All posts by Arley Sorg

A Call to Kindness – Not because “’tis the season”…

A Call to Kindness – Not because “’tis the season” or for any aphorism, maxim, or particular moral code. I raise a call for kindness because kindness is needed.

As many quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”; but let me make this more direct, more personal.

For me, holidays have always been really tough. And this has been an exceptionally terrible year. As the holiday weekend draws closer, this chasm of pain tears open in my chest.

Holidays have a way of creating expectations, shifting norms, and exaggerating in our own minds how far from what we want we really are. For example, we are supposed to be with family for the holiday, that is the expectation. We see an image of a happy family and it serves as a sharp reminder of what we don’t have.

I went to a party where someone, joking, laughed about what would be the most pathetic holiday, and that individual described almost exactly what my holiday will be.

Let me be clear about this: I don’t want (or need) your pity, or even your expressions of concern. Please don’t send them my way.

I want you to spend your kindness on others.

In living in these moments of pain, I realized that there are others similar to me, as well as those who suffer similar circumstances with even harder emotional results.

Truth is, I’ll get through it, I’ll come out the other end. But not everyone will. Some will barely be able to get through it; and others, not at all. People can smile and you think you know them, or you think you can read what they are feeling, but you really never know who may be suffering and to what degree.

I also realized that there are more yet who have it far, far worse than I do. I’m fed, I have a job, I have people I can call upon if I really need it.

There are people who’ve made their choices and ended up in bad places, as well as those who ended up in bad places despite trying the best they could; worse, there are a whole lot of people who are victims of the decisions others have made.

So this is my Call to Kindness, and I hope a few of you will listen.

Dwell in those things that bring you joy. Live in those moments of happiness: family, friends, the people you love, good food, a new job or promotion, your cat, dog, or whatever, a story acceptance, something accomplished that excites you, whatever those things are that bring you happiness.

Let that joy be the fuel for your kindness.

Let go of petty grievances, of irritations, of the urge to lash back at an insult or slight. Let go of greed, or the need to shine brighter at the expense of someone else.

Let your joy give you the strength to be kind; and give that kindness to everyone.

We exist in cooperation. We live and grow and improve through our combined efforts.

Set your phasers to “hug.” Put on an honest smile. Your kindness transforms personal joy into a gift for everyone.

Thanks for reading, and happy everything you are.

— A

The Loveliness of the Locus Awards Weekend

A Glance at the Locus Awards

(p.s. Disclaimer at the End)

1) The Recommended Reading List

I love to read. I think reading is lovely.

Others who love to read usually love to tell me what I should be reading.

After I started going to conventions, in short time, I had grown a very long reading list composed primarily of titles other people dubbed good.

I realized I needed a filter. I wasn’t going to get through all those books. Frankly, everyone has stuff they like, but I knew there was no guarantee that I’d like what they like.

There are many types of filters and many ways to apply them. But when I found out about the process for the Locus Recommended Reading List, I thought, yeah, this works.

You’re wondering: “What the hell does the Recommended Reading List have to do with the Locus Awards?”

Just stick with me.

No process is perfect. But the way they generate the Reading List is through democratic and rigorous voting rounds (combined with tedious but thorough research and vetting). The result is a glowing list of titles, a synergy of opinions and passions from people who read far more than I do.

It’s not just one person’s opinion, and nothing can get on it solely by the power of one person’s influence.

The Recommended Reading List comprises the bulk of the ballot for the Locus Awards.

But note that anyone can write in anything on the Locus Awards ballot; and anyone can vote. If you love fiction, get involved next year.

2) The Ballot

It was exciting to be a part of history, despite knowing that no one knows my name, that no one will remember me, and that my relevance is such that my contributions to the process could be made by nearly anyone else!

But… still! I mean, I posted the frickin’ Locus Awards on the Locus website! I mean, me. How cool is that?

Anyways, no process is perfect but I have a lot of respect for this process, and for the people who put work and thought into seeing it through.

In awards, there is no flawless ballot. Just because one person really likes and believes in a particular title, that never means everyone else will. Any title that has proponents will also have those that feel it’s not “award worthy.”

In the Recommended Reading List process, there are titles that were put forward but didn’t get far. There are titles that made it through a round or two of votes but didn’t get to the end. Maybe your favorite almost made it, who knows.

BUT: there were no conspiracies, no meetings, no cabals, no “arrangements,” no payments for votes, no “universal truths”, no struggles for control. No one got on just because of who they are/ were or who they know or their political stance.

The only way to make it onto the actual ballot is for multiple voters to stand by it again and again, and for multiple other voters to agree. It’s kind of like a big, beautiful conversation in a small room filled with really smart people, where someone shouted, “Hey! What was your favorite novel out last year? No one leaves until you come up with a Top 5!”

3) The Weekend

So… I got to have dinner with Connie Willis! ‘Nuff said.

Ok, there is more. But Connie is pretty awesome in my opinion. I say this from spending some time with her over the Locus Awards Weekend.

I’m fairly new to the convention scene. For me, The Locus Awards Weekend is kind of different, sort of a “con-light”; or maybe it’s more like a casual party for industry people.
Yes, there are a couple of panels. But really, it’s a place where folks are easy-going, relaxed, and there to socialize. There are lots of opportunities to meet people and lots of time to mingle and hang out.

You can have an actual conversation with someone. I had several!

What shocked me the most: the entire thing is put on (primarily) by two people.

There are bits and pieces where other people help out, not to mention the incredible work done by the hotel staff, and of course Connie’s awesomeness.

But the bulk of it is the work of two Locus folks–people who work very, very hard and stress-out very, very much, just to get everything together and running (for folks who have no idea how hard those two people are working).

But that’s kind of the Locus way. Most have no idea what it’s like behind the scenes.

The staff works really hard to get it right. No one in life will get it right every single time, but Locus people try hard anyways.

Much of the work of the Awards Weekend happens before the Weekend. It’s a small staff, and they get it done while juggling a number of other tasks, including the pressurized tasks of Deadline, all while bringing together the parts that make up the Awards Weekend.

Side note — I’ve personally seen folks jump to all kinds of conclusions about what goes on (and why it goes on) at the Locus office. I’ve seen people get upset over various sorts of things, so this is my testimony: if you saw something and got upset about it, and made some kind of assumption, you… well… you were probably wrong….

Assumptions. Sigh. I would love it if more people would slow down and converse about the things that upset them rather than lashing out. Assume a possibility of exchange and growth rather than assuming terrible causes. Engage in Peace before committing to War.

In any case, I’m getting off track. Point is:

It’s a lot of work to put on (The Awards Weekend), and the people putting it on are doing it more for the love of it than the paycheck.

Do me a favor? If it doesn’t go off without a hitch, give them a break. Trust me when I say they are trying.

Despite the hard, sometimes frantic work, the energy/ vibe of the Weekend is really lovely. There’s a batch of new writers on hand, as well as some less experienced writers, as well as established industry folks, and what results is a wonderful atmosphere derived from people who have similar interests and who came to enjoy themselves.

There is also a feeling of familiarity. Many of the attendees are regulars, or know each other (but without The Con Wall. You know about the Con Wall! That’s when everyone knows each other, making it hard for newcomers to hang out with them. At the Locus Awards, everyone knows each other and they are happy to hang out with new people). I think this lends to the “easy-going” atmosphere. It made me want to be a regular.

