Auntie Deborah is Still Giving Writing Advice

Dear Auntie Deborah…


I wrote a story using another person’s characters, even though they said not to. Can I publish it since their book isn’t copyrighted?

If the author has published their story in any form, it’s copyrighted. That, however, is beside the point. It’s just plain unethical to do what you suggest. It’s a great way to make enemies in your genre and create a horrible reputation that will haunt your career, assuming you still have one after such a bonehead move.

Create your own characters. Write your own stories. Treat your colleagues and their work the way you would like to be treated. Pursue your career with integrity and generosity.

 

Are self-published books inferior to professionally published books?

It all depends.

Not that long ago, self-published or vanity press books were assumed to be of inferior quality, that is to say, unpublishable by “real” (traditional) publishers. There were exceptions, of course, but that was the conventional wisdom.

Today, however, many self-published books go through the same rigorous editing and quality standards as traditionally published books. Some genres, like romance, are especially friendly toward self-pubbed projects.

With modern publishing technology (ebooks, POD printing), there are many reasons why a pro-level author might want to self-publish, including:

  • Niche projects, like memoirs or family histories.
  • Series that were dropped by trad publishers but that have an enthusiastic fan following.
  • Well-written books that don’t fit into the NY “best-seller” model.
  • OP (out-of-print, rights reverted to author) backlist.
  • Great books that straddle genres or otherwise confuse traditional marketing/sales departments.

That said, many self-published books are dreadful. They aren’t good enough to attract the interest of an agent or publisher to begin with, they aren’t professionally edited or proofread, the covers are amateurish, and so on. The challenge for the reader is to sort out those books that are truly a wonderful reading experience.

Does reaching a certain number of reviews increase your indie sales?

The short answer is that nobody knows. Theories abound, usually to line the pockets of the “experts.” “Gaming” the Amazon system is a losing proposition. What might have been true 2 years or 6 months or last week no longer works — because thousands of self-published authors have tried it, thereby flooding the system with meaningless tweaks.

If you want to increase your sales, write a great book. Publicize it. Get stellar reviews on Publishers Weekly and the like. Write an even better book. Rinse and repeat. Even then, there are no guarantees when it comes to sales, but you’ll have the satisfaction of writing really good books.

My first attempt at a novel is a New Adult Romance novel using the Three Act Structure and I’m floundering. Help!

I’ve been writing professionally for over 35 years and this is what works for me: I noodle around until the story catches fire. Then I have some idea of: the hook, one or two plot points/reversals, the big climax, and the emotional tone of the ending. Sometimes I fall in love with the characters and they run away with the story. If I’m selling on proposal, I use that much to generate a synopsis. If it’s on-spec, I dive in. As long as I feel as if I’m flying or surfing the story, I keep on. I use things like structural analysis only if I feel stuck.

The thing is, and always has been for me (12+ trad pub novels, 60+ short stories, plus collections and non-fic), I go where the creative joy is. Anything else is a boring slog.

All this said, I write fantasy and science fiction, where fluid structures are appreciated. Romance is much more formulaic. Consider that your muse might be leading you to write a love story, not a by-the-numbers romance. Always, always listen to your heart. Continue reading “Auntie Deborah is Still Giving Writing Advice”

In Troubled Times: Tenaciously Hopeful

I first posted this on January 2, 2017, right after the presidential election. I’m putting it up again as a reminder of how important it is to take care of our mental well-being in troubled times.

Recently, I’ve noticed more articles on staying grounded in joy and hope, even when surrounded by fear. Perhaps such articles have always been part of the general social media discourse and I am only now becoming sufficiently calm to notice them. But I rather think (hope!) this is a trend. In me, it certainly is. After the initial rounds of fear and trepidation, the constant adrenaline wore off. I’m not naturally a person who enjoys being fearful; from my experience training dogs, I suspect it’s not an appealing state for most of us. Some, I suppose, enjoy the “high” of confrontation, even violence, but I’m not among them. Harming others and myself is not where I want to live my life.

