"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fog has crept over the landscape again. Here's another reminder about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards that I received in an email:

As you have expressed interest in writing or publishing, we would like to remind you that the entry phase of the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards is about to begin!

Submissions of unpublished novel-length fiction manuscripts will be accepted beginning this Monday, February 2nd, 2009 at 12:01 a.m. (US Eastern Standard Time). For more information about the contest, including the rules and submission guidelines, please visit the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards web site at www.amazon.com/abna.

What is the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award?
The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is an opportunity for emerging fiction writers to join a community of authors on Amazon.com, showcase their work, and compete for a chance to get published. Sponsored in partnership with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award first launched in October 2007 and received more than 5,000 initial entries. In the inaugural contest, Amazon customers voted and named Bill Loehfelm the winner with his novel 'Fresh Kills.' Several of the other Top 10 finalists also received publishing deals with Penguin.

What is the contest’s Grand Prize?
The Grand Prize is a full publishing contract with Penguin to market and distribute the Grand Prize winner's winning manuscript as a published book, including promotion for the published book on Amazon.com and a $25,000 advance.

How do interested authors enter the contest?
Contest submission period begins February 2nd, 2009, at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and ends February 8th, 2009, at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time), or when the first 10,000 entries have been received, whichever is earlier. There is no entry fee. To enter the contest, go to www.amazon.com/abna.

Where can I find more information about the contest?
Visit the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards web site at www.amazon.com/abna to find full contest rules. You can also sign up to receive contest updates, get tips on how to enter, and participate on the ABNA message boards.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fog is so dense this morning I feel like I’m floating far out in the ocean with no land in sight. Some days I feel so out of it….such as when I read stats like how 86 percent of Japanese teenagers read cell phone novels. Is it just me that finds this amazing because I’d rather shove chopsticks in my eyes than read books on a cell phone? And just a note: at last count Rod Blagojevich gave twenty media appearances in the past few days and is scheduled to give a closing argument at his impeachment hearing today.

But never mind…..I’ve been thinking about John Updike’s death—didn’t know he had cancer and only was aware of his most recent book release, the sequel to Witches of Eastwick. A book of short stories, My Father's Tears and Other Stories, is scheduled to come out later this year. But of course, a great man of letters has died. Years ago I took a whole course on John Updike in college. Looking back I cannot imagine why I enrolled--it must have fit my schedule because I was always trying not to be on campus every day. My professor was a passionate fan, thought he could do no wrong. I found his female characters cardboard, his sexual obsessions and escapades supremely sexist, his language verbose, his self conscious descriptions and metaphors endless and overripe. My professor and I argued a lot. I don’t recall if anyone else in the class objected to some of Updike’s antics, as I remember only I questioned some of his excess.

But memory is a tricky thing and over the years I also came to realize that I also admired Updike who was willing to write about anti-heroes such as his Rabbit Angstrom character and small town life and the dullness and vapidity of the middle class, and later, the indignities of illness and aging.

Because in the midst of dizzying excess he had a gorgeous vocabulary and command of the language. His writing soared and swirled and left us breathless (if not a bit exhausted). And look at the subjects he chose—from a Muslim terrorist to Ted Williams to the agonies of adolescence to car lots and infidelity and divorce. He was gutsy and risk taking and wild and navel gazing if not narcissistic. But let’s not forget thoughtful. Even when I was superbly irritated I admired him and his prolific outpourings—short story collections, novels, poems, essays. Some of his works were great, some not so. Who among us is going to write 50 or so books, especially those that chronicle such a tumultuous period of history as was America in the post-WWII years? And he was funny. Suffering from asthma, psoriasis and a stammer maybe it was natural that he turned to writing. But mostly he was a writer’s writer. As Michael Katkutani said: “ENDOWED with an art student's pictorial imagination, a journalist's sociological eye and a poet's gift for metaphor, John Updike – who died on Tuesday at 76 – was arguably America's one true all-around man of letters.

He moved fluently from fiction to criticism, from light verse to short stories to the long-distance form of the novel: a literary decathlete in our age of electronic distraction and willful specialization, Victorian in his industriousness and almost blogger-like in his determination to turn every scrap of knowledge and experience into words.”

In his 2005 NPR essay "This I Believe" essay he wrote: "I seem most instinctively to believe in the human value of creative writing, whether in the form of verse or fiction, as a mode of truth-telling, self-expression and homage to the twin miracles of creation and consciousness."