I sat in on both writers workshops, which were great, and different enough from each other to learn buckets from both.

As for the Awards ceremony itself: I was told the food would be “edible” but it was actually tasty. It was buffet-style, so I could eat what I wanted, and as much as I wanted, ending with some good chocolate cake.

Connie was funny and entertaining. Some parts of the Awards ceremony were really touching. I “live tweeted” it through the LocusMag account and supplemented through my own Twitter feed. I did the best I could (as a somewhat novice Twitter user; and given that Tweeting the Awards is pretty new to Locus) while trying not to clutter up the Twitterverse.

It’s tough because the ceremony doesn’t follow a strict schedule. I mean, Connie was on stage, and she’s really great! I wasn’t going up there to tell her wrap it up! Nor did I want to.

After the Awards were over, I had that bittersweet feeling that I sometimes have at the end of a convention, where I wish it wasn’t over, but where I’m also tired and ready to go home.

4) Who cares? Who the F&$@ cares???

You should.

No, seriously.

And there are probably a few other things you should care about, too.

There is so much drama in this world, and specifically, in our world, the world of genre, that I think those things remaining which shine as positive, fun, and lovely, should be preserved, supported, and continued.

Lovely things should be known, enjoyed, and shared.

That’s why I’m sharing this stuff with anyone who cares to read it.

I entreat you all to have fun! To enjoy things! To be lovely and positive! To create, to support, and to preserve things that are thus.

Be kind to each other and help build a better community.

Cheers! And thanks for reading.

— Arley

Disclaimer time:
These are just my opinions. This post is not authorized by Locus, nor does it represent the opinions or ideas of Locus. It was not authorized or approved by Locus or its editors. In fact, I’m posting it without them even knowing. Maybe I’ll get a smack on the head. Who knows? Point is: these are nothing more than my own thoughts.

The Odyssey 6 Week Writing Workshop

I recently graduated from the Odyssey 6 Week Writing Workshop (Woohoo! 2014 ya’ll!)

Let me tell you a little about the experience!

Most likely, you think you know something about writing.

Perhaps you have moments where you glide on the hot winds of elation, followed by crashes into complex canyons of doubt.

Whether you scribble stories into a secret notebook, or have published work that readers and writers praise, or anything in-between or beyond, you probably have more to learn than you think.

Let me start with the director, Jeanne Cavelos.

Being someone that isn’t generally concerned with “credentials,” I didn’t research her too much. Besides, everyone will try to impress you with their pitch, right?

In an actual classroom at an actual college, I glanced at the clock. Anticipation raced through my limbs, despite some skepticism. I wondered if I would really learn anything.

Then Jeanne started her lectures.

What struck me first was her passion, commitment, and investment. Not just for the success of her program, but for the people who had gathered to learn from her.

By the end of Week 1, I was surprised by how thorough the material was. I was shocked by how much I had learned. I was disturbed by how much I hadn’t actually known. I was upended! Even elements I’d thought I’d grasped were expanded or deconstructed, their truths exposed.

Why be shocked? She has focused for years: studying, understanding, teaching, and writing. If you haven’t been doing the same, to the same degree and depth, then I’ll bet she can show you things you didn’t know.

Each week we covered a new set of topics. I learned every day. Participation and questions were encouraged, as well as challenging ourselves. Sometimes, students would glance at each other across the classroom, their expressions saying it all: What? Are you serious? This is crazy…! Followed by frantic note-taking.

Details: hours of class in the morning. Daily critique circles, with a mix of private and group critiques. Journal assignments based on recent lectures, encouraging us to experiment, to sample techniques, to stretch ourselves. Guests lectures, with more private and group critiques: Steve and Melanie Tem, Cat Valente, Elizabeth Hand, Alex Jablokov, Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner, Gordon Van Gelder. A trip to Readercon.

One-on-one meetings with Jeanne personalized things even more, taking learning to yet another level. Early in the program, she examined three of our stories, and put a spotlight on five consistent strengths and five consistent weaknesses. We discussed these aspects and made a pact. We had follow-up meetings to examine progress, and to revise strategies for improvement. We came back to these ideas during critiques.

Besides this, Jeanne makes herself available. There were lunches, hallway talks, cookouts, and so on. She joked with us, she laughed with us, and any time we wanted to switch the conversation back to what we were working on, worried about, or excited for, she was ready to engage us. Not just ready: eager, excited. She spends more time than you would believe on both the program and her students.

The course is structured, detailed, and thorough. We started weeks before we arrived, with readings and writing assignments. We had a syllabus and a schedule for story submissions. We had resources to get ourselves ready. Throughout the course, we had practice, discussions, and games. I even won a cute, furry little alien thing at one of the cookouts! By the end, our brains were stuffed.

So, that’s Jeanne, and that’s the program. Now, let me tell you (briefly) about the students.

There is something magical about spending all day and all night surrounded by writers. If you have never experienced this, you won’t quite understand. Remembering this part makes me emotional and nostalgic.

We all love writing. Just try to imagine being around people who love the same things you love. Folks who geek out at taking apart and analyzing a sentence, who are excited to hear about your story, who can’t wait to go back over notes and talk about the lecture. People who appreciate your opinions and perspectives. Imagine doing what you love, and everyone around you getting why you love it, because they feel the same way.

Jeanne had one more ally: Olivia Do. Olivia worked as Jeanne’s “Evil Assistant.” A graduate from a prior class, Olivia lived in the dorms with us. She was ever-present and always available. She was genuine and helpful. She gave us an ear for venting, a sounding board for ideas, or often just spent time hanging out with us. She drove us to the grocery store, she checked up on us, while helping to keep the program’s gears running behind the scenes. She was absolutely great.

No amount of research or conversation will really explain what this program is or does. I can list a few of the MANY topics covered, such as: Originality and Genre, the Pleasures of Fiction, the Potential and Problems of Setting; not to mention the last week, focused on markets and publishing. I can talk about the insanely deep, insightful, and helpful critiques Jeanne gives. I can tell you about how my understanding has improved, of writing, critiquing, reading, and the industry in general. I can even tell you about the friends I made. Or maybe about the thousands upon thousands of words of notes we took.

It all adds up to this: if you haven’t gone, you should go.

And if you’ve already gone, why are you still reading this? You know better. Get back to your writing!

LOVE in the Age of Depression: 7 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Happy

This post is for:

*Family, Friends or Lovers*
of people that struggle with Depression.

Depression can be confusing and difficult for everyone.
You might be at a loss as to what to do. Not to mention that likely, nothing you do seems to help.

There is no single idea or method that works for everybody.
Ultimately, if these ideas (or any others) don’t work: try something else.

I hope that people who don’t have depression, but who care about someone who does, will find this post useful.

These are just my opinions.
Check with your loved one and ask them what they need: communication solves many problems.

First!

Depression can have many causes.
There are chemical and psychological elements. Depending on the individual, it could be either (or both). There are issues of habits, self-perception, associations, and a host of other things. Just as no two people are carbon copies of each other, no two depressed people will have exactly the same problems.

Sometimes there are similarities… but
what helps one person may not have any impact on another.

Unfortunately, if someone struggles with Depression (as in “D” in caps) there is no “overnight cure.” Even if things are fine for your loved one in the morning, that night things might be… not so great.

*In other words, most likely, this is something that will be present and relevant over a long period of time.

