Thursday, October 31, 2013

How does a Humanist solve the problem of Bullying?

 by Jennifer Hancock

No parent wants to see their child suffer at the hands of a bully. As much as we would like to shield them from horrible people, as parents, we have to be realistic. Our job is to prepare our kids for life in the real world and that means helping them learn how to cope with mean people.

The problem is that most parents don’t know how to actually help their kids aside from general platitudes like – stand up for yourself or ignore them.

The question is, how does a Humanist parent approach the subject of bullying? The answer? With science and compassion of course.

It turns out that science has already figured out how to eliminate unwanted behavior. The field of behavioral psychology has studied this problem extensively. Using operant conditioning techniques, which are so effective, they are standard for every animal trainer in the country; you can train a bully or other obnoxious person to stop and leave you alone.

While these techniques are fairly easy to teach, they are very hard to implement, which is why most anti-bullying programs don’t teach them. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

What currently passes for anti-bullying education is good but incomplete. Most programs only teach the beginning part of the behavioral extinction process. They don’t teach kids or adults how to actually complete the process.  This is why most attempts to eliminate bullying fail, despite everyone’s good intentions.

But failure with good intentions isn’t good enough anymore. Kids are committing suicide and killing their classmates to get away from the torment. We need to do better, which is why we need to stop shying away from teaching them what actually works.

The good news is that what actually works is scientifically sound, ethically compassionate and incredibly empowering for the victim.  

Bullying is all about power. Bullies gain power over their victims through aggression and coercion. When victims learn how to train a bully to stop, they regain the control they had lost and it’s amazing to see a child blossom when they learn these skills.

When it comes to bullies, we can no longer afford to let kids figure how to deal with them on their own. That’s a lot like throwing a kid into a swimming pool and hoping they will figure out how to swim. Just as it is saner, safer and a whole lot less traumatic to teach kids how to swim, it is also saner, safer and a whole lot less traumatic to teach kids how to get bullies to leave them alone.

Learn what it takes to get a bully to stop. Teach it to a child and share this information with others. Let’s start a knowledge revolution that will not only make a difference in the lives of children, but in the society in which we live.

Just image an entire generation of kids who have learned these skills. Just imagine an entire generation that didn’t have to deal with bullying? Just imagine what society will be like in 20 years if no child learns how to bully because their peers teach them not to? That’s a society I’d like to live in. It won’t be easy, but it is worth doing.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Hungry Kitty

by Sandy Hartman 

Look outside
A yellow cat
The neighbors up and left him flat
He's at my door more and more
Where do they come from
Those yellow cats?
Perhaps from weeds
Perchance from trees
Or yellow flowers that make us sneeze

Oh well, ignore him
We just won’t look
He will find another nook
He will have to go

Oh!  Oh!
He won't take "No"
He simply will not go
I’m asking you
What should we do?
Should we stop and think this through?

Oh, no!
Stop indeed!
Look!  Just look!
Is that a skinny rib I see?
Or maybe two or maybe three
Why he’s hungry
Hungry as can be
Yes! without a doubt
Those skinny ribs are poking out
Well, it is quite true
And it simply will not due

Let's feed him peas
And chocolate treats
Or cans of beans and pickled beets
“Oh no!” you say
"That’s not his way?”
What is better yet?
What will do?
I know
Let's feed him meat and milk and fish!
Now there’s a proper kitty dish
And look!
I think I see a fishy grin
Right behind those whiskers clean and prim

So, here’s the facts
We will feed him kitty snacks
And tasty bits that please a cat
Soon we'll see that skinny kitty
Becoming plump and nicely fat

But now of course you know
He's ours
Ours to care for
Ours to own
Ours to love and ours to hold

Well now, I hope that suits you!
Because it suits me fine
And I must say. . .
It suits me sweetly so!