I cannot imagine who will fill his shoes. Meanwhile, let’s turn every scrap of knowledge and experience into words.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Morning sky is silver and a bit of snow is predicted today—waiting to see what happens since I have a doctor’s appointment later. You know how these days writers are advised to build a platform and need to be heavily involved in promoting their books? I’m thinking we need to find out who Rod Blagojevich (called Governor F-bomb by some in the media) hired for his PR. Yesterday, instead of facing the Illinois legislators who were running his impeachment hearing, he appeared on the Today Show, CBS Early Show, The View and Larry King. Who is this magical booking agent? And if I were a betting woman I’d bet that a book deal is soon to follow….Speaking of betting, do you think Karl Rove is going to show up for his subpoena on Monday—or perhaps he’ll leave the country again.

A big congratulations to the winners announced by the American Library Association yesterday. When I was writing my book Bullies, Bad Guys, and Bitches I had a chance to read a lot of kids’ authors. What a revelation—the writing was so edgy and fun that it almost made me want to become a kid again.

Novelist and graphic novelist Neil Gaiman won the John Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book, which was illustrated by Dave McKean. Called “A delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing, the tale of Nobody Owens is told in magical, haunting prose. A child marked for death by an ancient league of assassins escapes into an abandoned graveyard, where he is reared and protected by its spirit denizens.” Susan Marie Swanson and illustrator Beth Krommes won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for picture books for the book, The House in the Night. Described as “Richly detailed black-and-white scratchboard illustrations expand this timeless bedtime verse, offering reassurance to young children that there is always light in the darkness. Krommes' elegant line, illuminated with touches of golden watercolor, evoke the warmth and comfort of home and family, as well as the joys of exploring the wider world.” Melina Marchetta won the Michael L. Printz Award (for young adult literature) for the book, Jellicoe Road. Kadir Nelson won the Coretta Scott King Award for a book written by an African American with We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball.

And just for giggles you might want to read Heather Havrilesky’s Faster, pregnant lady, kill kill! piece at salon.com. In it she suggests that Obama needs a team of impatient, unforgiving, third-trimester pregnant women to whip the country into shape. Whenever my sense of humor is somewhere around my ankles, Heather is one of the writers I turn to.

Monday, January 26, 2009

You can tell the days are getting longer—5 p.m. and it’s still light out. And yet another day of sun and cold, with a dusting of snow still on the ground. Happy Chinese New Year to all. I’ve been thinking about the Year of the Ox and the qualities of the ox—calm, hard work, resolve, tenacity. Perfect combination for a writer. Thinking about what I want to accomplish—what I’m going to ask the universe for. If you read this blog you know that I’m an author but I’m also recovering from injuries from a car accident that included brain injuries. If there was ever a time I didn’t feel like writing, this has been it. But…well, I’ve been writing. No matter how I feel, I get up in the morning and I write. Many days those first hours are about all I accomplish. I write because it’s become a part of me, I write because I love to write, I write because I don’t know of another way of living.

Years ago I wrote a column called Beginning No Matter What. Here it is:

There are writers who are prolific, driven, confident and born with buckets of natural talent. And then there are the rest of us. Who doubt, despair, and procrastinate. Who have learned while writing a (fill in the blank: a novel, story, poem, essay) that it really is possible to gnash your teeth or gain five pounds over a sentence or plot that won’t mesh. Who conclude that facing a blank page or empty screen is about as much fun as trying on swimsuits. And as we sit staring at its empty vastness, without a clue where to begin or why we’re here, we conclude with a terrible clarity that we’re hopeless (fill in the blank) frauds, hacks, incompetents.
So how do we leave this pit of despair and ascend to the rarified heights of accomplishment? How do we find a way past the silence, the canyon of our first words and onto the page? How do we stir the slumbering or cowering writer who lives in all of us? I believe that one way is to remember why we write in the first place: because it’s a joy. Because most of us have loved words and books and stories since we were small. And can remember the first books we read and the first stories we wrote; the ones that proved we can create magic. That we’re able to touch hearts with our words.
Second, turn back to writing for its therapeutic powers. Writing makes us proud of ourselves, but also, because it’s one part creativity, coupled with one part analysis, it helps us think clearer. We can transform our worries, stresses, and muddles and shape them into a coherent tale. Or better yet, inflict them on our heroine so she can suffer in our place, while we merely pull the strings of her misery.
No matter your reasons for writing, they add up to something remarkable. Writing adds a depth, a quality, a magic that can’t be accomplished by scrubbing or baking or dancing the tango. It comes from somewhere deep inside, and even if we cannot quite understand how the words emerge, they frost our days with fairy-like charms.
So how DO we begin? I suggest that you face, then conquer the fear and the awful blankness by writing just for the fun of it. Write without strings, without proving anything, without showing your words to a soul. Write as if it doesn’t matter if the ending doesn’t jell or the character is a bit too similar to your sister. Just write. And then write some more. Allow the words to work their magic, let them massage your worries and ease your way back into the lovely land of writers.
Here is a list of prompts to take you past your fears and onto the page. Remember, this is just for fun, simply practice. Until you’ve found your way, sure of what you want to write, play around a while.

