Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Silence and stuff

Well, this isn't really a post about anything.

How exciting, I know! Doesn't that just totally make your day? =)

I've spent the past week decompressing from the effects of attending three conferences in three weeks, one for every weekend. Can we say mentally exhausted, despite the fun I had? You betcha. And now, since I've finally managed to get my brain back into shape, I'm off to Book Expo America. Which, if you're not familiar with it, is the largest publishing industry trade show in America.

I've never been to it before. Yes, I'm a BEA-virgin. =)

And I have been told that it's huge and that I will be on my feet for a good part of each day and that my head might explode... but all for a good cause, mind you. And who doesn't like a nicely-exploded head, now and then? All those brains leaking out... oh my, wait, I seem to be channeling one of my horror authors... let's stop with the image of the brains, shall we?

So anyway, I'll be pretty scarce in these parts for the next week or so, and I wouldn't expect too many blog posts, unless some sudden inspiration strikes me as I'm trolling the floor of the Javits Center, burdened down by free books.

So, with that in mind, I'm leaving this as an open thread to all you blog readers out there! I'll try to get around to moderating the comments, hopefully once a day, although I suspect I'll be too busy to reply to any. But feel free to talk the house up in my absence!

And here's some topics to get you started, in no order whatsoever:
  1. The imminent closing of SquawkRadio, and the recent stoppage of Miss Snark. Is it necessary for all good blogs to eventually come to an end?
  2. How do you feel about the minimum wage being raised in the USA, for the first time in the last decade?
  3. Why does my kitten try to cough up hairballs and fail to actually do so? (Yes, we're giving her CatLax, and she's fine.)
  4. What's your opinion on writers majoring in English or Creative Writing in college or grad school? Helpful? Hurtful? What sort of impact do you think it has on their eventual writing career?
  5. Finally, ferrets or fudge?
Have a good week, guys! =)


Jodi Meadows said...


Ferrets. Fudge is great and all, but ferrets. I can't believe you have to ask!

Loquacious Me said...

I majored in English in college. My particular college did not offer "minors" but they did offer "emphasis". And with the English degree, I had three choices: Teaching, writing, or literature. Knowing that I wanted to be a writer...I took the literature emphasis.

First off, the writing emphasis really touched more on technical writing, which is not what I wanted to do. But secondly, you can't learn to write unless you learn to read. REALLY read and understand. I learned more in my Faulkner class about writing than I can ever express.

(and yeah, I took the creative writing class too, for one semester, and won some prizes but it didn't have nearly the influence that you might think)

heidi said...

1. Is it necessary for all good blogs to eventually come to an end?
Alas, yes. Even God's Blog came to an end.

2. minimum wage?

About time, but still not enough. The US pays a shockingly low min wage.

3. hairballs?

It ain't a hairball.

4. English majors? Helpful? Hurtful?

More harm than good. And I say this, having gone through college and having taken too many english and creative writing courses. They did me a lot of damage, and countless other writers I've spoken to in the same boat have also suffered the same.

It wasn't the knowledge itself that does the damage but the egos and the culture surrounding English Majors that does it.

What sort of impact do you think it has on their eventual writing career?
Not much, really. (And what if writing doesn't pan out for them, or they need to find a Day Job that will let them write?) I think having extra knowledge in other areas benefits a writer more than an English degree. Also, writing is still one of those careers that has an apprenticeship, a journeyhood and a mastery. Don't need an English degree for that.

5. Finally, ferrets or fudge? Jodi Meadows may send the unicorns after me, but I prefer the fudge. Yes, I like ferrets, but I prefer fudge.

The Home Office said...

1. Sucks.
2. It's about time.
3. Cats are Evil's agents on earth.
4. Depends on the writer, but at some point everyone has to look at their writing in the context of the real, competetive world.
5. You mean to eat? Definitely fudge, although fudge on a ferret might be worth a try.

Enjoy your week.

Amie Stuart said...

