Joseph Carrabis On The Importance Of Literature In Modern Society

Roshan Bhodekar, author and publisher of the international, Madrid, Spain-based newspaper, Transcontinental Times, approached me to do an interview.

Grateful, yes, and appreciative, definitely, but I’m nothing special. Why interview me?

“Because your writing influences and inspires people. It’s important. Especially in modern society.”

Umm…okay. I don’t think of it that way, and okay.

A month later and with a few back and forths between the reporter assigned the interview and myself, you can read the interview at Joseph Carrabis On The Importance Of Literature In Modern Society.

My proposition is a simple one; you can best educate people if you entertain them. Few people remember high school algebra even a year after graduation because (when I attended high school) it was the most boring class imaginable. (anybody remember that great line from Peggy Sue Got Married regarding high school math?)

But I still remember Mrs. Hudon’s sophomore math class because she made it fun. Synthetic Division, anyone? Solving linear equations, folks?

She had a keen sense of her students and made the class interesting even on hot, muggy days when the windows were open and there wasn’t a breeze to be found.

So entertain your audience. Keep them engaged. Keep them wanting more. Keep them interested in what you’re sharing with them. Ask them questions to get them to ask questions of their own, to you, your work, and each other.

In short, get people to learn by getting them to care. Make your subject important to who they are, who they want to be. Why do most people forget books they’ve read once they’ve closed the cover? Because the book has no meaning to them, it’s a blowoff read. Sometimes such reads provide wonderful mental vacations but a steady diet of them leaves one weak and wanting, me thinks.

Roshan noticed my work affects people – or attempts it – and asked me about it. The interview is the result.

Take a read and enjoy.

And let us know what you think.

Twitter Locks and Suspends Accounts of People Tweeting in Danish!

I don’t know how many people’s accounts are locked and suspended because they tweeted in Danish.

Mine is.

And yes, because I tweeted in Danske (Danish).

Oh, the (lack of) humanity!

If you’re following me on Twitter, you may have noticed I upped my game over the past few weeks. After being off Twitter for much of Covid I got back on and began exchanging quips with folks in my stream.

Kys Kys
Then Twitter locked and suspended my account and blocked my access because I wrote “Kys Kys” to a friend in Denmark who’s teaching me Danish via Twitter. “Kys Kys” is Danish for “Kiss Kiss.”

I especially love the line “Please know that there are people out there who care about you, and that you are not alone.” Evidently none of these people are at Twitter.

And let’s not get into the poorly constructed sentence.

Evidently “Kys Kys” has meanings other than “Kiss Kiss.” Specifically, “Kys Kys” has something to do with encouraging suicide and self-harm. According to the Urban Dictionary kys

Stands for “Kill your self” a sarcastic term used amongst friends basically telling one another to shut the fuck up, when someone says something ignorant, embarrassing, or just plain stupid. *not intended for real suicide suggestions, please stay alive y’all…

Robots Go Where Humans Are Too Stupid to Tread
It’s obvious my KYS was caught by some robotic dolt and the issue should have been resolved quickly. I emailed Twitter explaining KYS is Kiss in Danish. I alerted them to their…error? stupidity? idiocy?…and suggested they review the exchange between my Danish friend and myself. A week’s gone by. Twitter claims they’re investigating:

I swear this is true. I’m a fiction author and I couldn’t make up something this inane (although it’ll show up in a future work, I promise you).

The Universe seems to be telling me “Thou shalt not twit!”

At this point, who am I to argue? I’ll start up again if Twitter unlocks my account. Maybe. I’ve never dealt well with stupid, and to me this is wildly stupid.

I will miss all the fine folks I knew there and hopefully they will find me if they wish. It would be nice to have my friends around me again.

“Your Writing Seems So Real”

Okay, not real so much as believable. Fiction has to be believable at some level or the reader won’t be interested. Readers tell me my characters are believable. When I ask some questions it comes out that readers feel (empathize) with the characters.

Great! Excellent! Yowza!

Ask a few more questions and readers tell me they can relate to the characters.

Again, Great! Excellent! Yowza!

I love your stories because you tell a good story.

Being a researcher, I ask more questions. Readers tell me my fiction seems real to them and it comes down to six things I didn’t realize I do:

  1. My stories are easy to understand – I write about people, not about technology. I’m not an Hard SF author (makes it easy to not write about technology). I enjoy some Hard SF, not much. Hard SF well done is basically a logic puzzle and I enjoy solving puzzles, so there you go.
    But I write about people. Technology may serve a plot point and most often I use it to reveal character than move the story forward.
    The end result is readers don’t have to be technically adept to enjoy my stories, hence they’re easy to understand.
  2. I do unexpected things in my stories – This, I admit, is one of the most fun comments I receive from readers. Even Susan (who’s been reading my stories for 40+ years) says I still catch her by surprise even though she’s use to how I write and what to expect in a given story.
    So even loyal fans get a pleasant thrill when reading my work. Some tell me they read just to get the surprise. They still finish the story, but the surprise makes it all the better. Like a box of CrackerJackTM, I guess. You finish the caramel coated popcorn and peanuts even though you took a moment to open the prize inside.
  3. My stories are simple – I use simple language (except when describing technology or expertise. Then I use jargon and buzzwords) and the story’s message (if any) is plain, obvious, easy to understand and apply to their own lives.
    When readers tell you your stories touched them, moved them, made them think, anything like that, it’s a win.
  4. My stories are always based on some truths – Thank god I hope so and yes. Simple truths. Don’t hurt people, for example. A simple truth. Be kind, another truth. To me these are truths. Evidently such truths attract a specific kind of audience.
    Would a bigger audience be better? Sure!
    But not if I have to give up truths to do it.
  5. Readers feel something reading my stories – Thank god I hope so and yes, again. I’ve said many times such is my goal. I want my readers to respond emotionally. That’s how I know they’ve shut out the world and entered into the story’s world.
    Bravo to me, there.
  6. You tell a good story – okay. This one, to me, is whimsical: I love your stories because you tell a good story.
    To me that’s kind of like saying, “I’m only eating it because it tastes so good.” Well, I certainly hope you’re not eating it because it sucks! What are you, some kind of penitent?
    Here’s to hoping I continue to tell good stories.

And please do comment directly on the stories I share. I love receiving emails and DMs, and comments are your opportunity to let the world know what you think.

Four pieces for a workshop

I’m taking an online writing workshop. For several reasons.

First and foremost, I know I can improve.

Second and notquitemost, I enjoy learning.

One assignment had four parts, shared here (to give folks a break from The Goatmen of Aguirra):

Write a Character Description where the Character isn’t happy with their appearance
Mary said yes.
I can’t believe she said yes.
To me!
Why me? My god, does skype show all those wrinkles? Or the gray? How come I didn’t trim my beard today?
And I smiled a lot. I should have spent that extra $100 for the whitener the dentist suggested.
But she said yes!
My eyes are bloodshot. I can’t believe my eyes are bloodshot.
At least she couldn’t smell my breath over Skype.
Or can she?
Maybe that’s why she was smiling so much. Her pretty, whimsical smile. All teeth and curls.
She wasn’t smiling at saying yes, she was smiling because she could smell my breath, knew I just woke up, hadn’t even had a coffee yet, hadn’t brushed my teeth, combed my hair…
Why did I take that fucking call?

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Describe something from nature
Cool, night air.
The musk of woods swirling about our feet like hungry raccoons pecking at our toes.
Bright, Autumn moonlight leading Orion through the sky, away from dawn.
Wolves howl, owls hoot, loons call.
The gentle touch of my lover’s hand in mine.

Describe someone’s perception of nature
What’s wrong here?
The trees are at their posts, the rivers course on their ways, the clouds dance correctly overhead.
What’s wrong here?
The bees buzz on their flowers, the ants carry leaves to their nests, the spiders sit lazily in their webs.
What’s wrong here?
The snakes slither after toads, the toads snatch hatchlings on the wet, wet bottoms, the salamanders spread their toes like firewalkers on parade.
What’s wong here?

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Show People Realizing they’re not where they should be
I catch my wife’s eye and nod towards the end of the vegetable aisle.
“What’s he doing?”
“I’m not sure, but the two people with him don’t look happy.”
“She’s trying to calm him.”
“That boy’s getting ready to scream.”
“Should we alert the manager? Does this store have security?”
“A place with food this expensive in this neighborhood would have disguised Pinkertons walking the aisles. They’ll act if they have to.”
“Bullshit. Look at the clothes they’re wearing. They’ve got money. Nobody’s going to throw them out.”
“How come everyone’s ignoring them?”
“How come we’re not going up to him, asking him if there’s a problem, asking him if he needs help?”
“Because he’s a fucking lunatic, the way he’s behaving. You want to get near that?”
“I don’t want that boy – “
“Oh, my god! He whacked that boy!”

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I dun ben edgjakaytid

[Note: This post originally appeared on the An Economy of Meaning blog on 1 Sept 2010 about 11amET as part of a series on education (and I got the lead post). I’m reposting it here because

  1. My education came up in a conversation with a friend during a recent lunch.
  2. It’s mentioned in my Clancy Tucker Interview.
  3. And again today during a weekly pub crawl with my fellow Harveys.


I dun be smartThis month’s CAS theme is education. I get the lead post. Oh, if only what I had to offer was that a simple assignment of paper — the proverbial sheepskin — bestowed such a thing.

And we are all aware that an education has nothing to do with ability, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, …, yes?

For those who don’t follow my various writings, herewith an overview of previous briefs on education (let me know if you want to see the full posts. If enough ask for them, I’ll dig them out and publish them):
Continue reading “I dun ben edgjakaytid”