Jump Start:
Write about a place where the inhabitants are afraid of the changes that will occur when your character moves to town.
Finish this sentence and keep writing: The main difference between men and women is that_______________
Write a story or scene where a lavish meal eaten out-of- doors is featured.
Finish this sentence and keep writing: Whenever I look back to the night when my husband walked out on me, I realize that the no-good _________did me a______________.
Write a story or scene that is inspired by the fragrance of flowers or perfume.
Write about how a ‘new look’ changes a character’s life.
Write a story or scene where somehow ice is featured.
Write a story or scene where somehow candlelight is featured.
Write a story or scene about a character who doesn’t appreciate someone who loves her.
Begin a story with this line: Snow began falling shortly before midnight, and as it drifted down _________________.
Write about a character with an unusual career—professional wrestler, animal trainer, stunt double, race car driver.
Write a scene or story that takes place near a body of water and have the river, lake, ocean influence the events of the story.
Write a story or scene where a child or teenager is wrongly accused of an offense.
Write a scene where characters share a secret in a darkened room.
Write a scene or story where five women gather for a weekend at a beach house or mountain cabin. What do they talk about?
Write a scene or story where a character wrestles with her doubts about her ability to finish a job.
Write a scene or story where a person from a character’s past returns and shakes up her world.
Write a scene or story where something in nature—moonlight, the first days of spring, the first snow---cause events to happen because a character is intoxicated by the influences.
Write a story or scene that incorporates the smells of bread, cookies, or pastries baking.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a day! What a country! (And I don't believe in exclamation points--do not try this at home kids)
Happy Inauguration Day to all. I’ve never been more proud of this damn-near-in-ruins country. Here is the oath, that means so much to so many:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

George Washington also started a tradition of adding the line "so help me God."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Morning sky is pale grey with an equally pale pink swath running through it and the trees are being tossed around by the wind. Well yesterday I found the quote I was looking for. I was writing about problems that are most immediately visible in a manuscript and one of them is when the story is episodic. While it’s fine for scenes to stand up on their own, good fiction (and memoir) must be tied together with theme, language and voice, and of course, characters. Thus connectivity is the key and all fiction is causality related. So here is the quote I was looking for—from not Henry James, but E. Forster from Aspects of the Novel:

Let us define plot. We have defined a story as a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. “The king died and then the queen died” is a story. “The king died then the queen died of grief” is a plot. The time-sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it. Or again: The queen died, no one knew why, until it was discovered that it was through grief at the death of the king.” This is a plot with a mystery in it, a form capable of high development. It suspends the time-sequence, it moves as far away from the story as limitations will allow. If it is in a plot we ask “why?”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The darkness has faded revealing that fog has settled everywhere this morning blanketing the neighborhood, the giant evergreens across the street rising out of the mist. Easy to imagine I’m in England, or a Dickens-type character might emerge from the mist perhaps wearing a top hat or some shabby bundle of rags. I’m reminded of Carl Sandburg’s line, "the fog came on little cat feet", because when you wake up to a world of fog, it’s such a delightful surprise.

And oh joy, I just learned that Charlie Huston has a new crime fiction book out, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death. If you can handle gore and such, you might want to check out his site pulpnoir.com . He’s also blogging at Amazon’s Omnivoracious this week. Read his dialogue and weep.

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. He was already a Baptist minister when he led his first boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery at 26.I hadn’t realized that he was so young when he first became a civil rights activist. I was thinking back to myself at 26—it was the time I was living on an Ojibwa reservation in northern Wisconsin, writing poetry, raising my daughter, singing. I was a bit lost at that time in my life—partly because I was afraid of being a writer, partly because I had a lot of growing up to do. But leading what turned out to be a revolution at 26? Whew—with gratitude to his friends and family who lost him.

