Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

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Women Co-Authors are “Disappeared” by NPR, and the World Shrugs

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Folks, I am really upset right now.

NPR recently interviewed two authors, Silka-Maria Weineck and Stefan Syzmanski, for their radio show “All Things Considered.” The reason? Well, it’s World Cup season (championship soccer, as the US would call it; championship football, as everyone else does), and Weineck and Szymanski wrote a book called It’s Football, Not Soccer (and Vice Versa): On the History, Emotion, and Ideology Behind One of the Internet’s Most Ferocious Debates. The book sounds fascinating, and I would’ve loved to hear what Ms. Weineck had to say…except that NPR host Anders Kelto scrubbed all of her interview, and then compounded his error by attributing their co-written book to Szymanski alone.

That is what prompted the following letter to NPR’s ombudsman.

You see, as a female author myself, I know that if I had written a book with someone, and then only my co-author was named after I’d done an interview also, I’d be going ballistic right now.

Ms. Weineck isn’t too happy, either. (Take a look at this article if you don’t believe me.) And I don’t blame her at all.

Anyway, here you go with my letter to NPR:

I am deeply unhappy that in a recent on-air segment for “All Things Considered” host Anders Kelto did not name both authors of the book IT’S FOOTBALL, NOT SOCCER (AND VICE VERSA), instead only naming the male co-author. Refusing to name the female co-author was wrong and shameful, and further compounding his error by refusing to initially name her in the printed piece on your website (which was later corrected) is extremely disheartening.

I look to NPR for balanced coverage. And if there are two authors of a book, the only way to get balanced coverage is to talk about — and to — both co-authors, unless one is not available. In this case, the female co-author, Ms. Silke-Maria Weineck, was indeed available, and had spoken to the on-air host for thirty minutes by her account (I read it at the Chronicle.com, BTW), and yet none of her quotes were used. So your host, Mr. Kelto, was willing to talk with Ms. Weineck, but apparently not willing to use any of her quotes. Or even properly attribute the book to both her and her co-author, Mr. Szymanski, for that matter.

I am extremely frustrated that Ms. Weineck’s voice was silenced. But I’m even more frustrated, as a female author myself, that another female author was marginalized and “disappeared” in this way.

I believe NPR should rectify this problem immediately by talking with Ms. Weineck and working out some way of compensating her for this egregious error.

And please, please, for the love of little green apples, never make this type of mistake ever again. Because it is sickening.

Now, to the men in the audience:

I know most of you would never behave as Mr. Kelto did. (Most especially, the male authors wouldn’t.) But this behavior still must needs be challenged, as it shows the problem we female authors still run into from time to time. (I can’t believe this is the only time NPR has done something like this, either, and they’re supposedly the “liberal bastion” of radio — or at least, by their own charter, are supposed to promote equality and fairness. And what could be more fair than properly attributing a co-written book to both authors?)

(Mind, if you only think about how much you would hate it, if only the female co-author were named instead of you, maybe you’ll understand…such is my hope.)

The reason I am writing this blog, though, is very simple. You men need to realize that the women in your life, especially the creative women, are often discounted or dismissed. (It’s always wrong, too. A creative person is a creative person is a creative person, whether the person is male, female, trans, queer, intersex, or Martian.)

Without realizing that simple fact, the good men out there cannot work against this type of abhorrent behavior. As I do hope you will do, because it needs doing.

And if you, too, want to write to the ombudsman and complain that the female co-author’s name should not have been “disappeared” from the broadcast? Here’s a link.

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What does the Fourth of July Mean to You?

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To some, the Fourth of July means freedom.

To some, it just means another holiday to drink, dance, watch fireworks, have a day to themselves…to party, in other words.

But for most, it makes people remember the founding of the United States of America. And they at least remember the War of Independence, if not the difficulty of instituting a peace, then drafting some form of workable representative government and making it stick.

What I think about, though, is how difficult it must’ve been for the Founding Fathers (and, perhaps, their wives, mothers, and sisters) to work together. These were men with towering egos. And they didn’t agree on much of anything. They could be at sword’s point with each other, quite literally, seemingly at the drop of a hint.

Yet these men all worked together — sometimes begrudgingly, granted — to form “a more perfect union,” and agreed that Americans should be able to freely partake in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

(Notice they didn’t say a perfect union, just a more perfect one. Keep that in mind, please.)