Yes, I think all good blogs must come to an end. Eventually.

It's about time they raised min. wage! I'm not even sure they're raising it enough. Why the man always gotta try to keep us down? Sorry...where was I?

Is she shedding? Do you brush frequently? I don't know...either my cats don't get fur balls or they hack 'em up outside so I don't know about them.

I wasn't an English Major (anthropology) so I don't know though I did discover a lot of great writers from my English Lit classes. I kinda think I agreee with Jenn Weiner who says not to--major in what interests you.

Ferrets are CUTE and the nutritionist would KILL me if I ate fudge...OTOH...I have three cats already. *sigh*

Joe said...

1. Yes.
2. About damn time.
3. To make you wonder.
4. It helps some, hurts others.
5. Ferrets dipped in fudge.

spyscribbler said...

1.) I hope all good blogs don't come to an end! And I just discovered Squawk Radio!

2.) I hope it makes a big difference in people's lives, but I'm not holding my breath. Fact was, forty years ago, a family could be supported on one income. Nowadays, we're lucky if we can support one person on one income!

3.) My cats do the same thing. The sound of it is so worrying, even though I know they're fine!

5.) (Sorry to skip 4, no opinion.) Fudge. There is very little that takes second place to chocolate.

B.R. Stateham said...

As a teacher who majored in English and History, I can say with some assurance that Lit/Creative Writing classes per se did very little in helping me along in my writing.

The essence of a good writer is possesing the overwhelming desire to tell a good story.

The key to telling a good story is having a voracious appetite for reading a good story.

Really, the number of times I've found a book which totally captivated me and forced me to read EVERYTHING that author ever wrote, can be counted on one hand(give or take a couple of extra fingers.)

College classes doesn't make the writer. The natural gift of story telling does.

Tess said...

Re: blogs ending. Yeah, sad as it can be, I totally understand why some bloggers feel they've reached the end, covered all the topics etc. Better to close down than just kinda drift along with no enthusiasm.

Re: cats and hairballs. My girls (both short/medium haired) do the same as Zoe. Try to get the hairballs out, but don't quite succeed a lot of the time. Our old guys had very long fur and while they were alive we'd find hairballs frequently. I wonder if with the shorter haired cats there's some reason they can't get them out? Maybe the hairballs aren't big enough?

WordVixen said...

*sigh* I love my Snark. I totally understand though, as she has a life to lead, a job to do, and only limited patience with nitwits (who don't read the Snarkives before asking).

Minimum wage- it really doesn't make a difference. You raise wages, companies raise prices to make up the difference. Unfortunately, I work at one of those places that won't raise the rest of our wages simply because we're already making more than minimum. One more reason to get working on that novel...

And it depends, is it really good fudge, and do the ferrets bite?

FIONA said...

1. Although I will miss the Snark and squawk radio, things tend to run their course. It is nice of MS to leave up the snarkives. (If you liked SR, check out THE GODDESS BLOGS.)

2.The minimum wage in any corporation should be a reasonable percentage of the CEO & other executives' pay. ALL employees of any company should have access to the same health benefits as the executives.

3.Try giving them "cat grass" to eat. Sometimes cats need fresh plants in thier diet to clear things out.

4.Nothing takes the place of writing in the real world--and trying to make a living at it.

5. Fudge.

kathie said...

Hey Jenny, hope you're hanging in there with all your travel and obligations--you were awesome at Pennwriters, so thanks. I have no idea how being an English major or getting a masters in it would help or hinder your work. I think it would, in general, strengthen your writing even if it didn't mean you were automatically publishable. I got a Ph.D. in education and though it has nothing to do with writing novels specifically, it did teach me to think, to complete projects, to juggle a million things. But, really, it's the write, write, write in the process that makes a difference, not a list of finished requirements. I'd imagine that setting, living with your writing in the company of others on the same path would be really supportive. Or annoying.

writtenwyrdd said...