I see also posts affirming commitment to action, often in terms of “We Will Fight On!” and I’ve been resisting the urge to jump on that bandwagon. (Also the “Organize the Resistance” brigade.) It all sounds so necessary, a matter of putting my money where my mouth is. And is just as unrealistic for me as remaining in that state of terrified fury.

As unhealthy.

I am not objecting to others following the paths to which they are led. Resisting fascism and protecting the most vulnerable are inarguably vital to our survival as individuals, communities, and a society. I am thrilled that people have the drive and knowledge to organize such resistance. I will be right there, cheering them on. But I won’t be in the forefront.

It’s taken me a long time, coming from a family of dyed-in-the-wool organizers (labor unions, radical politics, war resistance, etc.) to come to terms with not being one of them. Undoubtedly, seeing the cost to my family played a role in my reluctance. I’ve marched in my share of civil rights and anti-war demonstrations, written a gazillion letters, painted an equal number of signs. But it’s not where my heart is. I’ve seen the joy in the eyes of those for whom this is their passion, their “thing.” I want to hug them all and say, “I’m so glad you’re out there, doing this for both of us.”

The fallacy is that making the world a better place is an either/or proposition. Either I’m out there, making headlines by facilitating events of vast numbers for the people’s revolution (as an example), or I’m sitting at home, knitting while Yosemite burns.

The fact is, any social movement happens on many levels. There’s the outward, banner-headline, political level, one that often requires organization on a national or international level. There is a community level, supporting your neighbors, particularly those in need. Soup kitchens are just as necessary as demonstrations outside the White House, although they serve fewer people. Taking care of ourselves and our families is yet another.

Quiet, mindful actions that focus on compassion, justice, and unity need not be limited to small numbers. In fact, outward activism must be balanced by inner activism. We can all find where we are called to act along that spectrum, and we can move back and forth (or in and out, whichever image works best) with circumstances, experience, and energy levels. What a relief to realize I don’t have to pick one thing or level of involvement!

So what speaks to me right now is remembering joy. The year to come is almost certainly going to be full of occasions for grimness if not despair, so I don’t want to start off that way. I want to fill up my “savings account of hope” as much as I can, cultivating those people, places, and things that lift my spirits. I want to never, ever let go of believing we can survive this, kindness and persistence will triumph, and no matter how dark it may seem at the moment, love will win.

I refuse my consent to fascism. I also refuse my consent to despair.

I affirm that I will cling tenaciously – relentlessly – to hope, and I invite you to do so, too.

On Talent

You don’t have to be good.

I don’t mean virtuous here. I do think it’s important for all of us to do the best we can to be that kind of good..

What I’m talking about is talent and ability and the idea that we can’t do things because we’re not good at them.

Of course we can do them. And we can keep doing them even if we never get “good” enough to be a superstar.

I’ll start with self defense. Far too many people — particularly, but not exclusively, women — believe they can’t defend themselves, can’t fight back.

And it’s not true. Everyone can learn some self defense skills. They’re not particularly difficult or complicated.

The best part: you don’t have to be good. If you’re ever actually attacked, a couple of quick strikes and running like hell will serve you very well.

I know, because I’ve done it, and believe me, at the time I was very far from good.

The best part is that learning some skills like that gives you the confidence to stand up for yourself in the more common struggles of life, the ones that involve words and insults and gaslighting.

Knowing that you can fight if you have to means you aren’t likely to have to fight.

Knowing that you don’t have to be the super hero (which only happens in the movies anyway) or even a black belt makes that even easier.

But this applies to more than self defense.  Continue reading “On Talent”

Reasons to write #ownvoice, a bit of personal history

I’ve been thinking about the Jewishness in my fiction. Bettina Burger and I are working on getting a handle on Australian and NZ Jewish speculative fiction, so, this week, the books being discussed are my own.