At any rate, these very difficult, but very brave men (and their unsung wives, girlfriends, mothers, and sisters, no doubt), had to deal with all sorts of uncertainty in the War of Independence. They had no idea what peace was going to look like, or even if they could obtain it at all.

Yet they knew they had to fight.

That they won their way to peace, and then to a difficult, fractious, but ultimately rewarding gathering in Philadelphia in 1787, was to their credit.

Sometimes, I wonder if we’ve lost our way, as Americans, as we have to realize that some battles — those of complacency, honesty, fair treatment, fiscal responsibility, and transparency, among others — need to be fought over and over again.

No one can be perfectly trustworthy, you see, as power can corrupt.

In addition, as we’ve also figured out, power can reveal, too. Some, like George Washington, remain virtually incorruptible, and stay the same person before the power as after.

But some are more avaricious, I fear. They see the power, take it for themselves, and then realize, “I can do anything I want, at least for a time.” And thus, they do…to the detriment of many others.

Men like former Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) are a danger to the United States, because people follow them due to their charisma. And those who refuse to follow, such as playwright Lillian Hellman, can be ostracized.

The only thing we can do, as citizens of the U.S. (and the world at large), is to use our brains to think, and think hard. Refuse to be led like lemmings, for one…do your research, for another.

And for the sake of little green apples and whatever Deity you follow, do not let anyone’s charisma make you forget history, or forget how hard it was to form the U.S., or how hard the men and women of the Armed Forces — much less the (seemingly few) honest men and women of the U.S. Congress and various state houses around the country continue to work to keep us free enough to continue to partake in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

See, freedom is not free. It takes work, and lots of it. And it takes compromise from a bunch of towering egos at all times…when we forget that, we are at risk of becoming less than we are.

That worries me greatly.

What gives me hope are the citizens of all political stripes saying to themselves, “Hey, I can do better.” And they’re running for office at all levels, including school boards and county commissioners.

Perhaps these people, who’ve heard the call from their countrymen for people willing to talk, listen, reason, and (I hope) compromise, will do a better job.

Anyway, the Fourth of July to me means that we continue to fight what battles we can, all to keep this land of ours safe to reason, to dissent peacefully, and to solve what problems there are as civilly as possible.

(Because without civility, we are asking for trouble. But you have to know that already.)

So yes, continue to be active, in your way. Talk to others of all political stripes, and try to find common ground. Read a variety of sources, and refuse to close your mind.

That’s the way to form a more perfect union, to my mind. And it’s what we need to remember every day, not just on the Fourth of July.

So, now you know what the Fourth of July means to me. But I’d like to know what it means to you. Tell me about it in the comments, will you?

Good Things Still Exist: It’s Summer Concert Time!

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Folks, I’m happy to remind you that the Racine Concert Band free summer concert series starts tonight at the Racine Zoo, and will continue every Sunday night until August 12. We’re playing patriotic music tonight, in honor of the upcoming July 4th holiday, and we will have as guest artists the Milwaukee North Division drum line assisting us with a brief pre-concert show plus an appearance with us during John Philip Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis.”

As there’s nothing better than a free summer band concert, I figured I’d remind you all about this, in the hopes that you’d be able to see that good things still exist in this world.

We’ve had a whole lot of turmoil, much strife, too much ignorance, and more despair than I could shake a stick at. We’ve heard about so many horrible things, including the five people, most of them writers and editors, murdered at the Annapolis Capital Gazette newspaper (something I hope to blog about in greater detail in a few days), not to mention the overnight stabbings in Boise, Idaho seemingly because someone did not like the fact that refugees were staying in an apartment complex. And these things are horrible to contemplate.

Still, good things exist. Like tonight’s band concert. Which is absolutely free.

Other good things I try to remember: The affectionate nature of my Mom’s dogs. Sunrises. Sunsets. Nature and all its wonders. Good books. Funny movies. (And yes, of course SF movies!) Baseball games. Art. And so many, many more…(add your favorite good things in the comments, if you would. I’d love to see ’em!)

So when you are frustrated, angry, upset, or really wonder what the point is, you need to remember that good things do continue to exist.

Keep fighting the good fight, yes. (In a nonviolent way, peacefully. That should go without saying, but in this day and age, you can never be too sure.) Keep striving for what you know is right.