c 10/14/09
Sandy Hartman

Kids and kittys.  What enticing subjects to build a poem on both for beginning writers, experienced writers, and those souls who just want to take time out for a bit of fun.  Yet I always try to keep in mind the many other creatures of this Earth who also deserve the attention of the poet's pen.  Diversion for the harried writer might be an ongoing collection of animal haiku. . .for the precise writer, sonnets from the wild. . .lessons from Aesop in rhyme, poetic notes from observation, and the list is endless.  All are a good antidote for the current popular genre of poetry based on self discovery and involvement.  I submit that the selves we are truly cannot survive without our deep understanding and regard for the others of our creation.
If you wish to hear the audio reading and the accompanying photos for A Hungry Kitty, as well as other poems, please go to my site at
See you there. . .
Sandy is a member of the Jacksonville branch of the National League of American Pen Women

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Reviews and Style

by Alex Lukeman

This blog was stimulated by a reader review on one of my books. A three star review, which is like damning with faint praise. Most of the reviews on this book are five star, with a few fours thrown in. People like it.

Reader reviews are an interesting part of being a writer. You can learn a lot from them. You also have to remember that it's impossible to make everyone happy, no matter what you do. This particular reader dinged me because she didn't like and/or understand my style of writing.

Style is a subjective thing. You like Picasso or you don't. You like ZZ Top or you don't (I like both). The reader seemed to think I didn't understand how to use commas (I do) and said most of my sentences were 5 or 6 words long (they aren't) and that Robert Ludlum could write twice as many pages to tell the same story (he could). Ludlum is also dead.

My style is consciously direct, clipped, fast moving. I could write sentences that went on and on if I wanted to, with plenty of commas. My English background is unusual. I know what I'm doing, even though I do make mistakes. I break rules on purpose. I don't follow the Chicago Manual of Style. My style would make most editors completely crazy, but there's nothing prohibited about it.

Think of  writers who break the rules: Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Steinbeck, Lee Child. Raymond Chandler comes to mind. William Shakespeare. In fact, pretty much every good writer you ever heard of.

This reader was disturbed because the sentences were too short for her liking. She probably wouldn't like Lee Child either. He sometimes writes sentences of two or three words. What do you think I should take away from a review like this? Should I be worried that my sentences are too short? Should I feel upset and inadequate, a failure when held up against Robert Ludlum?

Right, mate, no way.

Some reviewers love to make unflattering comparisons to other authors. I have reviews that compare me favorably to James Rollins. I have a review that says Rollins is a much better writer. I don't copy Rollins or anyone else. My style is mine and not anyone else's. I don't think I'm as good or better or worse than James Rollins and other successful writers. I try and learn from them. I am what I am, as Popeye said.

Finally, there are negative reviews from readers who are sure they know a lot more than you do about any given subject and that you are a dumb screw up who has his head you-know-where. For example, I had a review that took me to task for not knowing what I was talking about, because I had my heroes carrying around 35-40 pounds in the Himalayas at 17,000 feet. The reviewer was sure it couldn't be done. As a matter of fact, I have trekked in the Himalayas at 17,000 feet with a 35 pound pack, and I wasn't in the kind of shape my heroes are (super!). I was writing from experience. Then the reviewer became personally insulting.

Part of me would dearly love to review him, but that is not a good idea. The only thing to do with a negative review is learn from it if it has any truth and see it as a back-handed compliment if it does not. Hey, at least you got someone's attention!

I had one reviewer give me 2 stars without reading the book. That's a lousy review. She said she read the description, though, and didn't like it. I mean, SHE DIDN'T READ THE BOOK! All of which means you need to take reviews with several pounds of salt. Believe in yourself: that's what counts.

Author of the PROJECT Action/Adventure series 

Friday, October 25, 2013

How I became a writer


I stumbled into writing 3 years ago after my love for reading returned. As a child I loved reading, but college kind of took all the fun out it when I was forced to read a cluster of chapters for my classes every night. I guess you could say I simply just got burned out and chose not to read anything other than 2-3 page articles in magazines.
I got my start on just like a few now famous authors (EL James of 50 Shades fame) Every night I wrote a chapter to a story I created with Stephanie Meyer's characters from Twilight. Within two years time I had written 15 stories and gain a huge fan base who actually were the main reason why I decided to finally publish my own work. 

