Friday, January 27, 2012

Think SMALL...and accomplish more!

   Every year about Solstice time I have a sense of eagerness begin to build, then just after Christmas, I generally find a quiet time to reflect on the year past.

   That reflection can sometimes take the form of recrimination for projects languishing, phone calls not made or good intentions paving my personal road to hell.  Sometimes.  But being the optimist I am, that afore mentioned eagerness morphs into full blown enthusiasm for the coming year.
   I convince myself that I can see a clear and easy path through the latest project. That making a phone call and sending birthday cards on time is simply a matter of better organization.

   January first is the beginning of the rest of my life, a full and successful life. A life that finds my butt firmly planted in my chair, writing and ignoring the fire alarms. I usually find my unofficial resolutions teetering on the edge of the abyss of an overextended life and the lists of daily, weekly and monthly activities to be accomplished.

   So this January I’ve been reading  about how to take baby steps, how to not be intimidated by large projects and most important how to slow down and think in small manageable blocks of time.
This year I’m going to try to ‘THINK SMALL’ and accomplish more. Does that work for you or do you thrive on fear and guilt?

---by DeNise Woods, author

Friday, January 20, 2012

World Book Night

At the last AKRWA business meeting, I shared some tips from a recent Writers Digest article by Áine Greaney to “Reboot Your Writing Routine.” She suggested that writers create an artist statement, and we decided to write our own and present them at our January meeting.

My statement came fairly easily: I want to inspire women and young people as I entertain them with tales of old Alaska. That sums up what I write and why I write it. I hope to become published and share my stories with everyone. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on my craft and help readers where I can. Here’s one event we can support together: World Book Night.

I first came across this event in the 49 Writers blog. Here’s a blurb from their site: We need 50,000 book-loving volunteers to fan out across America on April 23, 2012! Just take 20 free copies of a book to a location in your community, and you just might change someone's life.
The goal is to give books to new readers, to encourage reading, to share your passion for a great book. The entire publishing, bookstore, library, author, printing, and paper community is behind this effort with donated services and time. And with a million free World Book Night paperbacks!

To learn more, and maybe become a giver yourself, go to

This passes on the joy of reading, One of the best parts of teaching high school English was giving someone a book and watching them enjoy it. Sometimes I had a student say, “This is pretty cool, did they write any more?” and I knew they were hooked. How great it must feel to be the writer that hooked a kid on reading. I hope to do that some day.

Do you have an artist statement this year? Or a reading memory you’d like to share? Please feel free to comment.

--Lynn Lovegreen

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Censorship, Rating Systems, and Book Banning

About a year ago in an on-line critique group, I encountered a woman who wouldn't allow any R-rated material submitted for critique, PG-13 only. She refused to explain what she meant by R-rated or PG-13, and she wouldn't accept that the film-rating system doesn't apply to books.

Struggling to make sense of her restrictions, I researched film-rating systems of various countries. In the US, the Motion Picture Association of America rates movies. PG-13 can have no sex scenes what-so-ever, although torture and other forms of violence are acceptable. This rating was added specifically for movies such as Terminator and Indiana Jones, which are violent but geared toward a teenage and pre-teen audience. Some R-rate moves actually have little sex or violence. The King's Speech for example is rated R. It seems R actually means intended for adults regardless of the content. If this is so then for literary equivalents G means children, PG means middle grade, PG-13 means YA, R means general adult fiction, and NC-17 means erotica.

I suppose the major difference between film and fiction is that if a child manages to read the novel Clockwork Orange he or she is a genius, but it takes no particular skill for the child to view the story as a movie. I consider Clockwork Orange to be one of the greatest masterpieces of science-fiction language building. For the first three pages or so the prose has so many new words that story doesn’t make sense but, after that, the language comes off as seductive and beautiful. I'll admit I've never seen the film. I don’t want to encounter that kind of violence without the veil of words.

Another difference is that a reader can stop at any time, while a movie goer in a theater is in sense held captive for the duration of the film.
So the gal in the on-line critique group wanted to apply film standards to novels, ignoring the distinct difference between film and written fiction. I dropped out of the group and immediately wrote an erotic science-fiction novella. Don't tell me that I can't write about sex. I don't much go for violence, but sex is interesting. We humans sure have a bizarre way of producing more little humans.

I'm sending that novella, Sappho's Agency off to a publisher this very weekend. Despite erotic content it's the most political story I've ever written. I was raised Roman Catholic and have long struggled with the Church's teaching on sexuality. My bookshelf contains a well thumbed copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. I've read with interest the parts relating to the role of women. I'm interested in the Church's position on homosexuality, birth control, and marriage, and in particular the reasoning for these positions.