Firstly, I need to admit (alas) that I don’t think I’m related to Joel Samuel Polack, who wrote in the nineteenth century. Right surname, right religion, right region of the world, wrong family. I’m descended from the Abraham Polack who came to Melbourne in 1858, not the rather more famous one who came to Melbourne in 1824. I think Joel Samuel is from the earlier family. There are other writers in my family, but I’m the only one with this surname.

A subject that comes up a lot in my vicinity is why there aren’t more Australian SFF writers who publicly identify as Jewish. There are so many possible reasons, but I don’t want to give simplified explanations, especially about identity. One thing I do know is that, when I speak before a large audience, I often have Australians (so far no New Zealanders) coming up to me afterwards and admitting they are Jewish and asking, “But don’t tell anyone.” Some give the reason as personal safety, while others give no reason at all. Others identify with Judaism because of Jewish parents and grandparents but are not halachically Jewish and do not wish to claim Jewishness. In other words, it’s a very personal decision. Given the number of Shoah survivor families who are in Australia and given the small number of Jews outside Melbourne and Sydney (and that I am in Canberra) the decision not to be public about one’s identity is an important one.

I have been publicly Jewish my whole life. It’s caused me many problems and lost me many opportunities, but various family members let me know how important it was to them and family culture is important to me. One Moment in my life was when my great-uncle explained to me that if no-one did this, then things would be worse for those who had no option. I was (and possibly still am) very dutiful and was on so many committees and did so much stuff in response to the need for public understanding of Jewishness in order to prevent another mass murder. I was on committees and even gave advice to government Ministers at one point, which is why a chapter of Story Matrices has a letter from a minister saying it was fine to use the material.

Eventually I realised that I was not my great-uncle or my grandmother and that Gillianishly was a proper way of living a life. I finally wrote my Australian Jewish novel. I thought the whole world would change in 2016 because there was finally an Australian Jewish fantasy novel. When The Wizardry of Jewish Women was released, I kept a very close eye on its trajectory within the Jewish community, partly because I have a history of activity in the Jewish community (that family thing!). Not many people noticed. It was world-changing for me, however, and was shortlisted for a Ditmar, and ever since then I’ve worked through my fiction.

Ironically, I’m writing this post on the weekend when Ditmar award nominations are open (see addendum, if you’re curious) and I have another Jewish-themed novel that is eligible (The Green Children Help Out). Given COVID, it’s been more visible elsewhere than Australia, so I’m appreciating the irony of writing about my Jewishness in my fiction at this precise moment.

Sorry about the diversion. Back to Wizardry. I wanted a Jewish Australian #ownvoices novel. There are so many options for Jewish Australian #ownvoices, so I chose one very precise family and had a lot of fun exploring them. I was also reacting to the invisibility of Jewish Australian culture and the misuse of the Jewish fantastic. I still have issues about all these things, and one of these issues is going to be addressed in a story I wrote for Other Covenants, where I brought out my Medieval self to address the significant differences between Christianity and Judaism and that Christian interpretations of stories are not going to be the same as Jewish. But that’s in my future. Today I’m talking about the past.

Most Jewish-Australian speculative fiction writers are, for the most part, first or second generation Australian. They bring with them backgrounds from Europe, Israel, South Africa and the USA. My family arrived in Australia between 1858 and 1918. While much of it is European, one branch is from London.

Given the strength and cultural impositions from the White Australia policy and Federation, that London origin has impacted the family culture. Yiddish and Ladino had not been family languages for over a century until Yiddish was reintroduced into the generation after mine and until I learned to read a bit of (transliterated) Ladino.