*Often things that are helpful take time to have any meaningful impact.

*Both of these notions mean: Don’t give up! Keep trying!

*TIPS*

1) “It’s not you… it’s me.”

No, really. Seriously.

Well, maybe you said something terrible, I don’t know.

Do not take it personally when your loved one falls into their malaise.
Be level, calm.

At least, unless you know it’s personal..!

There can be so many other triggers for Depression — for some people, it can be something small, and things just get out of hand from there.

Often Depression can create hypersensitivity. Maybe something you did got under your loved one’s skin… but really, they were already spiraling to begin with.

Don’t automatically assume that you are to blame.
Try to stay clear-headed, don’t freak out.

2) Be Prepared!

No, really… seriously!

If you sense that your loved one is depressed, but you aren’t ready for a long, tear-filled conversation, think through how you can engage them.

Hopefully you have a fairly solid, honest communication going in general. Yes? No? *Ahem*. Well, work on that one = )

Depression often comes with a great swirling of insecurities. This means your loved one may already feel bad about drawing you in. Or… feel bad for being a downer for the third day in a row. Or… yeah.

It’s great if you’re able and willing to have long talks with your loved one.
It’s better if you do it when you’re up for it.

If you’re not up for it in that moment, my suggestion is to be supportive but set a time, as specific as possible, for when you can talk things through more thoroughly.

Ehh… you don’t have to say “I’m not up for this right now!” and storm out.

Reassure your loved one that you want to listen,
and that you want to be there for them. Setting up a time lets them know you mean it. Show them know you care.

A brief display of sincere caring goes a long way.

3) Don’t break…! Get help!

Again… seriously!

As I said — if we’re talking about real “Depression,” likely it’s happened before, and likely it’s going to happen again. It’s going to keep happening. To be blunt, It could be something that’s always around.

For loved ones, this can be tiresome. You might get to a point where you don’t want to deal with it anymore.

Get your depressed person some additional help.
Not in the moment of depression, but in preparation for the return of “the big D.”

This doesn’t have to be therapy, although it can be. It could be more friends and loved ones. It could be family, or anyone else.

This is tricky, as… well. If someone is dealing with depression, they might not be that social. Even if they are (or even if they are in bursts), they might not like telling people about their depression.

All the same — think of “help” collectively as a rope bridge. The more strands, the more pressure it can take, and the longer it will last. If you are the only rope holding your loved one aloft, you are likely to break sooner.

If your depressed person has five people they can call instead of one, that will make life much easier for both of you.

4) Build Good Habits!

For many, learning how to successfully get through Depression is all about habits.

Some days will be better than others; sometimes there could be great stretches of being “okay.” Only to crash and burn!!!

Always, in the back of your loved one’s mind, the Depression might be lurking, even when they’re “okay.”

Habits can help keep them going,
help them stay focused & productive.

Additionally, your depressed person will probably hate it if all they do with you is talk about their depression…!

I know, right? Tricky!

Find things that you can do with your loved one.

Part A of this could be: figuring out some of the triggers that throw your loved person into the Pit; or the ideas they use to keep themselves there. Common examples are weight, insecurities, desires or things they do that they themselves don’t like, feeling lazy/ unmotivated, and so on.

Take something negative and turn it into something they can transform, especially if it’s something you can do together. Generally speaking, habits are more easily formed if they are done on a regular basis, and if they are done with other people.

Celebrate together — and celebration will help make it a habit. Utilize something that will bolster the ego/ sense of accomplishment/ self.

Exercise can be a good one, or taking up an activity, like writing or photography, reading, learning a language, cooking. Taking walks, exploring new places, travel.

It won’t always work.
As a loved one, you have to know that.

This is okay. It’s not about “curing” or “fixing” anyone.
Rather, it’s about making things a little bit better, and consistently so.

5) Hone your Listening Skills

I… HATE… when people just aren’t listening!

You can often tell when it happens.

Listening does not equal offering advice.

Sometimes, the most important aspect of a “conversation” is letting the depressed person release all the terrible sadness they have locked inside.

A little bit of sincere encouragement or sensitive and positive reinforcement goes much farther than anything starting with the words “you should.”

Additionally, if your depressed loved one tells you what’s bothering them, and you are unable to pretty much sum it up, you’re probably spacing out and they just might notice. THEN you will have more problems on the pile!

This doesn’t mean you have to understand everything, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything, nor do you even have to empathize with everything.

You just need to listen.

Listen.

Just. Listen.

Sometimes, asking a clarifying question or two can be good. Then, at the end, make sure they know you love them, and that you mean it.

Trust me when I say, ultimately, depending on your person, there’s a pretty good chance that they don’t believe you. Maybe they believe no one loves them. That’s not necessarily your fault; and yeah… you just went over all of this a few days ago *sigh*.

BUT you should keep it all in mind, and give convincing them a reasonable shot. Yep. Again.

6) Find Solutions That Work! Carefully!

There actually could be an “answer,” depending on what’s going on, at least to the present situation.

For example, maybe your loved one *GOT FIRED!!!* This sucks. And… talk about a trigger!

Okay. This might be good, actually.

So – loved one spirals down, down, down into one of the various Pits of Depression.

You sit. You have “the talk.” You “listen.” For… *checks clock*… oh, let’s say three hours. You tell them how much you care about them, etc etc etc, and you reassure them that, yeah… firing them was completely asinine, and yeah, likely, Karma is looking for their former boss right now.

Cool. Now what?

Luckily, this is actually a problem with potential solutions.
But Wait! You may think the answer is obvious, right? “You should get a new job!”

Wrong! Slow down!

This is where you kinda feel things out first.

My advice here is to ask something like, “are you up for talking about what to do next?” And this, only after all the crying and hugging is done.

Sometimes… Depressed folks… don’t want to face the things they have to do… at least not yet!!! Sometimes they need to breathe!

If your person is ready, then this question creates an opportunity for action. It creates a chance for you to help bring things around to a positive, hopeful outcome.

Still… avoid the “you should” and try something open ended.

Like, “okay, cool. So… if you want, I can take a look at your resume?” or, “…how about we check out a few ads online?”

This approach avoids laying subtle blame/ responsibility (or perception thereof, even if you didn’t mean it that way… *phew*) while cracking the door to resolution. It gives the Depressed person a way out if they’re not up for it.

Even if you have a solution, one they will love, there WILL be something else to bring them down eventually.

Life is full of inevitabilities.
It is highly likely that your depressed person will hit a roadblock again.

And that’s okay.

7) Get In Touch With Your Feelings

Yeah, YOU.

Know what? Remember that thing I said about hoping you have good, solid communication? Yeah, that.

Unfortunately, sometimes your person just might be depressed about YOU.

Whoever you are, whatever your relationship.

Your best bet, in my humble opinion, is to stop screwing around. Don’t play games, don’t misdirect, don’t be evil or manipulative. Don’t use each other.

Be honest and treat each other with kindness. Be clear, but in a thoughtful, respectful and considerate way.

Share your ups and downs, your goals and worries.

Be a real person, develop TRUST.

The more your depressed loved one trusts you, the more they can rely on you, and the more that their problems really have nothing to do with you or your relationship, the better.

Just to let you know, that doesn’t mean YOU will never be the trigger!

Ha ha! So… get that hope for immunity out of your head! It just makes it less likely; and if it happens, if YOU are the “cause,” but you have a good relationship, things are likely to turn around faster and better.

