‘The Most Difficult Essay I’ve Ever Written’: Meghan Daum on Her Mother

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

If you asked me what my central grievance with my mother was, I would tell you that I had a hard time not seeing her as a fraud. I would tell you that her transformation, at around the age of 45, from a slightly frumpy, slightly depressed, slightly angry but mostly unassuming wife, mother, and occasional private piano teacher into a flashy, imperious, hyperbolic theatre person had ignited in her a phoniness that I was allergic to on every level. I might try to explain how the theatre in question was the one at my very high school, a place she’d essentially followed me to from the day I matriculated and then proceeded to use as the training ground and later backdrop for her new self. I might throw in the fact that she was deeply concerned with what kind of person I was in high school because it would…

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30,000 Words, 700 Jobs, One Year

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

A few months ago, a friend considering a freelance writing career asked me how much money I make as a writer. I wanted to say, “You mean, what’s the going rate for a human soul?” But I wasn’t close enough to this friend to be certain she’d realize I was mostly kidding. Instead I said, “This month, I made between $25 and $2,000 for individual stories that were about the same length,” to indicate how unpredictable rates are in an industry that is hemorrhaging money while flooded with qualified candidates.

I’ve produced more than 30,000 words of original and highly job-specific material without pay in an effort to prove myself a capable and good sport to the handful of companies that have reached back out to me from the black hole of resume inboxes to give me a chance.

- Prospective employers demand full-time freelancers to produce inordinate amounts of…

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Mattel Pulls Sexist Barbie Book “I Can Be A Computer Engineer” Off Amazon

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

The makers of Barbie seem to apologize A LOT for underestimating young women. This time the Internet’s buzzing over a pretty cringe-worthy Barbie book, “I Can Be A Computer Engineer,” published out of Random House.

Barbie is featured in the book as a stylishly pink-clad computer engineer that somehow breaks everything and doesn’t know how to code. She does draw puppies though. This lady hacker needs the help of two dudes named Steve and Brian to do the real programming work cuz she’s just, “creating design ideas.” Ha ha ha…what?

In another section, a supposedly intelligent engineer Barbie (who should be familiar enough with technology not to do this) puts her flash drive into Skipper’s laptop and accidentally infects it with a virus. Skipper didn’t back up her homework and loses all her files and music, too. Silly Barbie. The two then get into a pillow fight. A pillow fight!…

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5 Things You Should Know About Your Friend, The Writer

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(Commentator whispering with an  Australian accent): There’s the writer in her native habitat! Isn’t she lovely! Ah, but don’t be deceived! She can be deadly in her beauty. See the pained expression? Give her some room, Mate! You don’t want to upset her now. If you read her body language–the hunched back, the bloodshot eyes, the cramping hands, the pile of discarded Reese’s cup wrappers–you’ll know she’s not one to be trifled with. You’ll be taking your life into your hands!

So you made friends with a writer. Thank you! Now, I’m not one to make blanket statements for large groups of people, you understand. That’s how wars are started, Son.

That being said, (ok I HATE this expression!) I will just tell you this. Writers as a group can be sort of introverted and standoffish. Not because we think we’re better or anything, but just because we don’t really like talking to people. It’s much easier to create conversations with our imaginary friends than to keep up relationships with actual humans. We’re basically very weird people as a group. There’s a reason why we take a moment to choose each word to put on paper. However, face-to-face conversations with actual people? Um, no. We don’t interview well, either. We tend to say a bunch of unrelated gobbledygook that, when played back, makes Forrest Gump sound like a worthy adversary. I for one hate hearing my own voice played back–I think I sound about 11 years old.

Anyway, thank you for befriending a writer. We appreciate it. I don’t know you, but I feel a connection with you because I know you must be a patient, kind soul to love a writer. God bless you. I’m currently filling out the paperwork for your canonization. While that’s in the works, here are some tips to understanding us.

