Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for May 2011

Ed Schultz — From Hero, to Goat, to . . . ?

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Ed Schultz, for the past several months, has done a great job reporting on what’s going on in Wisconsin.  Schultz was probably the first person to take an interest in the protests against Governor Scott Walker (a Republican), and he went to Madison early on during the protests to show the real Wisconsinites who were upset over Walker’s proposed “budget-repair bill.”  These protests broke out partly because the Wisconsin 14 — the Democratic state Senators — went to Illinois to filibuster the proposed legislation, because the WI 14 knew that if they weren’t there, the Senate would not have a quorum as per Wisconsin rules on financial matters, and partly because Walker’s proposal was extremely unpopular.   I gave Schultz great credit for doing all this, as he understood the story from the Democratic and Independent perspective, and he explained it accurately — one of the first, and best, to do so overall.

But then, yesterday, he said something truly inappropriate regarding Laura Ingraham, a right-wing radio talk show host.   His comment was about our current President, Barack Obama, being photographed taking a swig of beer in Ireland, and how when George W. Bush did the same thing, no one complained — and the substance of that is true.   But he took it a step further when he called Ms. Ingraham a very nasty name on his Sirius XM Radio talk show — I will not reproduce this epithet — and now, MSNBC has suspended him for a week without pay.

Here’s a link regarding the whole mess:

Schultz went from a progressive hero of sorts — someone willing to tell the truth about why people were so upset in Wisconsin (it wasn’t just in Madison; there were protests all over the state including Union Grove, a little town of 4,322, a place that usually votes strongly Republican but wasn’t having any of Scott Walker’s proposal to do away with collective bargains for public-employee unions), someone who was willing to stand up for the “little guys” who are rarely talked about by the media — to a goat.  And an extremely smelly and foul-tempered goat, at that.

Now Ed Schultz has been suspended from MSNBC.   According to what I just listened to during the first segment of his “Ed Show” tonight, Schultz offered to take an unpaid leave of absence because he recognized that his behavior was beyond the pale.   He said he tried to get a hold of Ms. Ingraham to apologize, left a message for her apologizing, and will continue to try to get a hold of her because in any context, what he said was not acceptable. 

And he’s right — it wasn’t.

Schultz also discussed how he has failed, big-time, on this issue.  That he expects better of his children and grandchildren, and how can he possibly set a good example for them when he has fallen down on the job this way.  And that he hopes to do better in the future and that he promises that he will never, ever, use the incendiary verbiage that came out of his mouth during a radio ad-lib — that he will, indeed, do better.

Mr. Schultz, I commend you for apologizing and for admitting how wrong you were to do this.   I hope you will remember this day, not because of your humiliation, but because you were right to apologize and to step aside for a week (or however long it may turn out to be) to get your head right.  Your speech tonight showed true remorse and I hope that you will remember that no matter how much you dislike someone — no matter how stupidly they may behave — they are still a human being, and they don’t deserve to be called nasty names.

An insult to one woman is an insult to all of us, Mr. Schultz; I am not a fan of Ms. Ingraham, but I believe very strongly that you shouldn’t have insulted her.  You lowered the tone of the discussion, and that was indefensible, as you said yourself this evening — and the only possible good that could come out of this is a frank discussion about why the term you used is inappropriate for anyone with taste, class, or an education. 

My advice is this: learn from this.  Become a better person.  And please, please, continue to focus on the real people who’ve been hurt by Walker’s proposals in Wisconsin,  because that is where your true gift lies.

Just reviewed Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ “Call Me Irresistible” for SBR

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Folks, here’s the link for tonight’s review at Shiny Book Review, first off:

Now that you’ve seen that, and have had a chance to read my review of CALL ME IRRESISTIBLE, let me elaborate a little more about Ms. Phillips’s newest effort.

First, this is Ms. Phillips’s twenty-first novel, and yet she couldn’t come up with a better “flaw” than the hero, Ted Beaudine, being a guy who makes love to his partner for several hours at a time?   No matter how well this was described or set up this isn’t enough of a “flaw” — how can someone being so caring of his partner be considered a flaw by anyone?