Final Thoughts:

You need to know that if your person is suffering from Depression, it could be something that sticks around.

One time, it could last an hour. Another, it could go for days, weeks. It could vanish for months and then, out of the blue, you come home and your person is on the couch, in the “Pit.” And staying there.

Try to not be judgmental. Try to be patient. Try to be loving. Be good to your person, but also be good to yourself.

If your loved one exhibits signs of wanting to hurt themselves or someone else, don’t try to handle that on your own: Get Help.

Be okay with their Depression; but find more reasons to celebrate and enjoy life.

Dealing with Depression can be work, but it can be rewarding and satisfying. You can still have a great relationship.

Ultimately, you have to work together, both people have to do their part.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or other ideas, let me know. Please keep it positive!

— A

Beauty Tips for Fiction: 5 Ways to Make Your Writing Shine!

Most of us have favorite authors, and different authors write with different styles.

One piece might be filled with elegant metaphors and prose (like Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue), while another is stripped down and finds expression in sparse words. Neither is “right” or “wrong,” it’s simply a matter of preference.

As writers and readers, we all have to experiment and discover what really works for us. I’ve read a number of styles that I enjoyed, depending on who wrote it and how it was done. I dig Atwood, but I also love me some George R.R. Martin, and they are very different from each other.

Barebones or lush, the execution can change everything. Here are a few examples of things that often help me get into a story.

Setting –

Ground the reader by laying down a line or two of crisp environment.

I really like when an author goes beyond “trees” or “sea” to give me an idea of what makes these particular trees stand out, or this particular ocean. If you go to the Black Sea, you’ll find it looks very different from Venice Beach, which is vastly different from the numerous and varied shores of Hawaii. Give me, in brief words, the color of the bark; the pine, sycamore, aspens or what have you, so I can better see the woods around me.

Senses –

Hit at least a few different senses in your piece.

Most stories utilize sight, but smell carries so many emotional connections for people. Give me more than a generic term. Read other writers and notice not only what sensory notes are heavily used, but which senses are underused. Give me something kinda unique, but familiar enough that I can immediately get it! Not just the waft of pine, but the rot of mulch underneath, and the yeasty tang of the broken beer bottle at the edge of the campsite.

The Little Details –

Sometimes honing in on a detail can make a reader fall right into your world.

As writers we tend to enjoy building these large contraptions of worlds — galaxies — universes!!! Forgetting the feel of vinyl under our fingertips, or the bright yellow drip of sap catching the morning sunlight. Even better if you utilize a detail that captures and reflects the mood of the Point of View; or that of the setting/ piece.

The Tension of Tenses –

Think about the specific emotion in each section of your piece.

I really appreciate thoughtful prose, that which exploits the various effects of language. Ask yourself what you want the reader to get/ feel in a given moment, and what version of a sentence or phrase best represents your intent.

Consider for example: “She wandered through the woods. In long steps, she became lost. She grew sleepy as the air turned dark.” Or: “Wandering through the aspens, taking long steps, she became lost. The air turned dark. She grew sleepy.”

Don’t be afraid to play with sentence order, punctuation, tense and word order. Discover the way changing things alters the feel of the moment. That is: with each change, discover the impact on the ambiance of a scene! (hehe) Even moving a comma or dropping the -ing can shift meaning, pacing and atmosphere.

Le(s) Mot(s) Juste(s) –

The RIGHT WORD for the *right* time.

Similar to considering phrasing and word order, each word carries associations.

Use the word that fits, especially if you are trying to put the reader in the perspective of a character. Maybe “transliterate” is a great word. Yes, I love it, too. BUT! Is it a word your POV character actually knows? Does it lend to the mood of the scene?

What about Shadow versus Shade versus Darkness versus Tenebrous… how about Light versus Incandescence versus Luminosity…? Does Giant feel different than Massive, versus Gargantuan?

If a word is too “technical” sounding, it might not have the right sensibility; unless that “technical” sense is perfect for that moment! By the same token, a poetic word with the right phrasing can elevate your story. The Thesaurus is your friend!

There are many things you can do to make your writing more beautiful, depending on what “beautiful” means to you.

Read lots of stuff. When you find something you like, go back and figure out what just happened.

Talk to other people about what gets them into a story. If it’s different from what draws you (or me) in, that doesn’t make it “right” or “wrong,” it just makes it interesting.

Even if you aren’t a writer, as a reader, knowing what really gets you excited about a story will help you find other stories to enjoy.

No matter what, find what fits you, have fun and get the most out of what you do. Good luck!

— Arley

5 Ways to Make the WORLD a Better Place

Five Ways to Make the World a Better Place:

Someone in my Twitter feed, who shall remain nameless, once complained that they didn’t want to watch the news because the issues seemed so big and he was helpless to change any of it.

I can relate to that! It’s frustrating to see so many *effed up* things happening, and to feel like there’s nothing we can do to stop it. In fact, I’d go one more step and say it’s frustrating because we don’t even know what’s happening. The news tells us what it wants to tell us, what it thinks will sell ads, and how much “Truth” is in there is sometimes hard to say.

Nonetheless, ignorance is not the answer! Nor is inactivity. There are lots of ways we can potentially impact the world around us! For the purposes of this piece, we’ll keep it very small scale.

1) Connect with someone you wouldn’t normally connect with.

*So many problems are caused by the separation of different sorts of peoples, and the assumptions that continue unchallenged because of that separation. Let’s face it: often, when we talk about our favorite –isms, we’re pretty much yapping to people who already agree. We also have to face the fact that we each have bits of our own “–isms”. If you think you don’t, you probably aren’t the best judge. Hanging out with new and different people is a great way to learn about each other, as well as ourselves.

2) Smile and say something nice

*I don’t think I need to explain the “why” of this one (grins). But it’s something many of us don’t actually practice. Make a point to smile and say something nice to someone every day. If it’s work, then what does that say about you? To me, it says that you really need to make a habit out of this one.

3) Create a new good habit

*Speaking of habits! These are the things that kinda shape our lives, even when we aren’t conscious of them. We have habits from as young as our formative years. But it’s not impossible to make new ones. Pick something that’s realistic, healthy and good for you, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances. Figure out the best way to incorporate it into your regular routine — whether it’s ten crunches a day, or reading a few pages of fiction. Having good habits improves the way you interact with the world around you.

4) Engage in an important topic

*I know you have friends. But if you’re like me, sometimes you just talk about the latest TV show, or comic book, or whatever. Take the time to talk about something “relevant.” Maybe you know a bunch of stuff, or find yourself concerned with a bunch of stuff, but maybe the people around you don’t. Moreover, maybe they know something you don’t know, or have an interesting take on a subject. As you engage with people around relevant topics, you may find you’re not as alone as you think; or that people who didn’t know about something are glad to know.

5) Get yourself healthy (er)

*You can contribute to the betterment of the world only inasmuch as your health allows. And hey, we want you to stick around! Especially if you’re someone interested in making the world a better place. So do something small, on a regular basis, to get your health just one or two notches better. Better breakfast habits? A daily walk around the block? Parking spot away from the door, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Small changes that stick are a great way to make a start towards something good.

So… how will these things affect our relationship with the Middle East, or prevent high-seas piracy, or feed starving children???

