Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 3 – I Take a “Writing the Other” class

My first rumination can be found at Ruminations Part I – “Your eyes are completely healed”
My second at Ruminations Part 2 – Numbers lead to informed decisions
Rumination Part 3-1 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 1
Rumination Part 3-2 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 2


Now, once you have decided these things, don’t stop and explain them to the reader. Simply develop a feel for the character’s outlook, and try to write from that outlook. To learn how to do this, read books produced by other cultures and eras, not just fiction, but also biographies, travelogues, history, letters: everything from the Venerable Bede to Pliny the Younger to Ben Franklin’s Autobiography to the sayings of Chuang Tzu to Xenophon’s Anabasis. Observe the details. What does the author take for granted? What is familiar to him and what is strange? How does he perceived himself? From this you may learn something about creating characters who are not yourself. Every professional writer must do this. – from On Writing Science Fiction: The Editors Strike Back

I took a four-week “writing the other” class led by two sensitivity readers a while back. It was about how to properly craft a character with a background with whom the author is unfamiliar.

What became obvious is the instructors were, in my opinion, unqualified. They had no anthro, linguistic, socio, or related training. It seemed their training came from being of a certain racial/ethnic group.

And because I’m a full-blooded Italian who’s never set foot in Italy, I am, of course, unquestionably qualified to speak for the experiences of all Italians everywhere throughout all time.

It’s a wonderful world, ain’t it?

At this point in history…
A writer including a character with an unfamiliar background and getting published is something which could only happen at this point in history (barring vanity publishing) because only at this point in history are people writing stuff and putting it out there with no to little knowledge of what they’re writing about. That attitude among writers and my experience (so far) of sensitivity readers reminds me of my business days when all you needed to claim expertise was to state you were an expert louder than the person sitting next to you.
Continue reading “Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 3 – I Take a “Writing the Other” class”

Search Chapter 12 – Saturday, 19 January 1974

Search is loosely based on a real incident. The incident remains, the story is greatly different.

Enjoy. And remember, it’s still a work in progress. These chapters are rough drafts. I completed a rough draft of the entire novel on 1 June 2021, ~ 8:30pmET. It’s ~103k words, 42 chapters. I mention in earlier posts “…it seems I’ll complete the novel this time. We’ll see.”

It’s seen and done.

Read Search Chapter 11


 

Search Chapter 12 – Saturday, 19 January 1974

Pam watched the grandfather clock tick. She taught Stephanie how to tell time with that clock. She taught her boys how to tell time with that clock.

She hated that clock. For years it stood in her living room, tall and proud, loudly ticking, afraid of nothing, never hiding, its round face looking down at her and constantly reminding her what time it was, how much time had passed, how long she’d have to wait.

Her biggest problem with the clock was Bill’s pleasure in it. He found it and restored it. He already made plans to pass it on to Stephanie when it came time for her to marry.

She stood before it and spit on it. With any luck it’d stain and his repeated polishings wouldn’t be able to get it off.

The clock’s hands merged. Straight up twelve. It began to chime. Even that annoyed her. Bill found a clock with St. Michael’s chimes. Not Westminster chimes, not the chimes everyone knew, not the chimes everyone recognized, said “how nice” once and never again.

No, Bill found a clock with St. Michael’s chimes. Every time people came over they commented on the chimes. People who’d been over the house a hundred times still commented on the chimes. And Bill, like a proud father, would tell the story of the chimes and the clock and how the original bells were part of American history and he’d beam and stand beside his clock and run his hand on it and talk about the feel of the grain and the type of polish used and the size of the weights and how the left one powered the hour chime and the right one powered the quarter hour chime and how the center one actually powered the hands of the clock.

She opened the clock cabinet and adjusted the weight heights just enough to upset the clock’s delicate mechanism a few minutes each day. Not enough to be noticed when Bill wound the clock, just enough to frustrate him with their repeated miniscule inaccuracy.

She closed the cabinet and spit on the clock again.

It started the actual hour count when the phone rang. She hurried into the kitchen before Bill would hear it in the garage.

“Yes, Papa?”

She held the phone to her face with two hands like a little child, nodded and listened.

“So my boys are safe? You’re sure of that?”

She listened again and sighed. “Okay, Papa. You know what’s best.”


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Hawks Enjoy Keith Jarrett

The Wild continues to surprise us.

Case in point, this spry young fellow you see here, as yet unnamed.