Yesterday I was trying to find a Henry James quote about drama—haven’t found it yet—but was reminded of his knowledge of storytelling. In his more than 50 year career he produced novels, plays, criticism, essays and stories. Since it’s January and despite a world-wide recession and weather that is freezing our eyeballs shut in some parts of the world (I talked with my aunt in northern Wisconsin yesterday and didn’t dare mention our temperatures were supposed to be in the 50s this week) we need to saddle up our hopes and plant our butts—some a bit wider since the holidays—at our computers.

Here’s a bit of inspiration from The Future of the Novel: Essays on the Art of the Novel by the esteemed Mr. James:
The house of fiction has in short not one window, but a million—a number of possible windows not to be reckoned, rather; every one which has been pierced, or is still pierceable, in its vast front, by the need of the individual vision and by the pressure of the individual will. These apertures, of dissimilar shape and size, hang so, all together, over the human scene that we might have expected of them a greater sameness of report than we find. They are but windows at best, mere holes in a dead wall, disconnected, perched aloft; they are not hinged doors opening straight upon life. But they have this mark of their own that at each of them stands a figure with a pair of eyes, or at least with a field glass, which forms again and again, for observation, a unique instrument, insuring to the person making use of it an impression distinct from any other. He and his neighbors are watching the same show, but one seeing more where the other sees less, one seeing black where the other sees small one see coarse where the other sees fine. And so on, and so on; there is fortunately no saying on what, for the particular pair of eyes, the window may not open; ‘fortunately’ by reason, precisely, of this incalculability of range. The spreading field, the human scene, is the ‘choice of subject’; the pierced aperture, either broad or balconied or slit-like and low-browed, is the ‘literary form’; but they are, singly or together, as nothing without the posted presence of the watcher – without, in other words, the consciousness of the artist. Tell me what the artist is, and I will tell you of what he has been conscious. Thereby I shall express to you at once his boundless freedom and his ‘moral’ reference.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It’s Wednesday night and I had to check out my guilty pleasure American Idol in Kansas City and the new judge, singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardi. So far, lots of fun, thousands of people auditioning and many faces of delusion, eccentricity, and tone-deaf crapola mixed in with real talent. In case you missed it there was a woman (Mia?) who called down the wrath of God on the judges after being rejected. Actually I think she did it four times as in God is going to get you. Poor losers are so unattractive—let’s all remember that.

Thanks to a kind Portland-based writer Loey Werking Wells here is the information on the blogging gig I mentioned earlier from the Huffington Post: “SYDNEY, Australia — Position: Island caretaker. Duties: Lazing around Australia's Great Barrier Reef for six months. Salary: 150,000 Australian dollars ($100,000).

Unemployed, take heart _ the aforementioned job ad is for real. Billing it the "Best Job in the World," the tourism department in Australia's Queensland state on Tuesday said it was seeking one lucky person to spend half a year relaxing on Hamilton Island, part of the country's Whitsunday Islands, while promoting the island on a blog.

The move is part of a AU$1.7 million campaign to boost tourism in the state. In exchange for the plush salary, free accommodation in an oceanfront villa and airfare from the winner's home country, the "employee" will be required to stroll the island's white sand beaches, snorkel, maybe take a dip in the pool _ and post photos and videos of his or her experiences on a weekly blog.
"It'll be huge," Tourism Whitsundays chief executive Peter O'Reilly said, adding he expected thousands will apply.

Applications are open until Feb. 22 and 11 finalists will be flown to Hamilton Island in May for the final selection process. The job begins on July 1.

On the Net: Best Job in the World: http://www.islandreefjob.com/ “
Morning sky is pale grey and weather prognosticators are predicting a week of sun and warm weather. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I can handle another day of the Bush Farewell Tour. Hasn’t this been the longest two months of your life, or is it just me? At Monday’s press conference (which, by the way, they needed to fill in the last two rows with interns because there weren’t enough journalists to fill the chairs) he was in full blown loony mode, playing fast and loose with the truth. As pugnacious, arrogant, defiant, delusional, and bizarre as ever. As usual there were no tough questions from reporters who no longer needed to worry about being barred from the White House press corps, and as usual, Bush refused to call on Helen Thomas. Bush said, “I think it’s a good, strong record. You know, presidents can try to avoid hard decisions and therefore controversy. That’s just not my nature.” And after leaving an enormous swath of wreckage behind him from millions of Americans out of work, an economy in ruins, our stature in the world destroyed, to two unsuccessful wars, to Paulson giving away billions to banks with no accountability, not one damn reporter disagreed with or questioned him. We need journalists who are not yes-men for corrupt administrations and we need them now.