Great question. The fact is, we exist as a social, global organism. None of us live in a vacuum, and everything we do is connected in one way or another. Even though these are very small, highly localized actions (and relatively easy too, mind you!), the more positivity and mutual understanding any of us can generate, the closer we come to affecting the world on a significant level.

And hey! Making new friends, improving our own understanding of the world, and spreading a little happiness and good energy is waaaaay better than just feeling frustrated and giving up! If nothing else, hopefully you will improve your neighborhood and the people around you, as well as yourself.

Good luck. Now… get out there and save the world!

— A

Newbie at the Con

(Term: Con Translation: Convention – gathering of people for a theme or purpose, often with structure, programs or events.)

I’m addressing this blog entry mostly to a) writers and other creative types who haven’t been to conventions and are thinking of going b) anyone else who might be curious.

Oh, wow. Aren’t conventions something?

What I previously knew of conventions amounted to pictures of ComiCon and anime cons. People in costumes, lines of fans waiting for autographs, and so on.

But!!! There are different kinds of cons!

If you’re an artistic type – musician, writer, etc – you probably should be going to conventions (or their equivalent). I’ve learned that there is probably a version of these things for different fields, in some way or another. There’s a big one for musicians, for example, where they can meet people, network, hear music, and possibly launch their careers.

I’ve been to a handful of Science Fiction/ Fantasy cons at this point: Baycon, Westercon66, LoneStarCon3, Con-Volution, and Potlatch23. Unfortunately, I missed FogCon.
Each con has its own focus and draw. Some have tons of people in costumes, some have (literally) none. Some are attended by LOTS of people… some are just over a hundred or so.

For starters, if you are uncomfortable about meeting people in costume, well… you should just get over yourself. If you’re a writer, these are the folks who (hopefully) will be buying your books or reading your short stories. At the very least, put your discomfort on hold and get the most you can out of the event.

Right now you’re probably giving me a funny look, wondering why you should even go…?

Even though you think you know a bunch of stuff about your chosen field, if you haven’t been to a con, you might not know that much. They are great places to learn.
For writers, conventions can be wonderful places to meet other writers at different levels, from starting out to making a living selling fiction. You could develop relationships with editors and agents, as well as other influential or helpful people. At the very least, you might end up having conversations about stuff you’ve read and loved.

Most of the cons I mentioned above have a number of panels with writers in mind.

(Term: Panel Translation: sorta classroom style setting, usually with selected people at a table/ stage, speaking on a pre-determined topic)

So… and I know you already know everything there is to know about the industry (*wink*) but wouldn’t it be great to hear people who are published (or publishers, etc) talk about how to get published, or their struggles with writer’s block, or ways to stay motivated when things get tough?

Now you’re blinking at me, all… surprised… in disbelief. That’s okay. Don’t take my word for it. You’re a noob, a total, complete, utter noob.

Do a few minutes of homework. Go to websites of upcoming gatherings. Look at their lists of guests and see if there’s anyone you’d be interested in meeting. Also, look at their programming and figure out what kind of panels you’d want to attend. Likely, you’ll find topics that interest you, and from which (gasp!) you could even learn something.

My advice for the newbie going in: be prepared to feel out of place to a degree.

That’s okay. Have simple goals in mind… and meet them! For example: introduce yourself to one author who has published a book; or meet someone who is new to writing and hasn’t published yet.
There are also workshops for writers at most of these things. They are basically crit groups that couple inexperienced writers with one or two more seasoned authors.

(Term: Crit group Translation: Critique group – individuals sharing their work and exchanging feedback/ opinions about said work, for the express purpose of improving the piece as well as developing overall skills)

Not all cons are the same, and some are more about the fan side – getting autographs and so on. If you are a writer hoping to gain traction, that is probably not your focus.

Be sure to check out the particular con’s website before you go. Make sure there are things about it that will interest you. Do some planning to maximize your time, but be flexible while there, to allow for spontaneity. My first con, Ann Wilkes (http://www.annwilkes.com/) was kind enough to invite me to dinner, and I ended up having a great time and meeting nice people. At LoneStarCon3, I hung out with J.A.Pitts (http://www.japitts.net/) among others, just chatting and sipping coffee.

Day of, before you go, take a deep breath and prepare yourself. No, not for the costumes – that’s on you, I told you! Your issues. People can dress up if they want.

What you’re preparing for is *interaction.* You are preparing to walk up to a panel after they finish, to say “hi”, not to mention to ask questions like an intelligent person. You are preparing to go over to the other person in the audience, the one who had that really interesting question or comment. Compliment them on their thoughts, let them know you were thinking the same thing. You might hit it off, you might even form ties that last.

One more note – remember that whoever you meet, whatever they do, whatever the context, dressed up or not, these are actual people… with feelings and everything! Meet a famous author? Don’t freak out. Meet an editor (and just happen to have your book on hand)? How about “hi, how are you?” rather than “Hey, read my book!” If in doubt, think about how you would interact in a normal situation and follow that model. Watch faces and body language, see if you hit a sour chord, *but don’t let nerves hold you back.* Be nice. Talk about real life things, ask questions, show interest, rather than acting solely on your own needs.

Okay, that’s all I have. If any of you con newbies have more questions just email me. I’ll try to answer any emails I get, though I can’t promise to actually be helpful! haha = D

Below, I’ll list some cons that writers might find interesting/ useful. Please understand, you might not get the same things out of every con, you might not enjoy them all equally or walk away having met people, even.

To a degree, what you get out of it really depends on what you put into it, from checking out the websites before you go to how you spend your time while you are there.

For other creative types, I’m confident a lot of this, more or less, is the same for you. I don’t have links for you at this time. So go find something! It’s the internet! Stuff ain’t hidin’ from ya! They may not even be called “cons” but they will function in similar ways.

To the Convention Pros! I mean YOU, the folks who go all the time, who know people and have become comfortable in your skin at these things. Yeah… YOU.

Be NICE to the newbies!!!

Know what? Why not make it easy on them? Let’s face it, many of us go with friends. It’s like being at the dance, know what I mean? The newb is the person eyeing someone from across the room, but the individual they’re eyeing is in a cluster of people, making it even harder to approach….

So sad. So heartbreaking.

Honestly, I’ve found that many experienced con-goers are pretty friendly. But I want to call out to those con-goers: keep up the friendliness, but not in an overbearing way! Be open to meeting people, while giving space to the nervous or uncomfortable.

This goes for authors, editors, agents and publishers, and so on as well. Us newbies get scared! Our hopes and dreams are pounding in our hearts! It’s not easy to say “hi” to someone who has made an impact in the industry in some way.

That’s it for now. Just check one out and see how it goes. If you can, go with at least one other person – in my opinion, it helps. If you can afford it, stay in the hotel and hang out at the bar; walk around a lot. Chill in the lobby on the chairs and sofas. Sometimes conversations spring up during the in-between times, and you just might make new friends.

Good luck!

— Arley

Cons and “stuff” as of March 2014:

Listings —

Google (or your preferred search engine): use it. type in “science fiction and fantasy convention” and see what you come up with.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_science_fiction_conventions
http://www.upcomingcons.com/science-fiction-conventions
http://www.locusmag.com/Resources/Conventions.html

Local (ish) cons that might be interesting… or, cons I’ve heard good things about…:

…This list is not exhaustive. Everything is here for a reason, though. I’ve either heard good things, or had a good experience, or… something. LOL Maybe I saw them online and thought they looked good.