I majored in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing and a minor in English Education. I think that taking all those courses directed at learning to teach English were extremely helpful to me. The creative writing classes didn't really teach me how to write at all; but they did teach me how to workshop, to read like an editor and offer valuable criticism, not the kind that just hurts feelings.

Fudge, of course. Ferrets are cute and all, but fudge is ambrosia.

Tori Scott said...

How do you feel about the minimum wage being raised in the USA, for the first time in the last decade?

It's about time. My son is a college student who works in the computer lab for $5.15 an hour. Barely covers the cost of his gas to get to classes and work.

Why does my kitten try to cough up hairballs and fail to actually do so? (Yes, we're giving her CatLax, and she's fine.)

Have you tried feeding her cat food specifically designed for indoor cats? When we bought that for the hubby's cat, it stopped the hair ball thing.

Finally, ferrets or fudge?

Um, fudge. Ferrets don't really taste that great.

Just kidding! We had a ferret for a while. Cute little monster, but so much trouble to take care of. And I love fudge, especially dark chocolate fudge made with chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk (fat free, of course).

B.R. Stateham said...

Part two of the question, "What makes a good writer?"

Imagination. You ain't got that (good English, huh?) you ain't got a writer. (obviously I am speaking in the vernacular)

So it's a two-parter paradigm. You must have a love to tell a story AND you must have a creative imagination.

(As far as the fudge thing goes; I'll take mine poured over a bowl of slightly warmed caramel and springled with nuts)

Jessica said...

I've always loved reading and writing so when it came time for college, I said, English interests me, so I'll major in it. Then I switched schools and my new one offered a writing concentration, oh boy!... Some of it was helpful. Most of it was not. I'm a self-starter so any crafty thing I learned I had already learned reading things on my own. The biggest benefit was deadlines on writing and having someone else review it so build a thick skin for rejection. My biggest problem was my classmates weren't serious about it - if you asked them, they all want to be Published Authors someday, but none of them thought about having to actually develop discipline or anything. Drove me nuts. Oh, and the profs had no clue about the publishing industry or genre writing. I wish I would've majored in something useful so I had a field to go into at graduation, but I don't actually regret my decision to major in English/writing because I did enjoy doing it, and I learned a lot overall from being there in general. *shrug*

tcastleb said...

On the subject of schools--most of them do have too many egos, and a lot of them from the teachers. The community college classes I took were wonderful, and at least gave me the confidence that I *could* write, and gave me deadlines to write to. The first university class I took was great--but the teacher wasn't a permanent one. The second class, with a tenured teacher, was bad, and generally what you'd expect from a college MFA program--the guy taught creative writing, but had never read a creative writing book, and was all workshop and no technique. I'm getting an MA at Seton Hill University, and from both student and teacher perspectives, it's totally the opposite of the average college courses. There's no egos--if there are, they're hidden, or those people don't stay long. The teachers help everyone--not just their own students. And, wonder of wonders, genre fiction is embraced, encouraged and studied. For me, it's a benefit, because I get a lot of personal attention and published mentors to read and crit my entire book. Plus there's the connections and the friends. It's not always perfect, but there's a lot of good things there, and I think the one thing that makes people stop writing the most is the realization of how much work it takes to actually get a book done, and not ego bashing.

Yes, technically you can learn all this stuff from books and convention panels, but it means a lot to be lucky enough to have someone trained and honest enough to say "This doesn't work, this is why," because you can't always get that perspective on your own work. So, SHU is good for me and my career.

On the other hand, I do agree with Scalzi's recent post that undergrad writing degrees should be abolished, for the sake that one must have something (experience) to write about.

As for ferrets or fudge, I'll have to go with fudge since having a ferret is illegal in California.

Anonymous said...

Fudge. It smells much better than ferrets.

But I'd eat the ferret, too, if it would bring Her Snarkness back.

JDuncan said...