We suspect he’s one of Glaxus‘ kin but so far he’s been very, very quiet.

Perhaps he’s hunting wabbits (and if you don’t get the reference, don’t worry).

Doubtful it’d be rabbits in undergrowth that dense. More likely chipmunks, voles, mice, something of that sort.

But we did notice his penchant for Keith Jarrett, specifically The Koln Concert (one of our favorites, as well).

We hope he finds what he seeks.

We wish that on all.

We also wish they’d be better prepared. Often people find what they seek and don’t realize what they were looking for until after it’s found them.

Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 2

My first rumination can be found at Ruminations Part I – “Your eyes are completely healed”
My second at Ruminations Part 2 – Numbers lead to informed decisions
Rumination Part 3-1 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 1


I learn. Usually about myself, and every day. Case in point, What I learned about myself by looking at a picture. Being ignorant is a gift. It means I can learn. (want to see some circular reasoning? Click here).

Sensitivity reading seems to come in two forms; Author incorrectly depicts X and/or Author uses a word or phrase which is offensive in some way, shape, or form.

The first is easily addressed. First ask “Is this a work of fiction?” If no, the author has an obligation to be accurate to the subject matter, nothing else. If yes, ask “Is the work internally consistent?” If no, the author has an obligation to the work to fix it, nothing else. If yes, stop because the author has no obligation to make their fiction toe-step to anything outside of their work.

But what do we do with offensive language?

 
Deciding a writer is prejudiced or bigoted because they use specific words in their work is the same as deciding Da Vinci is his brushstrokes or Michealangelo his marble. See what they bring forth using their skill and tools and judge that.

Do they use their hammer and chisel to bring forth beauty and illuminate some truths? I bow to them!

Do they use their brush and palette to create something for the ages? How can I be like them?
Continue reading “Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 2”

Search Chapter 11 – Friday, 18 January 1974

Search is loosely based on a real incident. The incident remains, the story is greatly different.

Enjoy. And remember, it’s still a work in progress. These chapters are rough drafts. I completed a rough draft of the entire novel on 1 June 2021, ~ 8:30pmET. It’s ~103k words, 42 chapters. I mention in earlier posts “…it seems I’ll complete the novel this time. We’ll see.”

It’s seen and done.

Read Search Chapter 10


 

Search Chapter 11 – Friday, 18 January 1974

Kagan read through the reports, sighed, and checked his watch against the office clock on the wall in the bullpen he shared with six other agents. Two minutes to go. He tapped his pencil on his inkblotter once for each second and counted down as he did so. He glanced at each of the other agents in the room, each at their desk, and wondered what kept them going. Already four years past retirement, the Bureau allowed him to stay on to close outstanding investigations. Done, done, and done.

Then his boss and his boss’ boss and his boss’ boss’ boss shuffled assignments around. In the midst of finding something for him to do, this case came in. They asked if he wanted it and he jumped.

It humbled him and he jumped. The most decorated investigator north of DC and east to Ohio and he jumped.

Janey, his wife of thirty-five years, had Stage 4 cancer. It looked like a goddamn plant on the pictures they showed him; the son-of-a-bitch had vines and roots all through Janey’s body and flowers blossomed everywhere. His wife of thirty-five years, his beloved Janey, was slowly dying in Beth Israel hospital in Boston’s Longwood area and the Bureau wanted him to have all his benefits for her sake.

Same as the folks at the synagogue. Really Janey’s synagogue. But now he went and prayed regularly. They had to give him a yarmulke. He didn’t own one. Whatever the FBI didn’t pick up the synagogue did. It was charity. He knew it was charity. Never in his life did he accept charity.

Now he accepted it. From both. For her sake.

He pulled out his wallet. Behind his license was a small leather patch labeled “Lee Jeans.” It came from the rear pocket of the jeans she wore the first time they met. “This way I’ll always have a piece of your ass in my pocket.”

It was a joke. They both laughed. They both told the story.

He rubbed the patch.

The clock ticked. Time for his weekly call to a Wenham, Mass, phonebooth to check in with his informant. If nobody picked up by ring three go to plan B.

He counted the rings like Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the Phone Operator. “One ringy-dingy. Two ringy-dingies. Three ringy…”

“Hello?”

He put a pad of paper on his desk and took a pen from his shirt pocket. “How’s the snowfall this time of year?”

“Not bad for a kid from Sabrosa.”

Kagan clicked his pen. “Go ahead.”

***

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