Monday, November 23, 2009

Tag, I'm It

It's Thanksgiving week here in the U.S.A., which means it's time for a little maintenance on The Go-Ahead. (If I have to clean up my home office so it's in decent shape for viewing by holiday guests, I may as well clean up the blog while I'm at it, yes?)

I'll be updating the tags over the next few days, so if things go wonky, you know who to blame. Can't promise my updated tags will be as witty as those on my favorite procrastination website, Go Fug Yourself, which boasts categories such as Fugging Through Verse, Look Into Pants, Illusory Baby Bumps, and the ever-so-popular Various Kardashians, but I'll endeavor to make the tags here at The Go-Ahead more consistent than what's currently in use.

In the meantime, may you all have many, many things for which to be grateful this Thanksgiving.

P.S.: I thought I'd add a fun clip-art photo of a feather duster to today's entry, but when I searched for one online, it brought up Charlize Theron in a horrifying feather dress. Consider me grateful for my laugh of the day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Anyone catch this video on the news?

This is University of New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert. Before I go further: I don't want to pick on Ms. Lambert specifically. She's certainly not the first athlete to behave this way on the field, and sadly, she probably won't be the last. But she did get caught on video, which is what has sparked the intense coverage of her particular case. Well, that and the fact that she's female. I don't agree with those who think when a woman does this, it's somehow worse than when men do it. "Unsportsmanlike" conduct isn't limited to men; violence in sports knows no gender.

Whether the aggressor is male or female, I believe players who act in this manner should be suspended, if not outright banned from their sport. It's no longer a game when one player intentionally throws another to the ground in a way that risks breaking their neck. No one wants to play against a player like that. And frankly, no one wants a player like that on their team. There's a world of difference between being a competitive player (one who works hard to help a team win, which is a good thing) and a violent player.

Now, Ms. Lambert did apologize, stating, "I let my emotions get the best of me in a heated situation. I take full responsibility for my actions and accept any punishment felt necessary."

But--another rant--does an apology like that really make it better? There was no "I'm sorry." Saying those two words (and meaning them) is very different than saying, "I accept responsibility." And again, this isn't just Ms. Lambert. I hear this phrase a lot, both on television from athletes, celebrities, and politicians who've found themselves in hot water, and from run-of-the-mill folks I see in everyday life. It's become a catchphrase for, "I screwed up big time. Now let me off the hook."

Think about it. What does it mean, exactly, that someone "accept(s) responsibility?" It's an admission that someone actually did what they're being accused of (which, in Ms. Lambert's case, is on video, so duh.) And that someone is going to accept whatever punishment is doled out for their actions (and in Ms. Lambert's case, does she have a choice?) But that's not saying you're sorry for your behavior. "I accept responsibility" doesn't mean that you regret the actual action you took, as opposed to regretting the situation in which you've found yourself afterward.

In Ms, Lambert's case, she says that emotions got the best of her in a heated situation. Really? I don't think so. When a player acts that way repeatedly--punching one player, kicking others, then throwing yet another to the ground--it's not a heat-of-the-moment response to some unexpected event that happened in the game (not that that's excusable, either.) When one player strikes out repeatedly, that's a conscious decision. And it's not just Ms. Lambert. It happens all the time.

When did this become okay?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Different Writer, Different Process

There was an interesting article (interesting to writers, anyway) in Friday's Wall Street Journal called How To Write A Great Novel. It's not a true How-To so much as a Here's-How-Others-Have-Done-It.

While I've never written in the bathroom or gotten dressed up as one of my characters, over the years I've found methods that work for me. They're not the same methods that work for others. I know one author who writes all her books while sitting in her bed with her laptop on a foam lap desk. She gets lots of work done this way, but if I tried it, I'd fall asleep. On the other hand, I frequently manage to hammer out sticky plot points while gardening, but a lot of writers I know consider weeding a hellish activity.

The thing is, you only know what works for you by trying different methods, and you can't do that without actually WRITING, which is hard work. Read the article and you'll see what I mean. The gist of the piece is:

1) No one process works for everyone; the writing process is as individual as the author
2) Writing is hard work
3) Writers--yes, even the best--must be willing to revise to be successful, sometimes throwing away big chunks of their hard work in the process

All three are good lessons for any writer.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Teen Fiction 101

I frequently get questions about writing fiction for teens--how to get started, how to find an agent, etc. I have answers to several of these questions on the Frequently Asked Questions page of my website. (And if there's a writing question I've missed, e-mail me and let me know. I update the FAQ page regularly!)

However, if you're working on a project and are looking for something more in-depth than what's on the FAQ page, I'm teaching a class starting TOMORROW via It runs the entire month of November and will be conducted exclusively online. I post lectures twice a week, so you can go at your own pace (in other words, if this month is tough for you, you can download it now and wait to read everything in January!) There's a more detailed description of my class--and many other writing classes--on the website. Registration is there, too.

Hope to see some of you there!