The Catholic Church holds that the primary purpose of sex is reproduction. Following from this premise, the Church concludes that homosexuality is wrong and that condoms should be used under no circumstances whatsoever. According to the Church, a person who engages in a homosexual act or uses a condom is selfish, hedonistic, and unnatural. I find this logic stunningly bizarre and therefore fascinating. If this logic were used consistently, the Church would be rallying against men who've had vasectomies, women who have hysterectomies, and against men who marry women who are infertile. Following this logic, only those who are physically capable of producing children should be allowed to marry and engage in intimacy. The rest of us must remain chaste and celibate.

In the writing of Sappho's Agency, my thoughts and frustration found an outlet. The story shows homosexuality and condoms being used with the intent of producing a child, and it shows other legitimate functions of sex such as nurturing of love between a couple, relief of pain, and sacramental expression of religious belief. I'd best explain that last one. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage between a man and a woman should mirror the relationship between God and the Church. Therefore, marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples and, within a marriage, the woman should be subservient to the man, thus maintaining a resemblance to the proper relationship between Church and God. Logically this is complete nonsense, but it makes sense religiously. When we love our spouses, we take part in something much larger, and so feel a sense of wholeness.

Following up on my interest in religion, politics, and erotic fiction, I researched the Index, more properly called the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list of written works prohibited by the Catholic Church. Among the notable included works is Justine by the Marquis de Sade. I'll admit I haven't read the novel, as it's likely to have a greater amount of sadism than I enjoy. The Marquis de Sade wrote the book on sadism and Justine is that book. My low tolerance for violence rears its ugly head again. However, I believe Justine is on the Index, not for violence or sex, but because of political content. If it were just a dirty or gory story, Justine would have been forgotten, but it criticizes the Catholic Church and, for this, it was banned and the author thrown into prison. Never mind that the man engaged in pedophilia, rape, torture, and abduction. These were not viewed as his crimes. He was banned and imprisoned for his philosophy, not for his violent acts against his fellow humans. Les Miserable was once on the Index as well, most likely for containing less than flattering views of priests. That's the best I can figure out anyway.

With trepidation I send my novella off to a publisher. At times, I fear I've gone too far, at other times I worry that my writing isn't erotic enough. Truth be told, I'm more interested in politics, society, and economics than I am in sex. In this my writing is very definitely science fiction in the tradition of Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein, The Left Hand of Darkness by Le Guin, or one of my favorites Ethan of Athos by Bujold.

Eve Marlinspike
writer of erotic science fiction

Monday, January 2, 2012


Resolution is a hateful word really. It’s down and dreary, and dusty. I looked up the definition of resolution and this is what I found.

Number 1: the process of resolving something such as a problem or dispute. Maybe if we didn’t make resolutions we wouldn’t have so many problems or disputes to resolve. All those weight loss resolutions make for some pretty foul moods. That’s it! I resolve to eat chocolate!

Number 2: a firm decision to do something. This one is a little better. I like making firm decisions. So I firmly decide to enjoy more chocolate with family and friends.

Number 3: firmness of mind or purpose. Okay, I can live with having a purpose.

Number 4: an answer to a problem. Wrong. Chocolate is always the answer.

Number 5: a formal expression of the consensus at a meeting arrived at after discussion and usually as the result of a vote. Huh? We’ll just skip this one. It makes my head hurt.

Number 6: the quality of detail offered by a TV or computer screen or a photographic image. Interesting, and my husband could give me a detailed report on the importance of this and why we need a TV that costs the price of a compact car. Chocolate is cheaper.

Number 7: the process of separating something such as a chemical compound or a source of light into its constituent part. Hmm. Skip.

Number 8: the disappearance or coming to an end of a medical symptom or condition. Couldn’t they have used a more exciting word for this?

Number 9: the musical progression from a dissonant to a consonant chord or note. Since I don’t play an instrument the only thing in this definition that connected was music. I need some Journey with my chocolate, or Queen. Add in Foreigner too.

Number 10: the point in a literary work when the conflict is resolved. As a writer, I resolve to like this one. Though it does mean the story is coming to an end for my imaginary friends.

After reviewing the definitions above, I think we should resolve resolutions. Do we really need them? Now goals are a different ball of yarn. Some will say that resolutions and goals are the same. No, they are not.

Read the above definition of resolution and then compare it to words associated with goals: score, aim, successful attempt at hitting, kicking, throwing, or slapping a puck into the goal, and finish line. I love all these words. Much more doable, positive, inspiring, and powerful. Come on, slapping? You betcha.

I loved a friend’s idea where instead of resolutions she builds a bonfire and burns what didn’t work the year before. Add marshmallows, graham crackers, and CHOCOLATE and make it a party.

The month of January is depressing enough what with the bills of December, income taxes coming due, the dark and bleakness of winter that seems to have no end in sight (this is especially true in Alaska). So I suggest we set up our goals to aim successfully at the finish line. Go out there and hit, kick, throw, or slap until you reach your goal! Then celebrate with chocolate.

Since there is power in putting goals in print, I’d love to hear about the goals you’ve set or reasons you aren’t setting any.

Tiffinie Helmer