Rants and Raves

November 25, 2014

Like most people, I was not surprised by the Ferguson decision.  I have done considerable research on race relations for my novels and have learned that there are not any ‘good old days’ as far as people of color in our society are concerned.  It is perhaps the biggest travesty ever that we continue to evaluate people by their looks, whatever their looks might be.

For a number of years when I first became involved with the powwow  circuit, there were a lot of snide remarks about the exact shade of an individuals skin, especially here in Louisiana. Too white was a wannabe, but too black was even more scary, and this in a society that is the epitome of mixed bloods.  Gerald Vizenor wrote a very sarcastic commentary on this problem in Earth Divers: A Tribal Narrative of Mixed Descent.

On individual bases, I find that friendship crosses color, race, ethnic (yes they are not the same thing), religious, gender and every other line. The human spirit is vast in its ability to grasp another’s.  That we as people relinquish that fundamental gift is a travesty.  We can’t avoid differences by pretending they don’t exist, they do and we cannot help but notice physical differences.  But we are better than that.  We should embrace differences as an opportunity to become more knowledgeable,  more compassionate and all round better humans.

I have prejudices.  I would be lying to myself if I tried to deny it, but I have worked on them over the years.  I have seen my enemy and it is me.  It’s just like facing every other frightening thing we have to face, like getting older perhaps, but it does not go away because we avoid the truth.

Face your own prejudices and do battle.  You may not have a decisive victory, but you will make progress.  How many people have been murdered smiling at someone?

September 26, 2014

Being unemployed is a little humiliating but also rather freeing.  I can walk dogs, work in the garden, run errands, do almost everything on my own schedule.  But, I’m not technically unemployed.  I’m not currently being paid for it, but I am writing, and I make myself work at it, so that is a job of sorts.

I know that a lot of friends are disappointed with my first book but I have no apologies.  I don’t read that sort of book myself.  I like stories most that have strong female characters, but women do not always have that option.  I was very much moved by Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening,” because I have always suspected, being poor most of my life, that somehow being wealthy would solve most of my problems.  Most of the women who commit suicide in novels are not poor.

Although I have not considered suicide, I have considered homicide.  I want to see how this all works out.  I’m truly sorry that the heroine of Deconstructing Tara did not live to see how it works out because the villain (I consider him a villain) dies and she could continue to live.  I think the lesson therein is that one should not force oneself into too small a box.  If all you can be is one thing, you are left with nothing when that one thing disappears, as things are wont to do.  Looks fade for the most part unless one is Sophia Loren, and sometimes talents do and very frequently employments do.  If we define ourselves by the house we live in or the car we drive or the dog we walk or the clothes we wear or any number of other tangible attributes, we put ourselves into increasingly smaller boxes.  I have claustrophobia.

On the other hand, like the main characters in my third book, When Lilacs Last Bloomed on the Lake, I am very suspicious of wealth and perhaps that is one of the reasons I have never obtained it.  Really, there is nothing more honorable about being poor than there is about being rich.

August 4, 2014

Automobile Insurance

I got the renewal policy from Hartford through AARP (cancel my membership) and my monthly premium increased from about $70 per month to almost $85.    I’m an unemployed writer!!  I checked around and got the same policy from Geico for about $50 per month.  WTF.  It’s a sad state of affairs when one has to spend one’s own time seeking “services.”  What is anyone getting paid for?  I’m really pissed.  But glad to save a few cents.  Will buy more bird seed or maybe a bottle of wine.

 

Rant for the day.  Please add your comments.

I have a tip for downloading and maybe everyone knows this but me, but bear with me.  I had to get a new computer.  I got a Dell and it had all kinds of stuff already installed, and don’t get me started on Microsoft.  Anyway, once you finish cursing, get a glass of wine, open up your search engine (I use Google Chrome), and then open up your uninstall programs.  This may take a while so if you start a second glass of wine in the meantime, stop and pick it up again later.

Start at the top and anything that you don’t understand type in your search engine What is ratsass.com or whatever it is called and do I need it? and you will find out if you do.  Other people are incredibly more helpful than the manufacturers.  If you don’t need it, look at the date it was installed and uninstall it.  If you are as dumb about this as me DON’T DO IT if there is any question in your mind, but after a while you get a feel for it.  Make sure you don’t uninstall anything you need and will have a hard time getting back.  I uninstalled the audio driver on my laptop and never did get it back.