I don’t care that Ted’s intended, Meg Koranda, believed she wasn’t “special” enough because this apparently was Ted’s standard practice with his girlfriends (Ted’s a serial monogamist, so he only has one GF at a time).  Meg knows this is Ted’s policy — Ted is much too nice to point this out himself, of course, as that would be really crude —  because her best friend Lucy had been engaged to Ted and nearly married him and said so.  (Lucy jilted Ted at the altar.)  Lucy’s comments to Meg add up to this:  Ted’s every woman’s dream lover, and he’s world-class in the bedroom department because he takes his time and makes sure his partner appreciates the act before he finally gives in and takes his own.  But because Ted apparently treated every woman this way, even though he has every possible good quality there is, by the time Meg and Ted get down to business, Meg does not feel like Ted’s seeing her — and that’s just wrong.

But Meg goes too far in her beliefs, believing that Ted doesn’t really care unless he loses control now and again in the bedroom department.  This just doesn’t make any sense.  Most women do not wish for their intendeds to lose control in the bedroom, yet Meg does exactly this.  How is this believable?

Finally, the way Meg is treated throughout isn’t really believable, either.  Meg is broke, desperate, without employment and a car that’s barely running that’s also out of gas, and is stranded in Wynette, Texas, with a bunch of people who hate her because they believe that Meg somehow coerced Lucy into running off and jilting “favorite son” and town Mayor despite his young age of twenty-nine or so, Ted, at the altar.  So everyone goes out of the way to insult Meg, which is a very similar plot-line to AIN’T SHE SWEET? with much less justification for it, and very few of the townspeople give Meg a chance.

While this is a very funny novel in spots, and I enjoyed it because of the humor, I didn’t feel this was up to the best novels of Ms. Phillips, which along with AIN’T SHE SWEET? include DREAM A LITTLE DREAM and LADY BE GOOD.  And it’s because of the lack of a true flaw in the hero — or at least a true explicit flaw (as Ted believing Meg was at fault at first is definitely a flaw in a guy who supposedly is a world-class inventor with a genius IQ) — along with how poorly the heroine is treated that just did not sit well with me.  At all.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Corey Hart — 4 HRs in two days (on a roll)

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Just had to point out that Corey Hart is on a major roll right now; starting yesterday, Hart had only 1 RBI and no HRs, but now (after his first at-bat in tonight’s game versus the Washington Nationals) Hart has 4 HR and 9 RBI.

Last night, Corey Hart had an outstanding game, hitting 3 HRs in one game — the first time he’d ever done it in his career — and tying a team record with his 7 RBI in last night’s game.  He also had two outstanding catches in the outfield to add to his on-field spectacular.

Corey Hart started off this season on the disabled list (DL) and everyone had been waiting for him to break out and hit like he did last year (with his 31 HRs, 102 RBI, and .283 average).   A few weeks ago, I noted here in my blog that I believed Hart’s swing was starting to come around as he’d had a few really good ABs (battling the pitcher for multiple pitches, even if he still made an out, or hitting the ball really hard, but at someone), and Hart had started to hit after that — unfortunately he didn’t have any RBI to show for it, but he did have some doubles and his average, overall, had climbed from below .200 to above .250.

With Hart’s 3 HR game, he has now climbed to .263 (starting tonight’s game against the Nationals), and his power stroke is definitely working — so is another trip to the All-Star game in the offing?   Or how about going back to the Home Run Derby?

I like Hart, and think he’s an outstanding player with a great attitude.  I’m really glad he’s started to hit, and that his defense has continued to improve.