I think writing programs probably do wonders for teaching someone the ins and outs of writing, i.e where the commas go, what all of those obscure grammar definitions are, etc., but they can't teach you to be creative. They can't teach the perseverence it takes to be a writer or the discipline to write...and write...and write. Not that being technically proficient at writing is bad. God knows there's a lot of published stuff out there that makes you want to fling a copy of Shrunk and White at the writer's head. But in a lot of ways, I think that you have to have it 'inside,' have the heart for it or no number of classes on writing will help you. How many people have taken writing progams and failed to ever complete a single novel? I imagine it's a very large number. College is useful in a lot of ways besides a specific program of learning, and worth it in my opinion on those things alone.

So really, I suppose it helps a few, hurts a few more, and does little or nothing for others. In the end though, those that 'make it' as a writer likely would have done so regardless of any writing program because of the desire and need to write...no matter what.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh at the majority of comments regarding the minimum wage. It's clear that none of the posters have ever been a small business owner.

I have. I used to own a hobby shop. Here's the truth: this minimum wage hike would have killed me - as it will kill a lot of small businesses.

Now, don't get me wrong, I actually paid *above* minimum wage when I owned my shop (just not this much higher). I paid what I could afford and I was /never/ at a loss for people who wanted to work at that rate. (Not illegal aliens, either.)

For the first few years of business, we operated at a loss or dangerously close to break-even. The only reason we did THAT well was because I was able to keep the shop open longer because I could afford to hire some extra help.

But believe me - the numbers were *that* tight. A hike in the minimum wage would have meant that I couldn't afford to hire the extra help, those minimum wage earners would have had NO job, and my numbers would have sucked bad enough that I would have closed down within the first two years.

Ask a small business owner if they can afford a 41% increase in their hourly labor costs. That's what the minimum wage hike means. 41%. The truth is, they'll fire employees before swallowing the increase. Then, without the extra help to make the business work, they'll go under.

Go apply to McDonalds. Are they paying $5.25/hr? I haven't seen a McDonalds paying that rate in a long time. Maybe there are some, but many pay higher rates. Same thing with Wal-Mart. Why do you think Wal-Mart HAS PUSHED FOR A HIGHER MINIMUM WAGE? Because they know that their smaller competitors can't afford it! (google it)

Yes, big business - the same people some of you are complaining about - wants a higher minimum wage so the mom and pops die off. Brilliant. Push up the costs of the little guys so that the big guys win. Guess what happens then? All of those little guys go out of business and all of the corresponding jobs go away altogether. New minimum wage for those people: $0.

So of you will say "well they'll just get new jobs at Wal-Mart." Nope. Economies of scale. It takes fewer employees to run a mega-store than it does to run a bunch of mom and pops that service the same number of people.

The real minimum wage should be $0. We have an unemployment rate that is as low as it has been in decades. Let the labor market decide what employees are worth, not Wal-Mart lobbyists.

The next time you stop into a small coffee shop because their triple mocha latte is only $4 as opposed to Starbucks $6, realize that all coffee shops will soon be Starbucks if we keep passing foolish policies that push small business under.

Next up: small business subsidized universal health care! Yay! Go unemployment!

Betsy said...

1. It's unfortunate that things good things end (and hopefully they don't all have to end) but everyone has to move on at some point. I have to confess, I still check Miss Snark's blog every few days to be sure there aren't any new posts.

2. I'm self-employed and work entirely on commission, so it doesn't affect me much one way or the other.

3. I have no idea. I like cats, but I'm allergic, so don't have much experience.

4. I'll add another vote of happiness with Seton Hill University's MA in Writing Popular Fiction program. Lovely teachers, lovely students. I'm very happy, especially in contrast to the crazy stories I've heard about various other MFA and even undergrad writing programs.

5. Fudge. Mmm fudge.

kiwi said...

Re: Let the labor market decide what employees are worth, not Wal-Mart lobbyists.