It was especially disturbing to hear him defend the federal government’s handling of the Katrina catastrophe, claiming they weren’t slow or inept. As you can imagine this didn’t sit well with the people of New Orleans where there are still 200,000 abandoned houses, where five hospitals still haven’t opened, where the bitter memories of Katrina will never fade. According to Editor & Publisher: Tuesday, The Times-Picayune -- whose staff was forced to abandon its New Orleans headquarters in the rising flood waters and whose reporters were the first to alert the nation that the city had not "dodged a bullet" on Katrina -- begged to differ. Strongly.

"There ought to be no question that the government's immediate response was slow and shameful," the Times-Picayune said in an unsigned editorial headlined, "New Orleanians, and the nation, know what happened after Katrina." But I could go on and on about the human catastrophe that is George Bush. Memo to him and Sarah Palin (borrowing from Keith Oberman): we cannot miss you if you don’t go away.

Elizabeth Alexander was on The News Hour last night with Jim Lehrer discussing poetry and her role in the Obama inauguration. She says she plans to be “quiet and humble” and explained the role of poetry in people’s lives. She also talked about how when she was one her parents took her to see Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech in Washington. Talk about coming full circle—she was an amazing. Asked how she is crafting her poem for the inauguration, Alexander said, "I am trying to both be quiet inside and keep my ears open outside to listen to where we are right now." You can see a clip of her at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/ There are also poems and more information about her at the ArtBeat blog.

Yesterday I had the radio on in the background and Thom Hartmann of Air America mentioned that there is a position open for a paid blogger. I’ve searched for information but cannot find it, but here is what I heard. There is now an audition process going on for a blogging gig that sounds too good to be true. The person who is awarded the job will spend a year on an island in the Great Barrier Reef blogging about life on the island. And oh yes, earning $100,000 a year. If anyone knows the details, write me.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I woke several times during the night to the roar of wind thundering through here loud as a 747. Blustery-- a marvelous word-- was invented for days like this. Highways and roads are being closed in the mountains because trees are toppling over and debris is blowing around. Meanwhile, there are flood warnings and watches out for the region, especially southwest Washington since the ground here is saturated by rains and snow and now more rain is arriving as snow melts.

For the past ten years or so I’ve taught a workshop called Writing Recharge in January and during the workshop we’d talk about how to push aside doubts and excuses and make writing a part of our daily lives. At the core of every writer’s life is a routine that sustains him or her during the good times and bad. Now many of us don’t like to subscribe to routines—too confining, too dull, too, well, routine. But think about how children respond to a bedtime routine—how a routine can offer comfort and solace and peace. Here are some tips to help you slip back into your writing routine.
1. Put writing first. Writing goals will never be accomplished if you write with leftover scraps of time and energy.
2.Remember that difficulty and anxiety are normal components of writing..
3.Don’t wait for inspiration, write anyway.
4.Don’t give in to distractions.
5.Associate with positive people who have like goals.
6.Take charge of your thinking.
7.Keep going despite your moods.
8.Take breaks. Writing is sedentary and cramps the arms, upper back and shoulders. Get up and stretch at regular intervals, walk around the block, perform yoga postures.
9.When the going gets tough, take a vacation.
10.Analyze your writing and life goals and start living as if your already have it.
11.Experiment. When you’re stuck or procrastinating, try another medium. Haul out crayons, paints, collage materials, clay, and express your ideas. Draw a sketch of a character or thumb through decorating magazines and create a collage that represents the home and lifestyle of your wealthy, eccentric protagonist. Grab a camera and travel to an inspiring location and snap photos focusing your writer’s eye on the world. Go to the garden and plant a bed of flowers or bulbs or herbs. Or, slip into the kitchen and make a pot of soup or stew, bake a cake, experiment with a lasagna recipe. You might be surprised at how many ideas for your stories will begin simmering as you dabble in another medium.
12. Stay focused. Work on one paragraph, one scene, one project at a time during your writing session. While outlines or elaborate plans can be immensely helpful as a map for our projects, each day as you begin your writing, focus on a single goal for that day and don't let the whole project crowd into your head. Often the enormity or complexity of a project can be intimidating. Don’t scare yourself: keep your goals firmly in mind —perhaps you want to write two pages, two hours, or finish a tricky scene where your character must escape from a locked cellar.
13. Ignore trivial worries. Don't worry about trivial concerns---such as other people stealing your ideas, how to spend your book advance, and what outfit to wear when you appear on Oprah. Or they’re obsessed with copyright issues. Should they print the copyright mark on every page? Should they date every page, mail copies of their work to themselves? Or they wonder if Courier or Times New Roman is the best font to use. Other writers are obsessed by the worry that someone will make them change their words. Other writers are nitpicky perfectionists and tinker with every comma and adjective afraid to declare ‘the end’. Write first, then edit and polish what you’ve written, then worry about getting it published.
14. Conserve your writing energy. Don't squander your creativity talking or fantasizing about your writing. Keep the details to yourself and write instead of gabbing about what you plan to write. Some writers waste their story by spilling it to friends, but talking too much can dissipate its power. Or sometimes well-meaning friends or family will have so many suggestions that we get confused about the true direction of our work.