CondorCon – March 21-23 http://www.condorcon.org/html/mainmenu.html
(looks cool)

NorWesCon – Apr 17-20 http://www.norwescon.org/
(looks cool)

Nebulas – May 15-18 http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/nebula-weekend/
(heard it’s a great place to meet ppl and get involved)

BayCon – May 23-26 http://www.baycon.org/2014/
(great “starter” con imo. not too big, lots of opportunities to learn)

WisCon – May 23-26 http://www.wiscon.info/
(heard it’s a wonderful con)

Westercon – July 3-6 http://westercon67.org/
(had a good time last one, was similar experience to BayCon for me)

Bubonicon – Aug 1-3 http://bubonicon.com/
(heard from many ppl this is one to go to if you can)

WorldCon – Aug 14-18 http://www.worldcon.org/
(big. huge. massive. big names, but also opportunities to meet ppl and learn)

Con-Volution – Sep 26-28 http://con-volution.com/2014/
(was smaller than BayCon & Westercon66. still growing, imo)

World Fantasy Con – Nov 6-9 http://worldfantasy2014.org/
(big and more “industry” focused – editors, authors and agents! oh my!)

OryCon – Nov 7-9 http://36.orycon.org/
(heard it’s really cool, smaller, intimate)

These have already happened – consider them for next year:

Potlatch http://www.potlatch-sf.org/
(was nice, intimate, very very small, but cozy, informal. good for mtg ppl IF you are somewhat extroverted, imo)

FogCon http://fogcon.org/
(was SOOO bummed I couldn’t make it, I’ve heard many good things… small, focused, lots of writerly stuff. really want to go next time!)

Diversity in SFF – List of Diversity Friendly Publications

Know what? Write your hetero, white male protagonist. I don’t really care. In fact, there are lots of white people in the US, so it’s not like there isn’t an audience.

I think you should write whatever your story calls for, whatever feels right for the tale.
Then again, the hetero white male thing is kinda played out. It’s ubiquitous. Not really a challenge, not very interesting. It’s so prevalent, you don’t really need to be a hetero white male to write one. There are a million examples.

Maybe you should flex your creativity.

After all, I’m betting you’ve told lots of people just how creative you are.

I think everyone should challenge themselves. Think of it as exercise for your imagination. I dare you to write someone that isn’t you. A protagonist, mind you — maybe even a positive depiction. The hero of your story! If you’re a Black lesbian woman, write a story featuring a transgender character. If you’re a gay white dude, write a mid-eastern bisexual woman. Switch it up, play with roles, put your abilities to work. Give us a heroine who rolls in a wheelchair. I dare you!

Choice of protagonist is not the biggest issue.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s “an issue.” It’s an interesting conversation, and I am definitely in support of having more folks represented.

The biggest issue is THE MARKET!

Get online. Check out the top publications. Flip to their descriptions or guidelines. You’ll see part of the problem.

Check it – everyone is already convinced that white people are hot. Proof? Theaters fill up with moviegoers, eager to eyeball the white hetero male protagonist, even if the movie sucks. Worldwide, there are operations and products that make millions from people who are eager to shift their appearance a step towards “white.”

In a story, especially with adventure, readers often fantasize that they are the hero. Sadly, while you may have a young bi-racial girl fantasizing that she’s white, you’ll be hard pressed getting the white baseball dude to fantasize he’s an Indian girl on crutches.

TV and Movies, Magazines and so on, they keep everyone brainwashed about what is beautiful. Their job, their bottom line, is selling products (often stuff that is directly all about looks). It’s a crazy cycle: tell people white is beautiful, then watch people spend money, feeding back that yes, white is beautiful, ad infinitum.

Having a different protagonist isn’t enough. It’s not “nothing.” But if you want to change things, you have to support and participate in a market that clamors for diversity.

I’ve met so many folks who are interested in diversity. There are panels on cons, conversations in Twitter, etc. Many of these same people talk about stories they’ve read in popular publications. It’s almost a badge, as if you aren’t qualified to speak unless you know the right stories. When I bring up smaller presses, even pubs that try to promote diversity, many of these same folks haven’t heard of them. Trust me, if I know about a publication, they aren’t that hard to find!

Reading the established, major publications… if they don’t support diversity, then you’re slapping yourself in the face. Especially if that’s all you read.

No offense to the more established mags, but if all folks do is talk about the same handful of publications, guess what? Diversity is going to remain a struggle.

You’ve got to get your nose in some other collections. More importantly, get other people to check out other sites. If you want to promote “#diversity in SFF”, then help pubs that actively support diversity.

I realized this when one such mag posted that it might not be able to stay afloat. I remembered talking with people at LoneStarCon3 about this mag. I was surprised at how many people who laud or cry out for diversity had never heard of it (or read a story there – which you can do online for free). And we’re talking about a market that pays, mind you.

Want the industry to embrace diversity? At the very least, visit diversity-friendly publications online. Help develop/ expand a market for diversity. Spread the word. Don’t simply create diverse characters and call it a day! Read pubs that have diversity as part of their actual credo.

Tell your friends, tell your fans. It all comes down to cash! If we can’t help spread the word about mags that promote diversity, then what the heck are we doing???

So… see below. I’ve generated a list of websites for people to visit. These are pubs that have some kind of diversity statement in their guidelines. Tell EVERYONE! Friends and family, fans, if you have fans. Check out these mags! Give them a chance. Help to grow a base of interested readers.

Without a market, diversity dies. That’s just how it is. Write what you want to write. But help to get people involved in the places that work to keep diversity alive.

Thanks and have a great day!

PUBS
http://www.nightmare-magazine.com/
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/
http://www.jerseydevilpress.com/ (not a “diversity statement” but I appreciate much of what they say in their guidelines)
http://www.shimmerzine.com
http://betwixtmagazine.com/
http://www.ideomancer.com/
http://expandedhorizons.net/magazine/
http://www.strangehorizons.com/
http://not-one-of-us.com/
http://www.unlikely-story.com/
http://www.swampbiscuitsandtea.com/
http://mirrordancefantasy.blogspot.com/
http://www.3lobedmag.com/
http://podcastle.org/ (“range of backgrounds and ethnicities”)
http://www.scigentasy.com/
http://eggplantproductions.com/
http://www.goldfishgrimm.com/
http://www.futurefire.net/
http://crossedgenres.com/
http://corvusmagazine.com (not a diversity statement, but says “It should go without saying that we won’t tolerate racism, homophobia, misogyny, or stereotypes (on the part of the author. Perspective is a different issue, and one which we will have to judge for ourselves in each separate instance).”
http://oldtimeyhedgehog.com (not a diversity statement, but they publish queer lit books…)
http://etopiapressblog.wordpress.com (not a diversity statement, but sub call example: “Erotic Contemporary Romance (m/f, m/m, ménage, BDSM, IR/MC/BBW/OW, you name it)” I’m not even sure what some of these are…
http://www.pravicmagazine.com/
http://roarandthunder.com.au (not a diversity statement, but says “If your story expresses your dislike of a race, sex or sexual orientation then don’t submit it here.”
http://www.tor.com
http://lakesidecircus.com
http://broadzine.com
http://lackingtons.com
http://www.musapublishing.com/ (no statement but… look at the stuff on their site?)
http://theakersquarterly.blogspot.com
http://www.abilitymaine.org/breath/index.html
http://www.lillibridgepress.com (not a statement, but they have an LGBTQ section)
http://visibilityfiction.com
http://www.feypublishing.com
http://twbpress.com/ (not a statement, but says “If your story contains any hateful or derogatory attacks on any one race of people, any one religion, or any sexual orientation, you can bet I’ll reject it.”)
http://wildeoats.wordpress.com/ (not sure if I should include this one – it’s a gay/bi mag, but asks specifically for male protagonists)
http://michaelmatheson.wordpress.com/start-a-revolution/
http://www.witchesandpagans.com

New addition to the list! Thanks to Kaolin for calling it out!
http://www.inscriptionmagazine.com/submissions/

New addition to the list! Although I didn’t see a diversity statement, Jason Sizemore of Apex saw my list and commented: “I think it is fair to say that Apex Magazine is diversity friendly.” I personally like Apex, so I’m very glad to have that from someone on the inside!
http://www.apex-magazine.com

Another new addition!

