Oct 022014

face1aAm I a “Writer” (with a capital “W”)? No, I am not.

I had business cards made up quite some time ago. They show my name, they say “Writer” and show my two blogs, an email address and a phone number. These cards embarrass me now. I would never get cards that say “Lawyer” or “Architect” – why was it OK to get ones that say “Writer” ?

There are those who say that anyone that writes is a “Writer.” That’s bull. That’s the same mindset that says everyone should get a trophy just for showing up. It’s poisonous and devalues the discipline, effort and persistence in achieving a title.  Being a “Writer” should mean something.

What does being a “Writer” mean? Do I have to have academic credentials? Do I have to be published? Does self-publishing count?

I don’t think academic credentials are necessary. There are lots of authors I call “Writers” that do not have degrees in literature or MFAs. In fact, I think the MFA mania has led many to call themselves “Writers” when they are not.

I think if you’ve been published, in paper especially, by a “real” publisher (the definition of that will have to wait for another post), you are in the club. You are a “Writer.” You’ve been through a vetting process, a process that is quite selective. Many apply; few are chosen. Most who have the courage to submit and are chosen probably deserve the title. They may order business cards.

Do those who self-publish deserve the title “Writer”? Perhaps the few who have received good reviews from established, competent critics (definitions, definitions…) and have also obtained readers will be accepted into the chosen few. But, sales alone don’t really get you the title: “Writer” (with a capital “W”).

More important than the external signs are the things we cannot see. How many writers (with a small “w”) spend hours at the keyboard, or with pen in hand? How many revise and revise until they get it perfect? How many pore over the thesaurus and dictionary to find just the perfect word? How many actually do the work of a “Writer”? Lawyers, architects – these professions have rigorous entry barriers. The practice of these professions is difficult, requiring discipline and study to keep up with the latest. There’s a difference between these professions and writing (with a small “w”).

So, I need new business cards. What should we call people like me? I’ve written a story or two that people have said they liked. I’ve had a blog post or two that people have said made an impact. But, I’ve never submitted to a publisher, put myself through the evaluation process. I don’t spend hours at the keyboard. I will dash stuff off with no revision – sometimes I barely proofread it – and put it out for the world to bask in my brilliance! What should I put on the new cards? Hack? Pretentious Wanna-Be? Blogger? Writing Hobbyist? writer (with a small “w”)? I’m not sure yet, but I’ll start using the back of the old cards for shopping lists.

Oct 012014
Getting ready to buckle down to work! I have everything I need right in front of me.

Getting ready to buckle down to work! I have everything I need right in front of me.

Haven’t you always wanted a space of your own to write? If so, go check out the space at Water Street Studios. Contact wssfacilities@gmail.com for more information. (Note: the Jack Daniels is MINE – not included with the space!)

Sep 262014

DSCN0250It’s really difficult to be the voice of doom and gloom today. The weather is perfect. Nothing hurts: hands, knees, head all feel fine. Business is good. I’m sitting in a coffee shop looking out on busy Wilson Street and nobody is doing anything stupid. People walking by stop to chat and laugh. I have absolutely no reason to whine or even be cynical. It feels odd.

Sep 112014

face1aI saw a headline in the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, September 9th. The headline said: “Majority of millennials’ pocketbooks lack plastic.” My first thought was: good for them. Maybe that generation will avoid the depths of a financial crisis  like the one spawned by the baby boomer generation. But the article itself had a very different tone.

“The responsible use of credit cards is one of the easiest ways to build a strong credit score, which is essential (my emphasis) for qualifying for insurance policies, auto and mortgage loans, and sometimes even a job.”

Paying cash, which used to be a sign of responsibility, is now a risky lifestyle choice. How did it come to this? What does the credit score really mean? It means we are good little consumers. We take on an appropriate amount of debt by borrowing the “right” amount of money to buy crap we probably do not need. It’s more a report card on your consumption efforts than a report card on how financially responsible you are.

According to the article, business is using it in ways that will penalize those who eschew credit. If your insurance company, or employer, finds you do not have a credit score  – that is as much a red flag as a poor credit score. That’s too bad. I always thought you should use credit only when necessary. I always thought paying cash was more financially responsible. Guess I’m wrong by today’s standards.

Aug 052014

Last year, or maybe the year before (time moves so fast now), I took a game development course at our local community college. I had a blast. We used software called Gamemaker in the class. It was inexpensive and made it incredibly easy to put together a simple game. Now, one or two years later, Gamemaker is more expensive, more complex and far more capable. I lost interest though, until yesterday. I don’t know what possessed me, but I decided to try and create a lunar lander type game. I used to love lunar lander. The time flew! I spent hours on this silly game yesterday and enjoyed every second of it, even the frustrating parts. It’s a pretty simple game, and as you can see from the screen shot below, not particularly striking graphically (most of you know I’m color challenged and can’t draw to save my life, so most of my games will probably be black and white – simple shapes). But, it works. And, it’s surprisingly difficult to land the thing correctly. Now I’m thinking of ways to make it even harder. I might add wind (I know – no wind on the moon, but it’s my game and I can do what I want).

Lunar Lander Screen

Lunar Lander Screen

I did another version, just swapping out the simple graphics for clipart to liven it up a tad. Hence, the Happy Bees version of my lunar lander.

Happy Bees Version

Happy Bees Version

I wish I were smarter, but I’ll get there if I keep making these with more features, more complexity. At least I’ll keep trying as long as the time flies like it did yesterday.

Aug 022014
Jul 302014

PalmSpringsCoverDeliveryman: Palm Springs is a short story about a world where government has been downsized out of existence. The United States is a loosely run confederation of regional corporate entities. Dylan drives a truck through both well-run and lawless regions from his base in the Great Lakes. He meets Maura, a mysterious and dangerous woman who needs transport – anywhere, fast. Dylan takes her to Palm Springs and finds out some cargo might not be worth the money.

If you like my short story, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell me. I have a lot to learn yet.

Jul 282014

I have always wanted to visit the Chesapeake Bay. Check. Done.