But don’t let fear, anger, despair, or loneliness overwhelm you, if you can help it.

Instead, try — and try hard — to hold a positive thought.

That’s the best way to live that I know, and ultimately, it’s what drives the darkness back. (Well, that and creativity in all its myriad forms. But that, too, is a separate post…)

So, take in the band concert tonight — again, it’s absolutely, positively free — down at the Racine Zoo. Enter at the Augusta Street gate (that’s on the side, near the Zoological Gardens, close to Lake Michigan) starting at 7:15 p.m.; showtime is 7:30 p.m.

Hope to see you there!

 

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 1, 2018 at 6:35 am

We Must Do Better and Insist on Better Health Care (A Collaboration with a Purpose Post)

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Sorry ’bout the lengthy title there, folks…on with the show, er, I mean blog.

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I am especially cognizant this year of World Health Day due to the myriad of health problems my family has suffered over the past year. Because of all the times we’ve been to the doctor, or in the hospital, or in the rehab center, I am more aware than ever about how we need better quality health care in the United States. (I can’t speak for the rest of the world, though my fellow bloggers have done so brilliantly. Links will follow at the end of this post.)

What I’ve seen shocks me. (And I thought I was unshockable.) A woman who needs hearing aids was in one of the rehab centers my family member dealt with this year, and can’t get them because she can’t afford them. She is over sixty-five, is retired, has Medicare–meaning, she does have state-sponsored insurance that’s subsidized by the federal government–and she still can’t afford hearing aids.

This affects her quality of life.

This affects how she can interact with her family, her grandchildren, and those working with her to help her heal up so she can go home.

There’s something wrong with a country that doesn’t find a way to help someone who needs hearing aids find a way to get them. (She is willing to pay, mind. Her daughter told me that. But it’s a matter of making it affordable so she can, and still eat, pay her bills, and afford her medications.)

Or how about this? I, myself, have dealt with a problem trying to get any help with my vision. I have Obamacare. I am eligible to be seen and get glasses, which would be subsidized (but not free)…yet every time I try to set up an appointment, and I’ve been trying now for over two years, I am told there are none.

So, I continue to wear glasses that are over two years old. My backup pair is over ten years old. My vision hasn’t changed much in all that time, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a checkup or get another pair of glasses that is perhaps a little bit more up-to-date than my backup pair.

How many other people are out there who can’t afford to pay full price for glasses, thus wait to be seen, and then never get an appointment because it’s supposedly always full?

Then, there’s the problem of paying for medication. My family members have radically different insurance. One has no help at all to pay for her prescriptions. Another has some help. But when your medicines can cost over $300 per month — yes, one of the cardiac meds my mother takes is at least that expensive — the co-pay is still plenty high. And when you’re on a fixed income, in retirement, coming up with that high co-pay is damned difficult.

Why is this considered acceptable?

Then, there’s the problem of getting doctor’s appointments when you’re sick. (I know first-hand about that one, too.) Getting your doctor’s office to even call you back is a pain in the buttinsky. And then, if you do get to talk with a nurse, they just send you to urgent care anyway, so why did you waste your time?

In short, there are major problems with health care.

Right now, we have a proliferation of forms, a proliferation of HMOs, PPOs, and all sorts of other alphabet-type agencies, that basically boil down to, “No, we’re not going to help you.” And that is utterly unacceptable.

Mind, there are wonderful people in health care. I’ve met more great nurses and doctors (much less PAs and CNAs) than I can shake a stick at. These people genuinely want to help, but they are overwhelmed by paperwork and there aren’t enough slots to see everyone who needs to be seen. And nothing at all seems to get done whatsoever about fixing these systemic problems.

The World Health Organization has done this World Health Day since 1948, to call attention to the need for better health care for as many people as possible. (Preferably, it would be for every single last one of us, and that is indeed their goal.) And this year, their slogan is called #HealthForAll.

I think we badly need to be reminded that health must be cultivated. We have to have enough resources to help people get hearing aids when they are on fixed incomes. Or afford expensive cardiac medicines when they are on fixed incomes. Or have access to doctors, nurses, and appropriate care, while being treated as the human beings we are rather than an inconvenience or worse, someone to be brushed off and ignored.

So I’m pleased that the Collaboration with a Purpose group wanted to talk about World Health Day this year. It is something that is close to my heart. And it is something we desperately need — better health care, for as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible, so we all can live better and happier lives.