1. Writers are moody creatures. We’re up, we’re down. We love the book we’re working on today but hate it tomorrow. This is true about every writer I’ve ever met. Much of our moods are directly related to our WIP (writer lingo for work in progress). It’s very likely that we secretly think our book is going to be the next big thing late at night when we’ve barely slept, and then the next morning pronounce the exact same work the hugest, steaming pile of dog crap ever pooped. But you love creative types, right? I sure hope so.

2. Writers can be very narcissistic. The sad thing is, we KNOW this…but sometimes we just can’t help it. I apologize for all writers where this is concerned. I really don’t think that a person could be a good writer and not be a tad full of themselves. One thing about good writers is we KNOW good writing when we see it…and when we don’t (See #1 about writers being moody). We are also VERY sensitive about our writing, and if you say something that could be construed as the mildest of criticism, we will mope for days. I’m sorry! We’re just like that. It’s embarrassing to admit.

3. When we are writing, we don’t want to talk to anyone. This is often difficult to explain. Geez, when I admit all this on paper I hate me right now! It’s best to just let us write, and take out our frustrations on the blank page. There is one caveat here, though. Sometimes we need to be rescued from our self-imposed exile or we will be sucked in, much like a gambling addict in Vegas, sitting on our diaper pad for 24 hours straight, living on a diet of peanuts and martinis. While this may sound ideal, it’s not pretty to watch. Or smell. So do come rescue your writer friend if you have not heard from them in several days. Don’t let the blank stares and body odor keep you away. Your friend has never needed you so much. If you receive a phone call late at night that is basically just sobbing…it’s me.

4. Most writers are either mentally unstable or addicts (whether alcohol, drugs, reality T.V., gambling, overcaffeinated, obsessive Johnny Depp fans, etc.) Here’s the thing: we don’t really understand the words “moderation,” and if we are honest with ourselves, we are medicated for your safety. I’m just telling you this because you should know who you are dealing with. Sometimes we’re just giant a$$holes and there’s really no excuse for that.That’s one of the things that makes us so lovable, right?

5. Writers are very loyal friends, and they love deeply. If they love you, you can bet you will know it–because they will write about it. Sometimes, I think this is the only thing that keeps our spouses, friends and acquaintances around. Plus, we’re good in a pinch if you need a quick proofread for your resume or break-up letter/email. I highly recommend consulting us for this last one — we are especially talented at finding just the right word to tell that d-bag where he should go, who he should take with him, and which direction to take.

Again, I want to thank you for befriending a writer. We need all the flesh-and-blood friends we can get (and that can stomach us), lest we fall into the sidewalk art like Mary Poppins, never to be seen again.

Now, will you give me a minute? I need to finish this blog, then I’m all yours.

For Alex’s Mom: A Prayer of Grief

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I pray the sun warm the earth where they lay my boy today

Clouds, please hold your tears, I have enough for us

Wind, blow softly on the too-green grass

Like you once blew on his ruddy cheeks as he played in the creek

Stong and young and fearless

Do not be harsh like the blunt end

I’ve worked and labored to provide bread for us

Money in the bank and clothes on our backs

I watched him grow tall and beautiful in your eyes

His hands loving the earth

His mind fine and quick

His heart shy and soft

But now his time is gone

The shadows fall and I must leave him

With the others so silent

Sun warm the earth where I lay my boy today

A Letter to My Daughter on Her Graduation Day

Tina Bausinger:

This is my most searched for post. Thought I’d repost it for you!

Originally posted on Tina Bausinger:

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My Dearest Daughter,

It’s hard to believe it’s already your graduation. It seems like just yesterday I was walking you into your first day of class.

I still remember your first day of kindergarten. Your blonde hair was pulled up in two ponytails, and you smelled of new clothes and bubble bath. You were so scared, you were shaking. Oh, wait, that was me.

Do you remember the advice I gave you? It’s funny how it still applies. It was something like this:

Be friendly to the other kids. They are nervous, too.

Play jump rope at recess. It’s good to get your heart pumping, and you will have at least two other girls to talk to.

Don’t throw away your sandwich and just eat the Twinkie. I will know.

