Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction Writing’ Category

Ready. Set. Go.

January 2, 2012

“Hopscotch” © R.L. Herron

I made a resolution (sort of) to write in my blog every day in the new year. Here it is the second day of 2012 and I’ve already failed.

I didn’t miss by much, but this is my first official blog post of the new year so my batting average has already dropped to .500. There’s absolutely no way now to bring it to 1.000.

Looking at a brand new year stretched out in front of you this way certainly makes it seem daunting.

Does that mean I’m abandoning the effort? Of course not. I can still shoot for a respectable finish. Like most other large projects, it often takes breaking it into pieces to make it seem less intimidating.

Even the most organized-seeming among us have moments when they try to see too far ahead. Moments the most well-educated guess of what’s-to-come misses the target entirely. What do you do when that happens?

If you’re good at what you do, you pick things up, toss the stone again and shoot for the next square down the line. Simple as that.

The goal may not move, but the path to it often does. In the world of business, or just the game of life, you need to learn that and play the game accordingly.

I’m getting ready to e-publish some of my creative work. I have been for months.

Yet, I’ve hesitated for weeks as I waged a war in my head over publishing it in that way instead of following some of the more “normal” publishing avenues.

Then it occurred to me. What’s normal any more?

I remember, not that long ago, when many people (myself included) declared digital photography would never replace film … but it did.

Even more recently, another ill-informed prognostication – electronic readers will never replace books – was on the tongue of many well-meaning mystics. I myself couldn’t see giving up any of my beloved hardcover tomes for an e-Book.

But I did.

Oh sure, I was reluctant at first. I was going to be away from home for six weeks and knew I could not carry enough reading material to keep me occupied, so I bought my first Kindle. To get me through this inconvenience, I told myself.

Then I discovered this new way of reading was every bit as satisfying, much more efficient and a damned sight more convenient. The signs are all there.

Libraries are hurting for funding (I do find that distressing). A major bookstore chain has folded. The largest bookseller on the planet is Amazon, and a significant percentage of the content they sell is digital. Who am I to say it ain’t ever gonna happen.

Particularly since it already has.

I need to quit procrastinating and get my stories and books online before the next wave of change, whatever it may be, rolls over us all and I have to start thinking about it all over again.


New Year…Again

December 30, 2011

“Patterns” © R.L. Herron

I’ve probably used this image before. It looks familiar, but so do my New Year resolutions.

When I looked at last year’s list to gather hints for this year, I realized most of my 2011 resolutions are not yet done.

Sigh. Did I really think they would be?

Well … yeah, I did. That’s why I made them.

Looks like I’ll have to make them again. I’m not sure why I keep doing this to myself. Is it because other people expect it, or because I do?

My lovely bride is after me again to shed some pounds. She’s even solicited help from my white-haired mother. Oh, she’ll deny it, but the two of them have a similar mantra.

Coincidence? I think not.

I have to admit, it’s a resolution I would enjoy keeping – except for the work and exercise part. And the forgoing of fried food. Or cookies and cake. And the occasional beer or other alcoholic beverage.

Then there’s my writing.

I did do a lot more of that in 2011. Not here, of course. But I did it. One of my poems “Woodland Avenue” was actually published in a respected online journal, Slow Trains.

I have almost 67,000 words written on my novel. Another 10-15 thousand or so and I’ll be ready to edit. I also have a collection of short stories that is now up to 36,000 words.

Nothing published yet, so that’s still a to do.

I’ve submitted poetry and short stories to about a dozen venues this year. Nothing accepted yet, so I have to re-submit elsewhere in 2012. Plus, I participate in an online writer’s forum every day.

Seems like a lot. So why doesn’t it feel satisfying?

Oh, I attended the Rochester Writer’s Forum again this year, so I can check that one off. Why are you smiling?

Almost forgot, I traced my family lineage back to 1617 in Ireland (I always thought before I was German). My first paternal ancestor landed in Virginia, in 1635. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

I meant to do some traveling, and I have. We spent about 11-12 weeks of this year in Florida, with the grandkids. Maybe next year we’ll go somewhere just for the two of us.

There was also something I know I said about avoiding political commentary. It’s hard in such an overtly political climate.

