, my hindsight was always perfect!

Thinking about how my daughter keeps telling me how much she loves it, could it be that my target audience is really people like her? If so, I’m going to have a devil of a time defining that target audience as my daughter is not typical of anyone or anything. I don’t think I could fit her into a particular group if I had to, unless it was the nonconforming, marching to her own drummer, late bloomer kind of place. Her tastes are eclectic to say the least. As well as I know her, she still surprises me often. She loves Harry Potter and hates Twilight (both of which my initial pages were compared to, and not in a good way!). She’s a Whovian and loves animated movies. She reads Michener and Poe, Rowling and McCaffery and everything in, around and in between. She’s studying Culinary Arts and Marine Biology and makes friends with people from eight to eighty. How in the hell do you quantify that???

What I’m taking out of my initial feedback, though, is this: I need to identify my target audience so I can tailor my writing to their tastes. I need to show, not tell. In other words, what I deem descriptive is not even in the same galaxy as where I need to be. “The house was painted a sunny yellow with white trim and boasted a wrap-around porch.” is clearly a real yawner. Instead, I need something like “Standing on the corner like a cornflower abandoned in a fallow field, the brightly painted walls were framed by posts as straight as soldiers in snowy uniforms which marched all the way around the structure, creating both a cozy place to wile away an afternoon and a look of refined elegance.” Is this my excuse to use 100 words when 10 would do? I don’t know, but I will be learning!!

At any rate, I have to give my brain a rest before tackling this again in the morning. All I can say right now is that I have a lot to learn, and my book won’t be hitting the stands any time soon! But I will persevere.

I forgot to mention that I’ve created an Author page on Facebook. You can find it at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor . Feel free to drop by, like it and leave a comment. If you have a page, let me know where to find it so I can return the favor.

My Gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for guidance, even when it means I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.
2. I am grateful for a good night’s sleep to put things back into perspective.
3. I am grateful for a thick skin which I’m going to be needing more and more if I want to succeed with my writing.
4. I am grateful for patience. Also a valuable commodity with a career which is creative.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, guidance, patience, harmony, peace, creativity, flexibility, prosperity and persistence.

Namaste

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July 22, 2014 Having a WTH moment

I don’t normally speak up on political issues but today, I actually raised my voice about two, only because people are prone to spreading misleading and incomplete information about both.  My reward for suggesting that there was more to the issue than this graphic might indicate, was to be de-friended!  After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, and my body too, after a nice, long bout of belly rumbling laughter, I knew I’d have to write about this today, but only after bringing in a few more facts and figures to help explain my position (not that I’m for or against, but that cutting military spending has further reaching implications than the anti-militarists want you to know).  Like any fanatic, they use facts and figures to “prove” their point, but the facts and figures they use are highly selective as they only want to prove their point, rather then educate people.

Always remember the golden rule: attack the post, not the poster.

Let me make it clear that I completely observed the rule “attack the post, not the poster” and, in fact, didn’t attack at all!  I merely pointed out that the graphic seriously oversimplified the issue, failing completely to recognize how many people are employed, either directly or indirectly by the military and military contractors.  I mentioned how deeply the communities with military installations (not to mention those which house a lot of military contractors!) depend on their business to stay alive. I cited the serious economic effects which the first space shuttle explosion caused in the city of Los Angeles when the program was temporarily halted, causing Rocketdyne, who manufactured the main engines, to lay off about 10,000 people.  Not only were businesses which were directly related affected, but so were things like restaurants, gas stations, car dealerships and grocery stores as their sales declined severely while people had no jobs!  That isn’t even taking into account the impact on the State from such large numbers on unemployment!

So let’s start with employment. According to the BLS, as of June 2013, there were over 1.4 million people employed as active duty military personnel.  In addition, according to Clearancejobs.com, in 2012, the military employed over 800,000 civilians and over 775,000 civilian contractors.  That’s 2,975,000 people with jobs, give or take a few thousand.  Even if we figure an average of $20 an hour (which, given what I know about some of the civilian and contractor’s salaries may be low), that adds up to $123,760,000,000 per year including employee payroll taxes which go back into government coffers.  This means nearly 3 million people contributing to our economy.