Again, I believe there is no statement, but Alex Dally MacFarlane and Benjanun Sriduangkaew tell me Clarkesworld is very diverse. According to Bee: “Last year was about 30% POC in original fiction.” I’m inclined to believe them. Thanks you two!

Also check out Mothership Zeta, a publication with a statement: “We’d particularly like to see more stories set outside America, and stories that feature characters who represent a range of backgrounds and ethnicities.”

***this list was generated w/ a basic Duotrope search: Fantasy/ Short Story/ Electronic Subs/ Avg Response Time. It’s not exhaustive, comes from digging through 267 results, and reflects only what I found in a specific week of research. Mostly I glanced at submission guidelines, but did review some “about” statements as well.

I don’t argue that reading pubs without diversity statements is a waste of time or evil. Nor that the only good mags are those that have a diversity statement. I only argue that if you want diversity to grow, you have to support it in various ways.

‘Sides, some of these pubs are really cool. So quit your moanin’ and get some readin’ in!

the Scary Homeless

Did you ever get the urge to yell out your car window, “Get a job!”?

That happened to me once, back when I was a long-haired teen.  I was walking home through the suburbs.  The car zipped off before I could even see who it was.

Funny thing – I had a job.  I worked as a dish washer in a chain restaurant, often putting in overtime and being kept well past midnight.

Sometimes people just want a target for their anger.  They are happy to draw their own conclusions, make assumptions, or even fabricate stories just to have a target.

So… let’s talk about the Homeless.

I bet some of you will see a homeless person and think, maybe even say, get a job.  And know what?  I agree with you!  Well, that is to say, there are individuals who probably should do just that.  I have no doubt – actually, I personally know from experience – that not only are there people who “take advantage” of various social services, but that there are homeless people who are fully capable of working.

At the same time, saying get a job makes it sound just as easy as pulling on a pair of socks.

Worse, it’s never said to be helpful, never with the best of intentions.  It’s not some plea muttered by a perceptive humanitarian who has seen past the veil of homelessness into an individual’s heart.  Let’s face it: when we think (or say) these things, we’re really just hurling bolts of anger.  We are kind of kicking someone while they’re down.  In my opinion, kicking someone who is already down, that’s among the worst kinds of bullying.

Secondly, while some people are taking advantage of systems or could be working, let’s be really honest about this: any given individual that we talk to, well… we just don’t know what their particular circumstances are.  There are homeless people who are trying to get a job.  There are others who can’t work, for any number of reasons.  Without discovering an individual’s personality, even if they are physically capable, we can’t know what sorts of barriers they have.

Even in the best of circumstances, it’s just damned hard to get a job if you are living in the streets (or a shelter).  But hey, why think of any homeless person as an individual?  it’s easier to lump a group of people together and pretend they are all the same, with the same problems, the same capacities and the same challenges.

Let’s be honest, let’s talk about the real message, the one we mean but aren’t saying: your problem ain’t my problem.  LEAVE ME ALONE!

As ‘Mericans (read: US Citizens), we tend to be Convenient Individualists.

When it suits us, our ethics are all about the social good.  When it suits us, we are strident in our individualism.  For example, “These homeless people are ruining *our* neighborhood!”  Or even better, “No one wants homeless people around!”  See?  Representing society at large.  Well done!  How about one more: “Homeless people should get a job!”  That’s a great example of socially applied ethics.  Not only are we declaring (implicitly) that all homeless people are the same, but we are deciding for them what they should do.  Why?  Because we know what’s right for our society as a whole.

Then again, we are eager to wash our hands of it, (conveniently) becoming instant individualists: “It’s not my problem.”  How about “I got a job, why don’t they?”  Even better: let’s just lock ourselves inside our houses and apartments and pretend like the homeless don’t exist; or walk by, and act as if we don’t contribute to the problem ourselves.

What?  Did that shock you?  Yes, I implied that you contribute to the problem.  I know it goes against your Convenient sense of Individualism.  How could you have contributed, when you are just minding your own business and living your life?

You don’t get how you contribute, because you aren’t asking the right questions.

You’re so busy exonerating yourself, and telling people what they should do and where they should do it (preferably far away from you), that you aren’t looking at the big picture.  You think that each homeless individual is solely to blame for their circumstances, and that collectively they are a big inconvenience in your life.

Ok.  That’s fine.

I just want to ask you something, and it will require you to use your imagination a bit.  How much money does the government shift around every day?

Of course I don’t know.  But I know it’s a lot.  Follow up question: think of your ten most well known brands – let’s go with Target, Wal-Mart, maybe throw in McDonald’s… pick some more of your favorites.  Now ask yourself the same question: how much money do they earn in a single day?  What about one week?

I’m not done.  Right.  Now, if you add those two numbers together – the total amount of cash flow the government swirls around in a day, and the total of those ten companies, in just one day mind you, well… if you’re being realistic, you should be somewhere with a whole lot of zeros.

Now I want you to think about how many smart people have great jobs.  Really, really smart people.  Harvard grads, economists, politicians, scientists, lawyers, etc.  Keep in mind that most of those really really smart people with really really great jobs are probably working in high level government positions or for those same top companies.  Interesting, ain’t it?

Here’s the last piece.  If you take all that money from a single day, and you take, let’s say, a handful of those smart people, do you honestly think that they couldn’t create, develop, divine, intuit, generate, mold or whatever clever word you want, some program or initiative, to meaningfully change the state of homelessness in ‘Merica?

The truth is, folks – strap in for this one – if people wanted to solve the issues of homelessness, if it was at all important to any of them, then they would solve it.  The resources are there.  The minds are there.

They don’t solve it because they don’t want to.

And it’s not just because they don’t want to lose a single day’s earnings – although, that’s probably part of it.  The other thing is, they continue to not solve it because, hey, you don’t care, either.

If you want to know why homelessness exists, you can’t understand it by staring daggers at people on the street and blaming everyone.  You have to ask yourself, why does our society allow it to exist?  What function does it serve?  What do people in power, and people with crap-tons of money, gain by the presence of the homeless?

Well… what happens to you when you see a homeless person?  What happens to kids?  What is the impact of the homeless on the decisions of the average ‘Merican?

Homeless People are Scary as hell.  Aren’t they, though?  We don’t want to touch them, we don’t want to get near them, and we sure don’t want to join them.