To keep tabs on Hart throughout the season, I recommend FanGraphs:

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Just reviewed “A Rush of Wings” for SBR

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Folks, I urge you to check out my review for A RUSH OF WINGS, a Naked Reader Press anthology edited by Amanda S. Green; I enjoyed it quite a bit, with there being one outstanding story — Kate Paulk’s “His Father’s Son” — and several good to excellent stories by Sarah A. Hoyt, Dave Freer, Taylor M. Lunsford and Chris McMahon.  There wasn’t a bad story in the lot . . . at any rate, to find out more about this fine anthology, please read my review, available at:

** Note I’ve finally figured out how to put links into my blogs.  Hat tip and drum roll to Jason Cordova, who finally beat it into my brain.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Posted in Book reviews, Writing

Statewide Recount in Judicial Race ends today; Waukesha County’s vote total is in

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Today, the necessary recount for the April 5, 2011 Wisconsin state Supreme Court judicial race has ended as Waukesha County has finally finished recounting the votes.  David Prosser still won Waukesha County with a similar vote total to his previous, though JoAnne Kloppenburg picked up 310 votes statewide; as previously written here, and elsewhere, Ms. Kloppenburg won the rest of the state of Wisconsin (though she didn’t win every county, overall, she was the winner) while she lost, and lost big, in the reddest Republican county in the state, Waukesha County.

This means that unofficially David Prosser has won the election by just over 7,000 votes according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  Please see this article for further details:

Here’s a relevant quote:

Waukesha County finished its recount Friday, two weeks after the state’s other 71 counties completed theirs. The county next was to deliver its totals to the state Government Accountability Board.

In Waukesha County, the results showed both candidates gaining votes – 68 more for Prosser, 19 more for Kloppenburg – yielding a net gain of 49 votes for the incumbent.

The board, which oversees state elections, plans to certify the totals on Monday, board attorney Mike Haas said. Kloppenburg would have until May 31 to file a lawsuit over the results.

So there it is; because of repeated and extensive problems in Waukesha County, including torn bags, bags without proper numbers (poll workers write totals and usually then bags are supposed to be left undisturbed until/unless there is a statewide recount), and ballots left in strange places (the worst of these issues wasn’t in Waukesha; it instead was in Verona, which is in Dane County — there, ballots were left out of a bag and on a table, reason unknown), the vote totals reported in Waukesha County remain suspect.  While there also were problems in other areas in the state, Waukesha County’s violations were by far the most egregious, starting with County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus’s problems in getting the proper vote total for Brookfield notated into her computer until 36 hours after the April 5, 2011 election ended.

I don’t know what Ms. Kloppenburg and her campaign manager, Melissa Mulliken, are going to do.  But if the problems in Waukesha are as bad as I have been led to believe (I am a member of a group called Election Integrity, which has been giving unofficial first-hand results from observers in Waukesha County and elsewhere), they may indeed file suit and I wouldn’t blame them at all.

Everyone wants to believe that elections are fair and are conducted on the “up-and-up.”  But we’ve found since Nickolaus’s eleventh-hour revelation that there have been severe and systemic problems in Waukesha County for years, with nothing whatsoever having been done about it for whatever reason.  This has made me seriously question whether or not we really do have fair elections in Wisconsin despite observing on April 27, 2011 in Racine, Wisconsin for the Kloppenburg campaign and believing that Racine County’s elections, themselves, have been conducted fairly.  (Note if David Prosser’s folks had asked me to observe for them, I would’ve done it, though I proudly cast my vote for Ms. Kloppenburg in the April 5, 2011 election.  I firmly believe Ms. Kloppenburg’s credentials, working for both Republican and Democratic Governors as one of the state Assistant Attorneys-General, are outstanding, and I believe that if she is ever freely and fairly elected in Wisconsin, she will make an outstanding Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.)

The whole question now is, has whatever happened in Waukesha County tainted this entire election?  (In my mind, that answer is a clear “yes,” but I don’t know how that would work in court.)  And have there been enough problems in Waukesha County to warrant tossing out that entire county’s votes and making them vote again?  Because that possibly would be the fairest way to go about it, with many observers in every polling place in the county, to make absolutely sure that every legitimate vote (for whomever) is counted properly.  And Kathy Nickolaus, if she hasn’t resigned or been recalled by then, should play no part in this, just as she played no part in the state-wide recount . . . her job performance has been proven to be amazingly weak — and I don’t say that lightly — and she should count herself extremely lucky to have been gainfully employed, much less making $67,000 a year, considering how much she appears to have screwed up during her tenure on the job.