Anglo-Australian Judaism is closest to UK Modern Orthodox Judaism in culture and much of the acquisition of Yiddish folkways and even Yiddish words in English came to the family through US popular culture. I have a US Catholic friend who knows far more Yiddish than I do, because she is from New York and Yiddishisms are part of her everyday English. While the family Chanukah tradition included a sung version of Ma’otsur, the Dreidel song was not acquired until the 1990s. I still don’t think of the Dreidel song as very Chanukah-ish. I didn’t react to not being from a well-known type of Jewish culture. I built my world from the inside: I intentionally use my Anglo-Australian Jewishness in my fiction, whether directly in The Wizardry of Jewish Women, or indirectly, for example as satire in Poison and Light. (The Chelm-equivalent jokes in Poison and Light came from my mother’s neighbour, who was from Chelm and who taught me Chelm jokes ie none of these statements are universal – culture is delightfully complicated.)

Older Australian Jewish culture holds very strong family cultures of university education. For my work specifically, this means that the Jewish history I learned through stories and through books in our (very bookish) home was placed in the wider context of Western European histories from my teens. I owe being an historian to being Jewish, I suspect.

While occasional members of my family were Shoah survivors and whole branches of the family were lost to the Holocaust, the young men in my corner of the family were in the Australian and British military (army and air force) during the war, and the most significant loss for those close to me was my mother’s youngest uncle, who was a bomber pilot. When addressing issues of war and loss, my approach is still Jewish (and still replays many issues relating to the Shoah) but deals with these matters from a different angle to the work of most other writers. Where Jane Yolen wrote Briar Rose, for example, I split my sense of what was lost into several parts and addressed some of them in The Time of the Ghosts, some in Poison and Light and others in The Green Children Help Out.

There were emotional and experiential gaps between Australian Holocaust narratives and my family’s experience. These gaps are very Australian in nature. Many survivors came to Australia because it was as far from Europe as it was possible to go. My family had been here for a generation or more when they made that difficult journey. The difference between their experience and my family’s understanding led to a different set of narrative paths. This is not true of all Australian Jews. Mark Baker, for example, writes Shoah narratives based on his own family background. He does not, however, write speculative fiction.

I did a little research about Australian Jewish fiction (in general, and also in YA, and also in historical fiction and in speculative fiction) a few years ago and I was greatly perturbed to discover that novels about the Shoah or Ultra-Orthodox life were acceptable, but that secular Australian Judaism was almost impossible to find in fiction. The only aspect of Jewish folklore or magic that was written about consistently was the golem. This is the main reason I wrote The Wizardry of Jewish Women (2016) and a sequel short story (that was published long before the novel) “Impractical Magic.”

Poison and Light (2020) and Langue[dot]doc 1305 (2014) are examples of my ongoing tendency to include appropriate elements of Jewish history and culture in types of novels where they’re normally entirely neglected. In Poison and Light, Jewish characters (all minor players in the story) have a different response to everyone else when the eighteenth century is re-invented on New Ceres, while Langue[dot]doc 1305 has a minor character whose experience of Judaism is of a kind, again, that’s seldom covered in fiction. The Time of the Ghosts (2015) has a major character who is Jewish and whose personal writing about historical events and her own life again, do not follow the standard stories Australians use when writing Jewish character and culture. The Green Children Help Out (2021), stories in Mountains of the Mind, (2019) and “Why The BridgeBuilders of York Pay No Taxes” (that Other Covenants story) are all set in an alternate universe where England has a significantly higher number of Jews. Once I learned how to start creating fiction with Jewish components, I was unable to stop.

And now you know…

Addendum:

For those of you who want to know about the Ditmars (Australian SFF awards – the Hugo equivalent, really), this is the information that came by email today via Cat Sparks. These are not my words – they’re the official information.

Nominations for the 2022 Australian SF (‘Ditmar’) awards are now open and will remain open until one minute before midnight Canberra time on Sunday, 7th of August, 2022 (ie. 11.59pm, GMT+10).

The current rules, including Award categories can be found at:

https://wiki.sf.org.au/Ditmar_rules

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Conflux 16, the 2022 Australian National SF Convention (https://conflux.org.au/).