This is a powerful tool to control and influence the decisions and directions of a Nation.  Fear of homelessness means we, the struggling masses, are willing to put up with and do things that we might not otherwise do, if we didn’t have that fear in the back of our heads.

Oh, you think I’m full of it?  I’m betting you’ve heard the phrase “you don’t want to end up homeless” being bandied about.  Maybe you’ve even thought it, or said it.

Fear of homelessness is one of the factors that makes it easier to get people to work lame jobs for less than living wages.  It keeps people in line – we even use it in stories to punish characters, both real and imagined.

If there was almost no homelessness, do you think people might aim higher in general?  Do you think they might take more risks in life?  I like to think we would have more artists of all kinds.  How many parents tell their kids that if they chase being an artist (visual, musical, literary, any kind) they will end up poor or homeless?

If there’s no homelessness, maybe when someone job hunts, they won’t settle for less money than they actually want.  They know they won’t end up on the streets.  They know they have options, and that they don’t have to toil in some dirty, endless cycle of misery.

Without the threat of homelessness, all these companies would have to up their game.  Ok, you aren’t with me yet, so let’s flip the perspective to help you out.

If you are an employer, and you have 100 applicants for one job, guess what?  You are making the rules.  You get to pick, and all these people are clamoring to win (and maintain) your approval.

If there is no homelessness, and therefore a smaller applicant pool, not to mention applicants who no longer fear homelessness, well… those people aren’t going to be quite as desperate to put up with anything just to put food on the table, are they?

Let’s get back to the government, as hopefully you can see how homelessness benefits industry.  In order to understand how homelessness benefits the government, you have to remember that industry litters the offices of government officials with lobbyists.  Politicians have to maintain a delicate balance between making *just enough* citizens happy that they get put into office; while making lobbyists and other politicians happy enough that they maintain real power and cash/ benefits.

Ok – so, if you don’t agree with me, that’s fine.  But ask yourself, with all the cash that moves around, and all the smart people that handle said cash, why don’t they solve the issue of homelessness?  You give me the reason.  The resources do, in fact, exist.  So why decide to not change it?

I almost forgot: why you are to blame.

Yes, I mean that.  It really is your fault.  We have developed and live in a culture where, in the spirit of our Convenient Individualism, it’s perfectly fine that those really really smart people are really really rich, that people have millions and billions, while others starve or die in the streets.  Meanwhile, we point our cameras at other countries, we tsk and talk about how terrible the conditions are.  And yet, we quite literally have kids who don’t get fed, while those top ten companies are raking in the cash.

And it’s your fault (and mine) because we pretend like we aren’t a part of it.  Much easier to suddenly be an Individualist, than to say, hey, this is crazy, let’s stop being so crazy!  We cast our votes, we go shopping, and we don’t demand any meaningful changes.  Why demand meaningful change?  Our favorite show is on… and besides, we pay our taxes… we have jobs!  No one helped us out!

*SIGH*

Tell you what – the lottery went to 500 million recently.  Let’s all agree that anytime the lottery hits 300 million or more, instead of having a winner, we get those really smart people to develop a stable, good program to solve homelessness, and the program automatically gets those funds.  The smart people can do it pro-bono, for the good of the society at large.  We can say, hey, cool, everyone will benefit from this.  And we can put in oversights, with publicly viewable financial records, to prevent corruption.

Why not?

If I can fantasize a solution in minutes, and let’s be honest – I’m not as smart or informed as any of those people – then why can’t they?

I don’t really care if you agree or accept my explanations.  The most important thing, if you walk away from this with only one thing, is that you ask questions.  Ask yourself why no one really makes a significant change to these issues.  Think about how many resources there are.  Come up with your own reasons.

But if you think it just can’t be done, you’re kidding yourself.

Ten Tips for the Socially Awkward: How to Make Friends!

#10: Relax

BREATHE!  It’s okay.  Seriously.  Literally take a breath.  It might help you relax.  Don’t worry, rolling a critical fumble in a social engagement doesn’t usually end in dismemberment.  But taking a moment to calm down might make a difference.

#9: Smile, say HI

Be friendly.  Smile.  Just trust me on this.  Remember: RELAX.  Also – you aren’t the only shy person!  They might be shy.  SAY SOMETHING!  = D  “Hello” is a good start, often followed by some version of “How are you?”  A safe route from there is small-ish stuff: “I love this place” or “What did you get” are good examples, depending on where you are.

#8: Be sincere

Nothing sucks more than a phoney.  Some people can tell when you’re fakin’ it.

#7: Exchange

Share bits about you, ask bits about them.  Conversation goes both ways (or multiple ways, if you are so inclined.)  Find yourself talking about you a lot?  You need to ask some questions.  If you find yourself just asking questions, you need to share a bit about you.  Balance, young Jedi.  Final note: Beware the Over Share!  If you dive into very personal waters – medical, sexual, etc and etc – and they aren’t, maybe you’re getting in too deep!  Watch their face, their reactions.  Pay attention to what they say as well.

#6: It’s not a competition

Know what?  A little humility goes a long way.  No need to “one up” the other person.  It doesn’t mean you can’t disagree, just don’t be attached to them seeing things your way.  It’s fine to talk about things you’re good at… with *ahem* modesty.  If you get the urge to brag, or talk about all the things that demonstrate your superior intelligence and prowess, put that feeling on hold.  For most people, the getting to know each other phase is about sharing, not showing off.

#5: Pay attention

If you were “paying attention” I already mentioned this.  There’s nothing more insulting than telling someone who you are or how you feel, and that person going, “huh?”  Or them obliviously stumbling into a non sequitur.  Or asking a question that was basically already covered.

#4: Use what you hear

In normal conversation, clues pop up.  Told ya to pay attention!  ; )  Tidbits can be turned into the next topic.  For example, someone says, “Yeah, my boy (or girl, etc) friend does that too.”  It’s easy to follow with, “How long ya’ll been together?  How’d you meet?”  If someone says, “My cat hates that,” you can say, “Oh, what’s your cat’s name?  How old is your cat?”  (This is a much better direction than saying, “I hate cats.”  BEWARE I said!)  Kids = “How old are your kids?”  And so on, ad infinitum.

#3: On that note, say something Nice!

People tend to enjoy having compliments lobbed their way.  As opposed to… grenades.  Find something positive to say about them, or their work, or something they like.  Make it a) sincere b) simple c) sexual – NOT!  a) see above – don’t fake it! b) don’t over elaborate or go on and on, just say something brief c) best to avoid sexual comments in general, often even gender specific comments.  “Nice shoes” is alright, “nice outfit” might be misconstrued, so make sure you have the right inflection.  “I liked your drawing,” or “I admire the work you do” is a lot safer and more likely to create warm fuzzies.

#2: Don’t let fear stop you

RELAX I said!  And go for it!  In a calm fashion!  I’m not saying the fear will go away.  It might, it might not.  Just learn to push through and you will probably have some pleasant results.  If you don’t try… guess what?  No homies!

#1: Follow up

In conversation, this means if an interesting topic comes up, get into it, in an exchanging, non-showing off sort of way.  After a conversation, this means get some contact info and shoot an email or text.  Don’t be a stalker!  But if you cringe in your room, waiting to hear from them, then you just may never contact each other again.  If you like them, reach out.

Now… turn off your computer, get out there and meet someone!

Good luck!