I believe this recount was a mandatory one — the only thing the state could do to restore any faith in free and fair elections — and I know the problems in Waukesha County have been proven to be extensive on a variety of counts.  The only thing now is to see how it plays out, and I promise you, I will stay on this story and post updates as appropriate.

Just Reviewed Dave Freer’s “Dragon’s Ring” for SBR

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I was so entertained by Dave Freer’s DRAGON’S RING that I literally hated for the book to end . . . so I was glad that I got a chance to review it for Shiny Book Review (SBR) tonight.

DRAGON’S RING, put simply, is a tour de force, but that’s so often overused that at SBR, I called it a “masterpiece” instead.  DRAGON’S RING contains a deceptively simple plot about Fionn the dragon-shapechanger and his apprentice, Meb (also called Scrap) who are determined to destroy the world they live on, Tamarind, by any means necessary — yet it’s so much more than that, too.   It’s an action-adventure story, yes, but also a coming of age story for Meb, a rather understated romance between the pair of ’em, and a cultural study to boot . . . and that’s still barely scratching the surface of DRAGON’S RING.

What I loved most about DRAGON’S RING was its humor; Finn (that’s what he’s called in human form) is such an interesting, intriguing character that it was hard for me to put the book down now and again to do unimportant things like eating and sleeping because I never, ever knew what Finn was going to do next, nor whether or not it’d turn out to be a good or bad thing.  And how Finn interacts with Meb is a delight, going from mentor to friend to protector to, ultimately, feeling a gentle love that may just be the fiercest sort of all.

What an excellent novel.  And what a privilege to get to read and review it.

As Garth Nix’s quote, which appeared on the back cover of DRAGON’S RING, states so aptly:

“Dave Freer always delivers compelling, fast-moving and addictive fantasy adventures.  Write more, Dave.”

So, since I can’t do any better than that, I’ll leave it there — except to say that you really should read my review, then go grab the book!  (Or do it in the reverse order.  Trust me, I’ll be happy either way.)

Here’s the link:

Now, go read it!

** NOTE:  I even got the links right, too!   Both here, and at SBR.  (Maybe it’s not a huge thing to celebrate, but I take whatever I can get.  Especially since technology and me aren’t always on too friendly of terms.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 18, 2011 at 9:20 pm

“Dancing with the Stars” Semifinals — is the fix in?

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Folks, I just finished watching the semifinals for the television show Dancing with the Stars (henceforth called “DwtS,” their acronym; note I’m referring to the current United States show), and I am wondering whether what on Earth the judges were smoking tonight.  To the point that I’m wondering whether the fix is, indeed, in . . . but first, some background.

DwtS is predicated on stars coming in who have little or no dance ability and little or no dance experience, both learning to dance and “put on a show” in the grand old show biz tradition, so I expect some stars to be better one week and not so good the next.  This makes the show fun, unpredictable, yet interesting, as the stars are usually outside to well outside their comfort zones in learning to dance.

I’ve watched DwtS since their second season, the year Cheryl Burke and Drew Lachey won the “coveted mirror ball trophy” (which is actually a tacky piece of hardware that tends to fall apart within a year, but the stars want it anyway no matter how gaudy and trashy it is); I’ve seen many good dances, many bad dances, and many “huh?” dances.   I’ve learned what makes up a good paso doble, what makes a good cha cha cha, etc., and I’ve also learned that the most successful stars fuse their personality with their technical ability, showing real, measured improvement from week to week as they go.  (Often, they also show a measurable weight loss, as has contestant Kirstie Alley this season.  More on Alley in a bit.)