Where a nominator may not be known to the Ditmar subcommittee, the nominator should provide the name of someone known to the subcommittee who can vouch for the nominator’s eligibility. Convention attendance or membership of an SF club are among the criteria which qualify a person as ‘active in fandom’, but are not the only qualifying criteria. If in doubt, nominate and mention your qualifying criteria.

You may nominate as many times in as many Award categories as you like, although you may only nominate a particular person, work or achievement once. The Ditmar subcommittee, which is organised under the auspices of the Standing Committee of the Natcon Business Meeting, will rule on situations where eligibility is unclear. A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here:

https://wiki.sf.org.au/2022_Ditmar_eligibility_list

Online nominations are preferred

https://ditmars.sf.org.au/2022/nominations.html

Uncomfortable in Your Comfort Zone

Nobody wants to be uncomfortable. If we all had our druthers, everything would feel just right all the time.

That, of course, is not possible. It wouldn’t be possible in utopia, assuming humans ever manage to develop a utopia. Even in a world where things are fair and systems work, people will still misunderstand each other or fall in love with someone who doesn’t love them back or disagree on the best way to deal with a problem.

Besides, even if we manage to survive and thrive and shift things so that climate change doesn’t do too much harm, the weather’s still going to be awful a good bit of the time.

Plus people are still going to get sick and die. We may figure out how to live longer, but I don’t think immortality is in the cards.

We’re nowhere near utopia at this point, so there’s a lot of discomfort in our world.

Of course, there are things so awful that the word discomfort lacks all meaning: war, other violence, disasters, hunger, brutal authoritarian governments, a whole raft of diseases that could be treated or prevented, but aren’t.

Some of those awful things are happening to people nearby. People are living on the streets – pitching tents on a concrete sidewalk – because they have no place to live. They are sick but can’t afford to go to the doctor. Their kids don’t have enough to eat.

They are worse than uncomfortable, but their presence should make those of us who are getting by very uncomfortable. Continue reading “Uncomfortable in Your Comfort Zone”

Three Stories

There are, I suppose, as many different stories about why and how a woman gets an abortion as there are women.

Here’s one: In the bad old days before Roe, my mother once drove a friend from New York City to a parking lot in New Jersey, where her friend got into a waiting car. Five hours later the car returned, her friend got out (sheet white and trembling, but okay), got in my mother’s car, and they drove back to the city. She went on with her life, with what residual emotion from the experience I don’t know; I do know my mother was deeply shaken by her small part in it.

And another: I remember several girls in college who got pregnant, before and after Roe. After Roe some things were the same: the secrecy, the collections taken up to help defray the cost, the sympathetic pampering when the girl returned to the dorm. But some things were very different: before Roe there was a well of secret knowledge–all I knew was that someone knew someone who knew a real doctor… and the rest of the process was shrouded in mystery, not as dire or scary as my mother’s friend’s experience, but sufficiently clandestine. After Roe, if memory serves, you had to cross the state line to reach a state where the procedure was legal. But there were official resources on campus which could explain and expedite the process. Still expensive, still secret, but without the gloss of criminality which made a bad situation terrifying.

And one more: mine. Continue reading “Three Stories”

Rethinking All the Rules

On the first day of our constitutional law class, a hundred or so of us assembled in a large classroom set up something like a theater, with two long rows of steps down to the platform and podium used by the teacher. It was the beginning of the second semester of our first year and we had survived thus far, so we were cocky enough to be talking noisily.

Then the professor came in: Charles Alan Wright, whose name graced various textbooks, who argued regularly before the Supreme Court, and who was particularly noted at the University of Texas law school for coaching the aggressive intramural football team the Legal Eagles. By the time he reached the front of the room, you could have heard a pin drop.

He looked around at us and then said, in a mild voice, “Would someone please give us the case of Marbury v. Madison?”