In February 2012 I published my first eBook "Moving On Without Him" and had quite a bit of success for being self-published. Later during the year I published a short story "Like A Moth To His Flame" which had me seriously contemplating trying to land a deal with a publisher. At that time I was living a hectic lifestyle as a wife, mother of three, and banker. The idea of me committing to anything that could lead me to have a career in writing seemed probable, but not something that would happen right away. My plan was to self-publish five more books in 2012 and everything was going according to plan. That is until one day I woke up and my life changed in an instant.

For almost 8 months I wasn't physically capable of writing due to a condition that was later diagnosed as Chronic Migraines. I lost all ambition to create an imaginary world where my characters would have their happily ever after's when I was in constant pain and unable to drive to due severe dizziness, decreased motor skills, blurred/double vision and terrible imbalance. Even months after I sought out treatments to help my condition, I was still unable to write. The story "The Storms That Fated Us" had been ready to send out to my editor, but I couldn't follow through with doing the work to get it published.

I sat on the story that is partly based on myself as a teen, hoping it would be published within the year because I figured my health would improve by then. It actually took 13 months for me to begin working on the revisions with my editor and gather outside help from others to make self-publishing this book possible. Had I not had the emotional and moral support from the Clusterheads and the Chronic Migraine Awareness groups I might not have ever published another book.

"The Storms That Fated Us" is significant to me in so many ways. I wrote this story a year and a half ago when I was struggling with certain obstacles in my life. Writing this story wasn't only therapeutic, but it reminded me that the choices I made when I was a teenager were really no different than the choices I have made as an adult. Every decision has an outcome and effects those around me. 

I don't know what the future will bring for me as a writer. But what I do know is that everything happens for a reason. Because I suffer from migraines and other disabling headaches I have become an advocate on behalf of those who suffer from similar disabling,conditions as mine.

This past year she became an advocate for migraines and headache disorders after being diagnosed with chronic migraines and cluster headaches. Despite how disabling her condition can be at times, she has several books lined up to be published in 2014. She also has plans to speak at several migraine conferences and advocate on Capitol Hill with others who are just as passionate about raising migraine/headache awareness.

JP Summers is a Native Texan who resides on a 140 acre farm in northern Wisconsin with her husband and their children. She is a self-published author that loves chocolate and crushing over fictional men that are so unbelievably smoldering, you swear the pages could actually go up in flames while reading the book.  



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Responsibilities of Friendship – Honesty in the Balance

By Mary Gottschalk
Are you honest with your friends?
It is all well and good to say that friends are honest with each other, but what does that mean in practice? Do we have an obligation to share our opinions just because we have them?
Where is the boundary between honesty and cruelty, between honesty and interference, between honesty and acceptance of friends as they are?  How do you find the balance between being honest and being kind?  How do you find the line at which honesty—or the lack of thereof—makes a charade of the friendship without actually crossing the line?
Where does the boundary lie when people you care about make life style decisions you don’t agree with? It can be painful to watch a friend making the wrong job choice, or spending money unwisely, or picking an unsuitable romantic partner. But what do you accomplish when you offer an opinion that a friend does not want to hear … when you make a recommendation that a friend is emotionally or psychologically unable or unwilling to act upon? And who’s to say that your opinion is correct? What seems self-evident from your perspective may be inappropriate and/or impossible in a friend’s situation.
Where does the boundary lie when a friend is being betrayed, perhaps by a spouse or a business partner? Do you have an obligation to pass on that information? Put differently, do you have a right to pass on that information? What if your friend already knows and is trying to avoid dealing with the issue or trying to deal with it in a non-public way?  Confronting a friend with the fact of a betrayal may exacerbate the situation rather than improve it.
For myself, I lean towards telling my friends what I think and appreciate having friends who are forthright in their dealings with me. But I am much more cautious than I used to be. The fact that I have an opinion doesn’t mean that I have to share it.
How about you?  Where do you draw the line? 