However, I’ve never seen a night quite like this one, where I honestly felt that one couple — Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas — were handed high scores after doing extremely questionable routines where Kane’s dancing seemed stiff, wooden, and much less of everything than any previous week (including her first week, as Kane had some dance experience, depth unknown, before she came into this intense competition).  Kane had three dances — a very stiff tango, where her legs and body didn’t seem to go together very well, an extremely stiff rhumba (mind you, the rhumba has to be fluid and sexy, and Kane was neither), and worst of all, a stiff and clumsy cha cha cha.  Yet for these three dances, she was praised and given high scores — a perfect thirty (three tens, the highest score given out on this show) for the rhumba, which was a travesty of justice — then given 15 extra points in the “winner-take-all” cha cha when it was stiff, wooden, clumsy, and even the “tricks” (flashy things to divert your attention) lacked polish?

I really didn’t agree with that “winner-take-all” thing at all.  First off, in the “elimination rounds,” I thought Ralph Macchio danced better than Hines Ward, yet they kept Ward; in the other one, Kirstie Alley clearly out-danced Kane (and was probably the best cha cha dancer of the night), yet didn’t advance over the stiff and wooden Kane?  Why?

As for the other dances, well, Macchio’s time should be up.   He’s now healthier — last week he more or less got a “pass” from the viewers as he wasn’t able to dance well due to a hamstring injury — and wasn’t really any better until the cha cha (and I’ve already discussed how unjust that was), his third dance of the evening.   Ward’s other two dances were clean and precise, and I liked his tango a great deal (that one deserved a thirty; the other one, not so much, but his pro, Kym Johnson, was dancing with an obvious amount of pain after sustaining a severe neck injury and I believe the judges gave him a little bit more for the first two dances than he deserved — Ward should’ve won the cha cha considering the judges put him there with a unanimous vote, considering how terrible Kane was, but there you go).  And Alley danced with grace, elegance, and fire in her Viennese Waltz and Paso Doble — two diametrically opposed dances that are both extremely difficult — and really deserved to win that cha cha competition, too, on merit.

At any rate, Mark Ballas seems to go to the finals every year — and before some folks write in and tell me, “No he doesn’t,” I did say seems.   He was there last season with the underperforming Bristol Palin; he’s been there with Shawn Johnson (a good dancer and gymnast), with Kristi Yamaguchi (an outstanding skater and a very good dancer also), and should’ve been there with Sabrina Bryan.  He’s quite a good dancer and obviously teaches his students how to dance, of which I approve — but his attitude leaves me cold.  (Even allowing for how DwtS can edit folks, Ballas should be more aware of how he comes across on camera.  He acts like he’s the star, not his pro, and that’s just wrong.  Though of course as a DwtS pro, he has fans rooting for him no matter who his partner is, he needs to remember to be humble — or at least learn to fake it a little better.)

And as for Kane — man, can she please eat a cheeseburger or two?  Because she’s way, way, way too thin — every time I see her, I think how she needs to eat more.   And when Ballas picks Kane up for the overhead “tricks,” I think, “Whee!  She weighs what, two pounds?  How tough was that, Mark?”  (Compared to the real work Maksim Chmerikovskiy has put in, first teaching his partner Alley to dance and dance well, then to compensate for Alley being a big, beautiful woman — albeit less of one than when she started, as she’s obviously lost at least sixty pounds during the course of this season’s DwtS — I really don’t have much sympathy for Ballas at all.)

Look.  It’s just a cheesy reality show, but I enjoy it.  I like to see the dancers improve — and they all do, to some extent (even Bristol Palin improved last season).  It’s a tough gig to be on DwtS; people get injured (look at Macchio’s injury last week, or poor pro Kym Johnson’s this past week).  It’s hard to dance in front of hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand people in person, then know millions of people will see you dance either on television or YouTube.  I can’t imagine the sort of pressure that puts on all the contestants and my hat is off to all of them — even the rather klutzy Kane this evening.