I’ve managed to keep most of my friends, so I must be doing all right on that score.

Then again, maybe not. There’s a group of us who said we’d meet for lunch once every quarter, and we’ve only met twice. I don’t see us getting in the other two meetings tomorrow.

So, for 2012, I guess I’ll just polish off last year’s list (changing all the 2011 headings to 2012, of course), and try it all again.

Maybe next year I’ll find a publisher, or at least gather enough cohonies to e-publish something myself. Maybe next year I’ll avoid political disagreements altogether (I can already see this one failing).

Perhaps I’ll even do a little traveling and get together with all my old friends. Next year. Why does that sound so damn familiar?

Maybe I’ll finally get around to my original “Blog365” idea, with a short piece of writing every day.

Whoa…wait a minute. Next year is a leap year. There’s 366 days in it. Damn. There goes that idea, too.

Take care, my friends. Happy New Year.

Clouds of Diversion

September 19, 2011

“The Storm” © R.L. Herron

Recently, while visiting my grandchildren in Florida, I came across an interesting article in the local paper. Actually, interesting isn’t the right word. Disgusting is more like it.

The Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott, pushed through an initiative in that state’s legislature to require drug testing for welfare applicants. It took effect in July.

It mandates that all new welfare applicants must go to a state-approved list of screening companies when they apply for assistance and pay money they can ill afford, up front, for a drug test. If the test comes back negative, they receive the assistance they applied for and the state reimburses them the testing cost.

I know a lot of you are saying, so what?

Well, given the condition of the economy, the mandate is churning out 2,000 urine tests for new applicants each month. The State of Florida maintains this won’t increase their budget, because they’re “absorbing those reimbursement costs in the block grant.”

In other words, they’re using Federal tax money, allocated to them to provide real assistance to the poor, to pay a testing company.

“The program was designed,” said Florida State Representative Jimmie Smith (also a Republican) who sponsored the bill in the Florida State House, “to keep public money from being wasted on people using it to buy drugs.”

This is for a program that pays a maximum of $180 per month per family of four.

By the way, have you tried recently to feed, cloth and house a family, of any size, for $180 a month? I’m sure the meager assistance helps, but it doesn’t go far.

The interesting thing? They have discovered the “scourge” of poor people using drugs is far from a scourge.

In fact, the numbers show that people on government assistance don’t use drugs any more than anyone else. They may even be using them less. Almost 98% of all tests are negative.

So, the net effect of those transfer payments is a very large chunk of Federal money (nearly three-quarters of a million dollars, so far) which is supposed to provide much-needed assistance to the poor, has now been diverted to the coffers of private for-profit companies.

This is where “disgusting” comes in.

When asked about this, Rep. Smith replied, “My goal is to make sure our tax dollars go where they’re supposed to go.”

I see. Let me make certain I have this straight:

  • The Republican-led government of Florida believes poor people, simply because they are poor, are very likely to use drugs;
  • Therefore, the Florida government takes Federal funds intended to help the poorest of the poor and gives those funds instead to for-profit businesses;
  • Florida legislators have taken almost $750,000 – so far – that could, and rightfully should, provide assistance for a whole year to almost 350 families living far below the poverty level;
  • They spend it instead to catch the two percent of welfare assistance applicants who might be using drugs;
  • By their own statistics, they are thereby saving the taxpayers of Florida a whopping total of $14,000 annually.

Spend $750,000 to save $14,000? This is helping?

Gosh, Representative Smith and Governor Scott must be so proud. The sound bites on TV make them seem so concerned about the misuse and fraud perpetrated by the poor.

Unfortunately, their rhetoric is a diversion from the real issue, their own gross mismanagement. It sounds like the typical mantra of prejudice and bigotry we hear all too often lately from our public officials on the conservative side of the aisle.

Their words are meant to disguise their own ill-conceived, crude and sterotyped perceptions, as well as mask their inept handling of our tax dollars.

I can almost hear them: Take it from the poor, baby, they can’t fight back. Don’t worry about the “cattle” in the general populace, they’ll believe anything if you tell it to them long enough.

I’m almost sorry I read the paper.

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