Now anyone in that room could have explained Marbury v. Madison. Hell, we learned about it in high school. Plus we were law students, legal nerds by definition.

For those who’ve forgotten high school or who aren’t from the US, it’s the case where Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Supreme Court can weigh in on the constitutionality of laws and actions by other branches of government. It’s a gimme question. Wikipedia has a good explainer on the case.

Yet everyone else in the room breathed a sigh of relief when Mr. Timmons raised his hand and gave the answer. That’s just how intimidated we were by the professor and by the importance of constitutional law.

Here’s the thing, though. The one thing that didn’t occur to any of us was to question whether Marbury was a good idea. I mean, it would have been like questioning the gospels in a Baptist Sunday school.

Professor Wright certainly didn’t raise the point. I doubt he ever questioned it. But after the last few rulings of the current Supreme Court, it’s pretty clear that allowing a group of unelected lifetime political appointees to be the sole arbiters of what’s constitutional is one of many flaws in our system. Continue reading “Rethinking All the Rules”

What’s in a Title?

I was raised informally; the teachers at my (progressive) grade school were addressed by there first names; I called my parents’ friends by the first names as well–no Aunt or Uncle unless they insisted (only one person–my father’s accountant’s wife–insisted). This doesn’t mean I didn’t treat them respectfully, but it does mean that I grew up expecting a certain amount of reciprocal respect. When we moved and I went to a more traditional school, I called the teachers Miss/Mrs/Mr. I did ask once why we didn’t call all the female teachers Ms, and was told without irony it was because they didn’t have that many young unmarried women on staff. Okay then.

I believe people should be called what they want to be called (within reason: if you want to be styled Grand Panjandrum, okay, but don’t expect me to do it without an eyeroll). And until invited to do otherwise I still call doctors “Doctor,” regardless of whether they are MDs, DDS, PhDs, or any of the other long list of doctorate degrees. My father-in-law had a doctorate in Education, and while he didn’t do it often, he occasionally would insist on being “Doctor Caccavo.” Because he By God worked for that degree, and the prerequisite degrees, all while supporting a family.

For what it’s worth, in the UK, up until very recently, some medical doctors were Dr. and some were Miss or Mrs. or Mr.  Allow me to put my Medical History Geek Glasses on: in the Middle Ages there were three classes of medical practitioners: doctors, surgeons, and apothecaries. Doctors were the ones who had studied medicine; they’d gone to school and learned all the theories. They did not lay hands upon the patient except in the most basic way–that was for assistants, or for surgeons. Surgeons were tradesmen: they used their hands, they apprenticed, learned the skills required, and practiced (some cut hair and pulled teeth as well; Sweeney Todd may have been a Demon barber, but he was also expected to be a dentist as well). Even up to the beginning of the 21st century, aspiring surgeons were plain Mister or Ms. until they finished medical school–then were briefly Doctors, until they finished surgical training and passed their exams, at which point they returned to Mister/Ms. again.

Don’t get your knickers in a twist about doctor.  Continue reading “What’s in a Title?”

Shall-Be-Nameless Magazine Review

Every once in a while, I post a review of a magazine. Usually, it’s done something to tick me off and I want to vent. Unreadable print ranks high on my list of no-nos.

For many years, I was a fan of a healthy cooking magazine. It provided me with wonderful recipes and articles about the chemistry of cooking. It changed its name, and I faithfully followed it into new territory. If there were fewer recipes that appealed to me, there were more articles on how food is grown, as well as other aspects of health. A few months ago, that incarnation went belly-up. I received a notification that the remainder of my subscription – all 3 months of it – was being transferred to a general “good living” magazine. I was assured of many healthful, delicious recipes.

The first issue had one, exactly one, article I was interested in (the varieties of lavender bushes).

The current issue is as follows:

The cover features a grinning man wearing huge beads, nail polish, and a tattoo of a cross. He is grinning widely, showing unnaturally white teeth. I’ve never heard of him.