But it chaps my hide something fierce when the competition does not seem on the up and up.  And I’m sorry — I know Ballas in particular, if he sees this blog for whatever reason, will not agree with me, but unless the camera angles were bad for all three dances with Kane, these were the worst three dances she has had all season.  She may have an injury; she may well have been ill; she may be the funniest, cutest, nicest contestant they have ever had on DwtS.  But she didn’t deserve the high scores she got tonight, nor did she deserve to win that cha cha as she really shouldn’t have even advanced over Alley in that first “elimination round.”

So the question is: is the fix in?  And if it is, why should I watch this show if Kane and Ballas are destined to take home the cheesy trophy?

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Just reviewed “A Touch of Night” for SBR

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Folks, if you love fantasies, love Regency romances, love Jane Austen or just plain love good writing, you really owe it to yourself to give Sarah A. Hoyt and Sofie Skapski’s A TOUCH OF NIGHT (available at the Naked Reader Web site, a try . . . please give my new review a look-see at:

Trust me — this one will keep you up much past your bed-time — but you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Note that right now my flirtation with adding links doesn’t seem to be working; go to the regular Naked Reader Web page, hit “New Books” on the far right-hand upper corner of the page, then you’ll see A TOUCH OF NIGHT right up at the top, on the right.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 13, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Vinny Rottino Update

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Time for an update about Vinny Rottino, a Racine, Wisconsin native who plays in the Florida Marlins organization.  As I’ve said before, Rottino plays multiple positions well and has succeeded at the AAA level before.  Note that Rottino has had a few “cups of coffee” at the major league level (originally drafted by the Brewers, Rottino played a little bit in the majors in ’06, ’07, and ’08, being a September call-up all three times); he’s now 31 years old and is playing in New Orleans at the AAA level, most of the time in the outfield.

Here’s Rottino’s stats from

Now, for those of you who’d rather see stats than go to another Web site, I’ll quote some of the salient particulars.

Rottino’s average is now .319, and he’s been on a .455 clip since May 3, 2011.  He has an OBP of .420, had walked 15 times and struck out 10, and has stolen six bases without being caught stealing once.   He has 2 HR, 11 RBI, and now has 30 hits overall (in 94 ABs; yes, that’s what his batting average means, but I thought you all might like it spelled out a bit more).

Rottino started out cold — as in, he was in a 1 for 25 slump to start the season.  Fortunately he’s found his hitting stroke and is on a major tear right now, hitting up a storm; it seems that the folks in New Orleans, like the folks in Jacksonville last year, have figured out that Rottino is a contact hitter and does better when he can actually get on base.  (I never have understood why it is that the major league teams don’t work more with contact hitters and help them improve their game as much as possible to get to the majors — instead, they seem to concentrate on either the really big stars or the home run hitters who might develop into really big stars.)  Rottino has ability and he can hit; he can play any position on the field save second base with excellent defense at all positions save catcher (he’s not played that as long so he’s merely adequate there; might get better with practice).  Rottino can steal a base for you, intelligently, and won’t run you out of an inning.  Rottino can get a clutch hit for you.  And he’ll help your team because he’s smart and level-headed — really, what’s not to like about this guy?

I keep hoping that Rottino will get his shot and be able to play a few years in the major leagues.   It’s happened before that an older player finally has received a shot — most notably with pitcher Jimmy Morris, who came up with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (they weren’t yet the Rays) in 1999 at the age of 35 — and usually the older player does well for a while, but has a brief career.  (For example, Morris’s career was only two years in duration.)

Even so, Rottino is 31, is in excellent physical shape, hasn’t shown any signs of his body breaking down yet as he’s known for taking good care of himself and he could play, potentially, six or seven more years if all went well for him.

Major league teams all the time bet the farm on a 21 or 22 year old who has no more ability than Rottino, and half the time these folks are out of baseball in four years or less.  Whereas with Rottino, he’s been trying now since 2003; he wasn’t initially drafted by anyone, instead being signed as a free-agent by the Brewers.  So it’s obvious that this man loves baseball, wants to learn how to play it better, and will do whatever is necessary to get himself to the majors and play as well as he possibly can in order to stay there.