Mary has made a career out of changing careers.  After finishing her MBA, she spent nearly thirty years in the financial markets, working as an economist, a banker and a financial consultant to major corporations.  She has worked in New York, New Zealand, Australia, Central America, Europe, and amazingly, Des Moines, Iowa. 
Along the way, she dropped out several times.  In the mid-1980’s, Mary and her husband Tom embarked on the multi-year sailing voyage that is the subject of her memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam.  Twice, she left finance to provide financial and strategic planning services to the nonprofit community, first in New York and later in Des Moines.
In her latest incarnation, she defines herself as a writer.  She is working on her first novel (A Fitting Place), freelances, and lectures on the subject of personal risk-taking.
 Links to books and social media sites

Monday, October 21, 2013


by PA Davis

Are you the weaker sex, or am I? I ask you this because you said you weren’t going to do that. I never dreamed you could, not in a crowd of friends. Do you feel so weak that you have to belittle me like that?
When we came here tonight we agreed there would be no revealing of secrets. What happened last week, last year happened. You said it wasn’t a point we needed to rehash. You nodded, and there was that funny little smirk that I’ve come to expect. You promised it wouldn’t be this way, and yet, here we are.
Why did you have to tell them? I did what I did. It’s over, fini. And then you cut my flesh like a knife with your words and my blood flowed in branches of red. You stripped me bare to our friends. How could you?
I told myself I wouldn’t cry, but you bring me to the brink.
I won’t let you win this way.

PA Davis Contacts
Twitter:   @padavis249

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Do the media reflect the world around us?

By Scott Bury                      

The world presented is the world that advertisers feel they can sell to easily: white people with lots of disposable income for designer cars, clothes and computers.

Best-selling indie author Martin Crosbie has invited some Canadian writers, including me, to answer the question: is the Canada he knows, that we all know, represented in the mass media?

He doesn’t see the country he knows in the major newspapers or magazines of the country. Another writer, Karen Magill of Vancouver, added that Canadian writers, like Canadians generally, feel an inferiority complex compared to the media dominance of the US, and as a result aren’t as eager to write about their own country. She writes that she as advised to set her novel, Missing Flowers, in a US city, rather than in Vancouver, British Columbia — her home town.

In my guest post, I wrote that neither the news media nor entertainment media reflect the country that I see around me. I touched on the types of professions in fiction, the settings, and about how closed commercial publishers are to new voices.

But indie authors are also missing something important. It seems that, in chasing that big audience, many indie authors are aping the conventions followed by mass publishers. As a result, indie fiction does not reflect the world that I see around me.

What’s missing? Diversity.
I know that many of my readers are writers themselves. I’ve been reading a lot of indie fiction lately, and unfortunately, many writers fall into some stereotyping traps. Most of the characters’ names are English, or occasionally Irish or Scottish. Cops are sometimes Italian or Polish. I’ve come across a smattering of Hispanic women TV reporters, for some reason, but almost no African-American characters.

Why is that? Whom do indie writers think they’re writing for?

I live in a major, modern North American city in the 21st century. The people that I live and work among come from, literally, around the world. Almost half the people I grew up with were immigrants, or their parents were. When I taught in college, my students came from China, Taiwan, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Iraq, Bolivia, Mexico, the US; in my neighbourhood, people come from India, Norway, Jamaica,  Finland and China. And some were First Nations, Metis or Inuit.
If you’re reading this on the bus, subway, metro, train or ferry, look around: how many of your fellow commuters are white, of British extraction? Or are there people you can see are Asian, South Asian, African or Hispanic?

Think about your neighbours. How many of them have English last names? How many more are non-English? Sure, English may be the largest single ethnic group, but they’re not more than half anymore — I don’t even think that you’ll find a majority of English last names in most neighbourhoods in England, anymore.

Write what you know
Open your eyes, and write stories that reflect the world you live in. It’s not what’s in the mass media. And the only way we’re going to have an impact on this warped reflection is if we start to write about what is really in front of our eyes.

What do you think? How can writers start to reflect the country, the world, the reality that’s right around us, right now? Leave a comment.  

Scott Bury is a journalist, editor and writer living in Ottawa. His articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia, includingMacworld, the OttawaCitizen, the Financial Post, Marketing, Canadian Printer, Applied Arts, PEM, Workplace, Advanced Manufacturing and others. His books include The Bones of the Earth, One Shade of Red, Sam,the Strawb Part and Dark Clouds.

You can follow his blog, Written Words, or his Facebook page, and on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.