Article 1: A list of “summer fun” events sure to be Covid super-spreaders.

Article 2: “For the dad who has it all”: a collection of gender-stereotyped merchandise I’d never buy for anyone.

Article 3: “Pool party” features blow-up pools large enough to accommodate several adults. In my area, water restrictions forbid filling ordinary, below-ground pools. Don’t the magazine folks realize that some of us are living in drought zones?

A bunch of articles on makeup, with or without SPF. Yawn.

Article 4. A remodeled porch, with many pages of interior decoration porn.

Articles too-many, more interior decoration that would be way beyond my budget even if I could stand to look at it. Chairs designed to give you crippling back pain. Fabric upholstery my cats would love as scratching posts. Wall paint so dark as to create instant depression. Kids’ rooms no self-respecting child would enter.

Article 5. Ah, gardening. Planters with trellises. Nope, nope, nope. Well, maybe, if I wanted to grow only 2 bean plants. Nope, nope, nope.

Articles more-too-many. You’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me style decor, complete with a plaque that says, “You’re a mess.” Yep, you are.

More sure-to-drive-kids-insane decor. More gloom-inspiring wall paint.

Article 6: “Egg bites”???

Article 7: Ah, some actual recipes, beginning with hearty salads. I think maybe I can work with this…until I look at the nutrition information and see sodium levels that start at 500 mg/serving and go upwards of 1,500 mg/serving. In what universe is this healthy??? (The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 mg a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg.) You could get your entire day’s allowance of sodium in just one salad!

Article 8: Cover guy in “Finding Home.” Wearing pajamas, then wearing 1890s-style onesies. Wearing…what is that thing? I’m so uninterested in this person I don’t recognize and who seems bent on warping his spine that I’m anti-interested.

Article 9: Drinks, all of them containing alcohol. Many pages’ worth.

Article 10: Summer gatherings in this family’s garden. Same back-pain-inducing furniture, but the garden looks nice. They have a cute dog. Maybe an outdoor meal might be safe…oh no, now they’re indoors. Still, they look like a nice family.

Article 11: More decor, described as “exuberant patterns and joyful color.” Too busy, too impersonal, too aggressive on the eyeballs. Does anyone actually spend time in these rooms?

Article 12: More salads, these arranged on large platters that look pretty but are designed to make sure (a) ingredients are distributed unequally; (b) there will be unusable leftovers. But I’ll take a look. I like salads. I see 654 mg sodium…1.064 mg sodium…wow, here’s one with only 470 mg. sodium but 42 grams of fat...at least most of it’s unsaturated, but depending on your caloric intake, that could be an entire day’s fat allowance. (See the above-recommended limits on sodium.)

I’ll pass.

After I toss the issue in recycle bin.

There, I feel much better.

Some Thoughts on Education

I went through 19 years of formal education, not counting the one-semester half-day of kindergarten I got – the price of hitting the age of five at the height of the post World War II baby boom.

That’s 12 years of public school, four years of college, and three years of law school.

The only part of that I remember fondly is college. I got my degree in Plan II, which was (and is) the liberal arts honors program at the University of Texas (of course I mean the one in Austin). I was not required to have a major, so I didn’t.

There were classes and teachers I didn’t like, but on the whole my undergraduate education was a wonderful experience of being exposed to things I hadn’t thought about before.

It was a welcome change from high school. It occurs to me that the essay I wrote for my application to Plan II was a very negative critique of my high school experience. For my senior thesis, I also wrote on education, having been influenced by the thinking of my most excellent political science professor, Elliot Zashin, about whom I have written before.

I got to thinking about all this because I read an essay Rebecca Solnit posted on Facebook about how she skipped most of high school. She took the GED at 15, headed off to community college, and then ended up at a four-year school where she at last found the kind of educational experience she was looking for.

It never occurred to me that I could do something like that.

Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Education”