Because if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Period.

Now, please go check out my fellow Collaboration with a Purpose group members, as they all have interesting takes on the subject. (Links will be added as their posts go up.)

Do All You Can…

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…even when it doesn’t feel like it’ll be enough.

That is my motto, right now.

As I continue to struggle with my health, I have to remind myself that sometimes, doing all I can means to rest. Recover. Eat as much as I can (with a raw throat, that’s not easy, but it is again possible), and in as balanced a way as I can…take probiotics, to keep the antibiotics I’m on from destroying my gut bacteria…laugh, because it’s better than crying. (Or pulling my hair out.)

I continue to work on my plotting exercise (I talked about this yesterday), and will hope this will keep me from going stir-crazy.

I did write a thousand words today, though it was a different sort of exercise entirely, and was prompted by home internet problems. (I hate that, but it’s a very minor woe, all things considered. At least I can get out and use the internet elsewhere. So it adds a step when I am not at my best. So what?)

And I looked at the two edits in progress, figured out where I am, and have a good idea where I need to be starting tomorrow to finish them both up.

So, I’m staying on top of it as best I can. And am doing whatever I can, even though as I said above, it truly doesn’t feel like enough.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 13, 2018 at 9:59 pm

Thinking, Writing, and Illness

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Most of us have to deal with illness, and somehow get things done. But when you’re sick (as I am right now), and you are an independent writer and editor, what are you supposed to do about it?

That sounds ridiculous to say, doesn’t it? Because we all struggle with illness. Very few people have charmed lives, and even they have to deal with the illnesses of beloved family and friends (or, sometimes, four-footed companions).

Still, when you’re in my position, and need your mind to do your work, but your mind isn’t at its best, and your body definitely isn’t either…what’s to do?

I’ve been trying to plot a book. This isn’t normally what I do, as I take an idea and run with it; I’m a pantser, not a plotter (that is, I sit down and write whatever it is, and then fix it on the fly). But plotting can’t hurt me, and thus, I’m trying to do that now and see where I get.

This is an exercise given to me by my friend Chris Nuttall (and if you don’t know Chris’s work already, go to Amazon and put his name in there; that’ll give you an idea). I often edit Chris’s work (my latest for him include THE ZERO EQUATION and THUNDER AND LIGHTNING, co-written by Leo Champion; I intend to talk more about both books in upcoming days, once I’ve regained a bit of my energy), and I know how he tends to work; he comes up with plots first, then writes, then tweaks (sometimes, if warranted), then sends to me (or another editor), then fixes, then I (or another editor) may see it one last time if the changes warrant it — otherwise, it goes up for sale. (This is for Chris’s independent work. The work he does through Twilight Times Books, Elsewhen Press, and 47North is a different story.)

I think his thought is interesting. And what I’m trying to do now is figure out who my characters are, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and just what’s going to happen along the way. (I also know, me being me, that some of this is subject to change. But it gives me a starting point, and it makes me feel a whole lot better to have work to do along with my editing. Which, by the way, I can still do — I just need a bit more time to do it right now, that’s all.)**

So, there’s thought behind this. Reasoning, purpose, function, and my hope is that it’ll flow into a form that is sensible, logical, and yet feels lifelike and real, like my “pantser” (seat of the pants, natch) novels do. (Or at least I hope they do.)

I’m glad to be able to continue to edit, though a bit slower than usual. I’m also glad that my friends, including Chris, came up with something for me to do of a writing nature so I wouldn’t feel stir-crazy while I’m not at my best. (Writing takes more out of me than editing, just as playing music takes more out of me, physically, than composing it. Though all of them require a goodly amount of mental and physical energy, some are easier to do while ill than others. I hope this makes some sense.)

Now for the big question: What do you do when you feel lousy, but are a creative person and need to express yourself? I’d appreciate hearing any tips you might have in the comments.

———-

**I suppose this is a good time to explain what I’m dealing with: exacerbation of asthma/bronchitis, an ear infection, plus a particularly wicked sinus infection. (I have two antibiotics, a steroid, and have to use my rescue inhaler four times a day until this is gone. When I get sick, I guess it’s go big, or go home. Except I am home…)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 12, 2018 at 6:44 am

Posted in Books, Informational Stuff, Writing

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Of Shouts into the Void…and Cats

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Earlier tonight, when I was about to go to sleep (as it was very late night, or very early morning, depending on your point of view), I got a call from a distraught friend.