Hint number two.  Whenever you install anything from the Internet, ALWAYS go into the uninstall and do the same thing for anything  else that was installed on that date.  Things are seldom named what you think they are.  It took forever for me to uninstall systweak that was attached to a relatively innocuous download  Invariably these days there are hangers on to any FREE program that will try to sell you something.  Some of these even get through the various adware and malware blockers.

It’s worth it for me to spend that time.

Adjunct Instructors

I am an adjunct (part time) instructor of English which means for the most part I teach Developmental and English Composition I & II, the only English courses most college students will ever have to take.  I CHOSE to do this because I like to teach what I know, not play at being a teacher.

I had a full time teaching job which meant that I was “vested in the system” and could count on spending at least 50% or more of my time not teaching, that is in committees, going to seminars, advising students about things other than English, etc.  It used to be fun when there was some travel funding for conferences, but that is virtually non-existent now and I have always hated committees.  Couple that with a 2 1/2 hour commute every day in an eighteen year old car with over 200,000 miles and well, you get my drift.

I don’t mind the fact that I will not get retirement.  I certainly don’t mind the fact that I am not hobnobbing with the administration, and I really don’t mind missing the daily commute.

What I do mind is what I read in a recent article and I will have to find it and attach it here, but the fact is that adjuncts are the ONLY teachers paid just to teach and paid very little.  I get $2,000 a class before taxes, etc. and get paid over three months.  That means that the first two months of any semester I don’t have income.  Again, I knew this, that is not the problem.  I am not being paid for attending meetings, continually approving the same old curricula and exams nor for being “vested in the system.”

However, what this article said is that adjuncts teach the majority of early college classes.  Sure, I’ll never get to teach American Indian literature which is my area of expertise and which I would be lucky to teach a class a semester if I were full-time, but I can use some of the stories in the canon to teach writing and that’s ok with me.

What is scary about this is that many of these critical freshman classes are being taught by instructors who often have very little experience, may only be doing it for a little (very little) extra income, but most of all who have ABSOLUTELY NO INPUT on how the students are eventually evaluated.

English is a little fuzzy, but math is math is math.  There are many ways, in fact almost every individual has his or her own way, to tackle the composition process, but math has exact answers.  Lucky students can memorize them, but the others are faced with a text book, often an on-line component and a teacher who has 25 or more students per class.  It’s no wonder so many students flunk out their freshman year.

The university I am currently working for has a standardized exit exam and a student cannot pass with an A if they do not get an A on the exit exam even if all the work they have done in class so far is of exceptional quality.  At least I have something to teach toward.  I may not like it or agree with it, but it is a solid that we can work towards.

I do not want to be “vested” in any system.  That makes them invariably corrupt and unwieldy.  But there are adjuncts, probably the majority of them, who do and if they are teaching the majority of students they should have a say so, at least if we pretend to want to make the system work.

WHY DO WE WRITE?

I write mostly for the sheer joy of it.  I love reading my own writing.  I guess I am a bit of a narcissist.  However the question remains, why do writers write?

When I started college, a way non trad student, my old friend and lover Jim gave me the thumbs up.  I was surprised, but I guess he had mellowed a little too after all these years.

Jim was a journalist, a prize winning journalist and a Vietnam vet, a very critical individual.  Since I had never been to college in all my 50 some years, I guess he felt it necessary to give me some tips.  And one of them really stuck with me.

Academic writing is not reportage.  Reportage is not just entertainment. Each piece of writing has a different purpose and an individual audience.  To news reporters who constantly are after the five W’s and how, academic writing can seem stilted and creative writing unnecessarily wordy.  In the world today where reportage must, it seems, be entertaining as well as informative, these differences might seem vague, but they are there nonetheless.

As a writer, I work at my craft.  I write every day and I have set up a work schedule for myself.  Marketing is not writing but is necessary, thus today’s writer has more than one job.  If one takes time out of the writing to market, the writing suffers.

I was at a conference at Southeastern Oklahoma University and the key note speakers were Winona LaDuke and Buffy Sainte Marie.  Buffy didn’t sing but talked about her life and her Cradleboard project.  She said that Indians always have to give 200%.

I don’t write for an Indian audience, but much of my life experience has been with relationship to Indian people and I can’t erase that influence.  I am also a woman and much of my life experience has to do with that.  I am not, nor could I be, nor would I even care to be Ernest Hemingway.

We can only write as truly as possible, using whatever voice comes at the time.  The muses are often fickle but if we don’t listen to their calling, we are poorer.

I am attaching one of my favorite essays, “Why I Write” by George Orwell because he so so very honest.

why I write

Jeanne

 

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This girl who is me