More words to add to the word list: Hurdy-gurdy, whipsaw, cobbled, avatar, corrode, chirping, bulwark, loopy, spangles, lofty, rocketed, pomposity

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Night is settling in on the first day of 2009. I wish you and your family a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year.

So what are your doable or impossible dreams for the new year? Here are a few of mine:
I hope that no matter how trying our times that we can all muster a dose of optimism and more than a dose of laughter.
I hope that children everywhere are safe and beloved.
I wish that children everywhere would spend less time with video games and more time reading.
I hope that my aunts will thrive this year after dealing with radiation treatments, heart surgery, and other health issues.
I hope that people (especially my students and friends) who were born to write will sit down and write instead of surrendering to their fears.
I hope that poetry and poets will thrive.
I hope newspapers will find a way to survive while continuing their necessary tradition of investigative reporting and other services to communities. And may they find readers, especially younger readers, who appreciate good journalism.
I hope that news organizations everywhere will devote more ink and air time to the catastrophic effects of the economic crisis on people who were low-income before the current downturn.
I hope that family farms continue to thrive and become more numerous, and more people will grow gardens and teach children where food comes from.
I hope that a college education can be made affordable for low and middle income students.
I hope that independent film makers continue to make intriguing films.
I hope that global warming will stop being a political issue, and become a fact of life that must be combated with rationality and worldwide cooperation.
I hope that things start shifting so that our sense of community and mutual responsibility grows. Which might mean that people who collect friends on Facebook and other such places, might instead start nurturing friendships in the real world, as in face to face, as in I’ll bring you chicken-soup-when-you’re-sick and hold-your-hand-at-your-mother’s-funeral kind of friend.
I hope that fake memoirs will no longer be published.
My greatest hope is for peaceful solutions in the world’s craziest trouble spots. Let’s all hope for lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians; for the suffering people of Zimbabwe, Congo, Sudan and other African countries ripped to shreds by hatred and violence; for Pakistanis and Indians, also, people so often on the brink of hostilities.
Along these lines, I hope that a more rational and creative policy for Afghanistan is reached. Perhaps the folks in government and the military will realize that if Alexander the Great, and the Soviet Union and Great Britain at their military peak could not conquer Afghanistan, that neither can we and we should get the heck out of there. Perhaps a modern, functioning democracy is simply not viable there…..Or perhaps we can help them rebuild their agriculture instead of supporting the current narco economy.
I hope that a flag lapel pin will never again be equated with patriotism.
I hope that the phrase “war on terror” is retired.
I hope that the Obama administration has great success in 2009—although this takes into account the daunting tasks ahead. Universal health care would be a fine start.
I hope the Detroit automakers return to profitability, this time selling cars with fuel-saving technologies.
I hope that as promised, we begin the troop withdrawal in Iraq along with diplomatic envoys, and work with the Iraqis to establish a working, trusting, long-term relationship. And fix the electricity system for the Iraqis on our way out the door.
I hope that stem cell research is once again funded.
I hope that Guantanamo will be closed down.
I hope that a Special Prosecutor is installed to investigate the Bush administration war crimes.