You see, he’s a cat lover. He has a cat — a rather feisty, elderly cat that doesn’t like other cats, or too many people, either. He treats this feisty, elderly, cantankerous cat like royalty (my other cat fancier friends are no doubt adding, “As the cat deserves”).

But the reason he was distraught was also because of a cat. A stray, that had once been a well-kept house pet — my friend said he could tell — and was still willing to believe a human being would help rather than hurt.

My friend couldn’t bring this stray cat into his home, even though he desperately wanted to. (I know this because he called me, and we discussed it at great length.) His own cat would’ve hurt this littler, younger, gentler one, he thought. And he, himself, is disabled, and has recently come off some medical treatment that made him a bit weaker than usual. (And usual isn’t exactly strong anymore, though I hate to point that out for the sake of my friend’s machismo.)

What he did do, though, was take some cat food out, some water out, and went and held the cat for an hour while it ate and drank. He petted the cat. He tried wracking his brains to see if he could find anyone in the Tampa, Florida, area who might be able to foster a cat, as this one needs some medical attention as it recently looks to have gotten into a fight. (Perhaps with a raccoon, perhaps with another cat.) Its eyes were affected, and my friend was very upset at leaving a half-blind cat outside, at the mercy of the elements (as it’s chilly tonight in Tampa — perhaps more temperate than my own Wisconsin, but cold by their standards, and not good for a cat that really shouldn’t be out in the darkness, alone, when it doesn’t seem to be seeing very well).

I told my friend he did all he could. He did more than some would do, considering his levels of physical limitations, and considering his own very ornery and unruly cat. (I know he’s not going to like me calling her that, but his cat definitely is.)

But that doesn’t help this particular stray cat. Not enough, anyway…though the food and water my friend gave the cat may help the poor little guy survive another night alone, outside. (And I devoutly hope it does.)

My friend was also livid that a pampered house cat — which this must’ve been at one time — had been tossed to the curb like so much garbage. He said that in his area, there aren’t many shelters that will take animals for very long without euthanizing them (though there are a few shelters that are no-kill, or at least want to be, he said they are overcrowded, overloaded, and underfunded). And he’s worried that a cat like this one — providing it sticks around (and he checked on it four or five times in the next several hours, and the cat had stayed right there, waiting for him, which broke his heart, and mine, all over again) would be euthanized immediately due to the recent fight and the damage to at least one eye.

This is where the “shout into the void” comes in, folks. Because I’m with my friend on this one. I do not understand, at all, why anyone would treat a pet like that. And thinking about anyone treating a beloved family pet that way just makes me want to scream.

Maybe it won’t be heard, thus the “shout into the void” concept. But it makes me so angry, to think about this poor little guy out on the streets, way too far away for me to drive to, to rescue the poor dear, and no way to know if the cat will survive this night — or not.

Rather than kicking a beloved pet out, do the responsible thing if you can no longer take care of your animals: Give that pet a good, loving home somewhere else.

I know that years ago, my mother and I adopted a very elderly dog that, like this cat, had been abandoned in the middle of winter. This dog had cataracts in both eyes, couldn’t hear, and was so matted when it was brought in that the shelter people had no idea whatsoever what type of dog it was. (It was a Lhasa Apso.) We were horrified that a dog like that had been abandoned at such an old age, left to fend for itself in the middle of a Wisconsin winter…that the dog had survived its ordeal was wonderful, but why did it have to go through it at all?

(Needless to say, that little dog was better off with us, and had a couple of good years where he was pampered, well-fed, well-treated, and basically lived the life of Reilly.)

I know that there are many stray animals out there in need of loving homes. There are more cats, dogs, and other assorted pets that have been left on the sides of roads or maybe ran away and couldn’t find their way back home.

My hope is, that by writing this blog, you will think about how you can help the neglected animals in your area. Many are loving, affectionate, and really want a “forever home.” But for whatever reason, they are out there, alone, in the dark, without food, without water, without shelter…and I find that so unconscionable, I just have no words for it.

So please. Do whatever you can to help the less fortunate among us, including the animals. Because they often get forgotten, and they can’t speak for themselves.

We must do it instead.