And this doesn’t even consider all of the people working on projects for the government who are either indirect or billed with the project rather than as wages.  It also doesn’t take into account the reservists who only work part time unless they are deployed.

Then there’s the part of that 700 Million (though I won’t vouch for the accuracy of someone else’s number) which pays for “hard goods” like uniforms, toilet paper, office supplies and planes.  People are employed to take orders, fill orders, deliver, produce, manage and any number of other jobs related to producing and selling a product.  More dollars into our economy and tax rolls!  Again, I’m not even taking into account the money these companies and their employees will also spend for gas, food, housing, other essentials and maybe a few luxuries.

The trickle down effect seems endless!

Try taking all of those wages out of the economy and see what happens!  Believe me, the $178 billion this short-sighted individual professes will eliminate poverty simply wouldn’t happen.  And what’s worse, the number would be a great deal higher with so many people out of work!

Let me share a few more facts with you.  When my son-in-law returned from Afghanistan, he searched for two years for a full-time, decent paying job.  Meanwhile, he took courses in college and attended some specialized training which would, supposedly, qualify him for a job as an EMT.  The best he was able to do was a part time, $10 an hour job at Petco!  Trust me on this one; he was the rule, NOT the exception!  He ultimately made the decision (and put in a great deal of legwork) to return to active duty military where he’d not only have a full-time job to support he and his wife, but would be able to pick a career path which he’d have been unable to afford to study as a civilian.

They offer careers and the training to go with them in a multitude of disciplines.  Here are just the top level categories:
Administrative occupations
Combat Specialty occupations
Construction occupations
Electronic and Electrical Equipment Repair occupations
Engineering, Science, and Technical occupations
Health Care occupations
Human Resource Development occupations
Media and Public Affairs occupations
Protective Service occupations
Support Service occupations
Transportation and Material Handling occupations
Vehicle and Machinery Mechanic occupations
Machine Operator and Production occupations

The Army trains and employs veterinarians while both Army and Navy train and employ doctors, nurses, dentists and other medical personnel.  There is also training and employment for all different kinds of engineers and scientists, much less just about any other career you can think of.  How many of the people who enlist could even afford the education?  Sure, they commit a certain number of years of their life to serving our country in exchange, but they come out with a marketable skill and no student loans (and don’t even get me started on the status of some of that black hole!)

Cities and even entire counties depend on the revenue generated by the presence of military personnel.

But what about economic impact to individual areas?  Take, for example, the proposed closure of Moody AFB in Georgia.  Here is what the local Chamber of Commerce says about how much the base contributes to the local economy and what would happen should the base be closed.

http://www.walb.com/story/24819852/military-downsizing-could-affect-valdosta-lowndes-co-economy

To summarize the article, the base contributes about $450 million to the local economy, helps attract business and a whopping thirty percent of local business is directly related to the military base.  The local Chamber predicts that the real estate market would collapse should the base be closed, and countless other businesses would have to close their doors as well.  Granted, this only affects about 100,000 people in the City of Valdosta and county of Lowndes,  Other areas like San Diego, California, Norfolk, Virginia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Bremerton, Washington (just to name a few) would likely see a much bigger impact and a significantly larger addition to the poverty numbers.

If nothing else, we need to do our own research, check the facts and understand the issues before we allow our emotions to make us look foolish.

All I’m really trying to say is that there are a lot of people out there who use real facts and figures to get us fired up over an issue without giving us any indication of where those facts and figures really came from. Just as many of us check Snopes before forwarding emails and posts about something scary or dangerous, let’s check the facts and figures which are provided to us by “reputable” sources too. Aren’t there enough people out there who are hating each other for no good reason already?

Let’s be the ones who add to the love and harmony rather than the hate and anger in the world!

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful that I live in a place where diverse opinions can be expressed.
2. I am grateful that most of my friends and associates are open minded and actually want to hear both sides of an issue.
3. I am grateful for almost infinite sources of information which we may compare and contrast to determine what we will and will not believe.
4. I am grateful for a mind that thinks.
5. I am grateful for a forum in which to air my views, and allow for the airing of differing viewpoints (as long as the golden rule is applied!)

Love and light
 

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