And on the flip-side: let the market decide the qualitative make up of the economy, not inefficient operators bent on protecting their own interests by reinforcing the exploitation of service workers. If your business can’t compete, cut your losses up-stakes and reinvest elsewhere—that’s market logic—as fucked up as it is. Marx predicted three things would happen as the forces of capitalist production developed: one of which was the centralisation and concentration of the ownership and control of the means of production into few and few hand. It doesn’t take a raft of letters after your name to know he was right (or perhaps it does?).

Opposing the rights of workers to a living wage isn’t the answer to your problem, anon. Try again, and a word of advice, I wouldn’t dally if I were you.

andreapeck said...

Why does my dog eat poop but not dog food?

Julie Wright said...

I'll pass on both the ferret and the fudge. I hate that miss snark has left us! She has done sooo much for the literary world. I am all for minimum wage raises. I majored in english but then dropped out of college, so I don't feel qualified to offer an opinion. Hairballs! aaack!

LadyBronco said...

1. I sincerely hope not!
2. About damn time! (and it's been working in Oregon for years - I recently did a paper & presentation for school on the very subject!)
3. If it actually were hairballs, she would have coughed them up by now.
4. I have no opinion either way.
5. Fudge. You actually had to ask? lol...

Anonymous said...

Marx was right? History has shown that statement to be wrong, friend.

Two more points:

1) No one is denying any worker a living wage. It's a free country. If you don't think a job pays well enough, DON'T TAKE IT.

2) I had a lengthy discussion with an Indian friend of mine today. We compared the quality of life in the United States to India, and the differences in opportunity between the two countries. Together, we had a good laugh at how lazy some Americans are and how entitled they feel.

Then we shared anecdotes about Indian and Pakistanian families who came to the U.S. with practically nothing. In one case, they stuffed 15 family members into a small house. They worked every crap job you can imagine, from delivering newspapers and pizza, to fast food, to working at the 7-11 convenience store. Growing up, I was always amazed at how the family stuck together and pooled resources. I was amazed at their industriousness. Most of all, I was amazed at how they went from working the 7-11 and KFC to OWNING the 7-11 and KFC. How they went from driving around in a tiny Ford Escort, to owning a Mercedes. How they came here uneducated, but sent their kids to Ivy League schools.

They epitomize the opportunities to succeed in a free market. In the U.S., you'll only fail to earn a living wage if you are lazy or stupid.

In the latter case, there's always welfare for wannabe Marxists.

B.R. Stateham said...

Still waiting patiently in the hinterlands of Kansas.

kiwi said...

Anon, a few anecdotes shared among friends does not pass as American's social reality. And I fear you’re just plan deluded if you think a persons employment and corresponding success can be explained in terms of individual effort alone. Pathology always exists in social context, and the context of the free market isn't the utopia you make out.

The American Dream, is just that for many hard working Americans. To pathologize these people is to add insult to injury.

What do others think?

kiwi said...

Oh yeah, by the way, Anon, don't confuse the various strands of academic Marxism with the numerous failed socialist experiments that plagued the 20th Century. I'm no fan of communism, but Marxism is a very useful tool in exploring the contradictions and limits of capitalism.

Sabrina said...

Mmmm books. An expo all about books. (I'm turning into a book zombie just thinking of rows upon rows of books. "Must have books. Give me books. Mmm, books.")

I graduated college wih a double in English and Psychology and I'm returning for an MA in English with a concentration in creative writing. Yes, it has some flaws, but all the creative writing courses I've taken at my school have been workshops, so I was able to share my work (even if the prof didn't write fantasy, the students could write anything) and I got a lot of feedback from peers. I can only hope the varied critiques improved my writing.

Ferrets? Well, see, now I go to the Beastmaster place. And fudge, well, come on people, it's chocolate! Oh, that's a toughy. I don't think I can make that choice right now.

And I am sad about Miss Snark, and feel horribly behind because I didn't hear about it right away (working too many hours, not enough time to visit my favorite blogs).

Anonymous said...

Go Anon!