The world needs heroes, it’s often said; well, to my mind, Rottino at his advanced-for-baseball age of 31 is a hero.  He has not given up on himself, and I’m betting he will not.

I really hope the Marlins realize what a gem they have in this man, and give him the chance he has richly earned.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Why I Write (And How, too)

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Tonight’s blog post topic is deceptively simple: why I write.  I say this topic is “deceptively simple” for a reason.  That’s because why I do something is often the hardest thing to explain. 

I just know that I must do something — I must create, even though many times it’s a major struggle to come up with something new that I like, that I think others might like, also, and that holds together in the form of a story — or I am not being my best self.

I am a musician, but I can’t always play — in fact, in recent years I have hardly been able to play at all due to carpal tunnel syndrome (fortunately I can still type, and most nights type easily; many people with CTS cannot) — so that area of creativity has been denied me even though the music is still there.  Often, I’m able to express a little of it through composing it, though sometimes I don’t have enough of an idea to do anything aside from hum it or whistle it (which can startle passers-by, but it’s an unconscious thing most of the time).   And if I do that for long enough, I’ll end up with a compositional idea that I can write a piece around.

It’s a similar thing for writing, whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.  You get an idea, which may or may not work.  You need to be able to give it time in order to develop the story better.  Along the way, you realize you need to research many, many things (it depends on the story you want to tell, but usually there’s anywhere from a small amount of research to a significant amount of research involved), and you do so in order to better deepen and broaden your story.  (Note this isn’t done just to show off the fact that you actually did your homework; that’s pointless and absurd.)   You need to  understand your character as much as you possibly can in order to write a better story that readers not only understand, but feel in their hearts as something that could, possibly, be real no matter how much magic or hard speculative science that sounds like magic might be present within your story. 

Then, you work on this idea as you’re able — in many cases, I’m working on a number of ideas all at the same time and whatever one is strongest, that’s the one I develop (though other writers will tell you what I’m about to say, too; sometimes the story just will not let you go and you write that because it’s there and is quite “loud” so you want to shut it up — those are the easiest times, by far, to be a writer or composer, as the same thing happens with music for me from time to time) — and development takes place along the way. 

Unfortunately you cannot often rush this development, and some stories develop much faster than others.  If you’re on a deadline, yes, this focuses your attention nicely — but it still may not help you figure out what the story is.

The only way to do that — know what the story is about from beginning to end —  is to get the right amount of inspiration working with your high amount of perspiration (in other words, how much energy you are putting into the act of writing or creating this story), then listen to your intuition.  Your intuition will tell you when, deep in your heart or mind, that you finally have enough of your story and can write it even if you’re not sure exactly what it is that you’re going to end up with.

Because of this process, sometimes a story will seem to have no action (internal or external) until you have the entire thing on paper; then you can figure out what’s missing and add it, or perhaps you’ll get a good lead from a friend who writes or one of your first-readers who loves to read your stuff and knows what you’re good at that isn’t in this particular manuscript . . . at any rate, along the way you figure out what you need with any given story, and you add it.  (With or without help.)  Or you end up putting this story on the back burner until you figure it out.

That’s why I say you must be persistent, as well as be hard-working, and that you must trust your creative impulses.  If you don’t do all of these things, whatever you end up with will not be something anyone else wants to read — and even if you do all those things, it still might not be what anyone else wants to read.  But in that case, at least you know you’ve done your best, and have at bare minimum written some more of the putative “million words of trash” you need to get out of your system before you can finally start writing quality stuff.

So, what is the short answer as to why I write?  Simple.  Because I can’t stop writing.  And I hope that along the way, you, the reader, will enjoy reading what I write because truly, I can’t shut up anyway. 

In other words, since I’m going to keep writing no matter what, you may as well enjoy the ride (whatever ride I can take you on with my storytelling, that is) as much as you possibly can.

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 11, 2011 at 11:10 pm