Pay attention in class, mind your manners, and most importantly, don’t wait too long to go to the bathroom.

Don’t…

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Sticks and Stones

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Sticks and stones will break my bones

But words can never hurt me

That’s not the truth I say to you

For words are surely deadly

I can’t forget your words that day

You thought I wasn’t listening

They burn so deep beneath my skin

The wound is never healing

Your words, suspended in midair

In every conversation

So loudly spoken without care

It’s just my observation

Sticks and stones can break my bones

But your words

Your words

Your words

They just might kill me

Should Christians Advocate Amnesty?

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/14/us/obama-immigration.html?_r=0

What do you think of Obama’s plan to grant amnesty for up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants? Predictably, many Americans are upset by the thought, arguing that they should be deported immediately, without concern for children who were brought over before they were too young to have a say.

Whether or not you agree with the President’s method, we need to look at the bigger picture. If we make decisions about helping others based on their citizenship, what does that say about our commitment to Christ? By building fences and pointing guns on those who approach our borders, who are we really serving but ourselves? Man-made institutions, borders, and politics should not come before the words of Jesus and his teachings.

Gregory Boyd writes, “So too, in following our Master we are to seek to do good and free all who are “opressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38) while we voluntarily bear others’ burdens (Gal. 6:2). We are to “outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10) and never be competitive with others (unless, of course, it’s for fun) (Gal. 5:26). We are to “put up with the failings of the weak, and not please ourselves,” always asking how we might “please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor” (Rom. 15:1-2). We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the homeless, befriend the friendless, and visit the condemned prisoner (James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:14-18; cf. Matt. 25:34-40).

When Jesus said to serve our neighbors, I don’t think there was a asterisk next to the word. I believe that being a Christian should come foremost before our politics.

I believe that as an American who descended from immigrants that I should remember where I came from.

What would Jesus say about amnesty? Would he advocate the spread of fear and selfishness that implores kind-hearted people to circle their wagons to keep “the Others” out? What scripture could be used to support the argument to not help others?

By scripture, I don’t mean our wallets. If we shake our fists and say “We can’t afford it! I’m not paying for you! I’m not helping anyone outside my family,” where is our foundation to say so? Where does the Bible discuss this?

Consider the story of the good samaritan (Luke 10:25-37):

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

If we really claim to be Jesus followers, we must abide by His example, and pay attention to the words written in red.

#Nanowrimo Yes, Writers, You Need A Mind

Tina Bausinger:

Bob Mayer probably doesn’t remember that he gave me advice that got me published. It happened, ok?

Originally posted on Write on the River:

Yeah, you do sort of need one to be a writer contrary to what many who know me think of me.  I’d like to say a little bit more about the mind for two reasons: one is that it is the primary tool you use when writing.  Second, to write good characters, you need to understand the mind because it is the driving force behind your characters’ actions.

As a “machine” the brain is very inefficient.  Physiological psychologists estimate that we use less than ten percent of our brain’s capabilities.  (Rent the Albert Brooks movie Defending Your Life and see how he uses this in his story.)  In many ways, that is what makes writing fiction so hard and draining: you are trying to expand the portion of your mind that you normally use and tap into your subconscious.  A little bit of understanding of that other 90 or so…

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Becoming a Full-Time Writer

Tina Bausinger:

I admire the heck out of these two writers. Check out their newest blog post about full-time writing.

Originally posted on Thorne & Cross:

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We commute from our beds to our offices without burning gas or having to dress to impress anyone but our kitties.  We have “water cooler” talk over Skype and morning beverages; a bit of gossip, reviews of last night’s movies, and bitching about getting up so early to get to work. Then we spend about ten minutes checking our social sites, followed by half an hour on marketing and radio. Then we go to our desks in the Cloud and get to the good stuff: writing. It’s what gives us the discipline to get up early even though we both really hate mornings.

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Usually, all goes well, but not always. On days we just aren’t feeling it, we often go deep into research. But most days, we write so hard that one minute it’s 8 am and the next it’s 6 pm. And once in a while – very rarely…

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