Saturday, January 31, 2009

Editorial Comments

Recently, I communicated with a free lance editor with these comments. My guidance is be an editor or what I would think one would be. Don't worry about money, rewrite where you think it should be (I can accept or not), do the grammar, spelling, whatever. The front material is not numbered. And, the beginning is really a teaser story to paint the picture of what readers can expect: a family where nobody is ever a stranger. Also, look for consistency and repetition.

Sue Knopf, who always puts Airborne Press stuff together, does some editing but as I've said often, most writers who may be the only ones who think they're writers, have a style and so to maintain that is also important. Most anybody can put words on paper but to communicate is another thing. I still get feedback on GTC, a memoir, Gun Totin Chaplain). And, that which is meaningful is when someone says, "Reading the book was like sitting down and talking with you. "

As we know, the book business is so convoluted that no wonder it is always under attack from non readers, meaning that reading may be a dying sport for the majority of Americans. The other day I met a book packager. He told me that he has about three contracts to write books which are assured of selling well because Barnes and Nobel has their own publishing arm and they will simply make the book do well: all their stores, prominently displayed, all the stuff they have to do. I actually have one of his books, a picture book, well done and sold according to him. 200,000 copies. It sold as he said, because of his pipeline. This is not sour grapes, merely what is. Without justifying, as an ADD type, I am very clear on what I'm doing and what I want, at least in this area. Thus ends the commentary.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Gran Torino is terrific and different than what we would think. Eastwood is somewhat Eastwood but is an old codger, cranky and grumpy to the max--so thankful that I am not that way and please Lord, help me not to get that way. The basic story is that the Hmong mainly take over Eastwood's old neighborhood. The Hmong are not a country but a people, much like the Montagnards, both were terrific allies in Vietnam. The sad thing as the movie points out: so many of the Hmong (and other immigrant groups) have been affected by good old American culture, meaning you can do what you want; in this case, most of the young men chose gangs. The girls go to college and the boys to jail (this was actually said in the movie).

Clint's wife is dead and he has next to no relationship with his two sons. A young priest is constantly hounding him as per the instructions of his dead wife. Eastwood's language, especially the non PC stuff is hilarious. And, the neighbors, a Hmong family, take to him and inadvertently he helps them and is then subject to their customs. Reluctantly, he comes to grips with what it means to live next to a culturally different group of people. He bonds with the young girl and her brother and begins a kind of journey to keep the gentle young Hmong boy out of gangs.

The title, Gran Torino, was very symbolic and represented the fact that Eastwood was an auto worker for all his adult life, minus his military stint.

Although I really enjoyed the movie as a different take, what often happens to me is that I wish they had explored other areas, i. e., why was he such a bad father. And, as was slightly referenced, as a combat vet of Korea, suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) even if he didn't name it; still, true and how much did that effect his crouchedy nature.

This movie evoked in me what I always feel when I read or see anything that relates to our sorry involvement in Vietnam. What if we had never interfered in that country? How would it have been. This is not to disparage any of us who served there. We were soldiers and did what we were told. But, think about it. These kids in this movie had to deal with their fellow countrymen who have become gang members. An American phenomena, there's an entire culture wrapped around the gang life. If these youngsters had stayed in Vietnam, not subject to American culture, would they be better off? In the movie's case, the gang members were going to end up in jail after they had wrecked havoc upon their own people.

Because I have a friend who has been very involved with the Hmong in LaCross Wisconsin, I decided to indulge my own curiosity and wrote her this email: I told her about the movie and then said, The Hmong are such an interesting people and I immediately got out the book you did for The Pump House, this non profit in LaCrosse Wisconsin. It is such a good book, Hmong Lives, From Laos To La Crosse, a wonderful history and tenacity of a people transplanted to our Shores.

My question to my friend, how are the Hmong doing in LaCrosse? Here is her answer. My impressions is that the Hmong people in La Crosse are doing pretty well. I see a lot of kids on the "high school student of the week" page in the paper, and the Hmong Community recently redid a large building (formerly a big supper club) as sort of a community center and also a place to hold gatherings like funerals and have classes. They have huge, long funerals--several days long with people coming from far away. Some of the children of the people who originally came here are grown up and starting their own families, typically much smaller than the families they were raised in. A couple of years ago, when the Thai refugee camps closed, another wave of new Hmong people came to La Crosse, but this time I think many were sponsored by relatives who already lived here--when the first group came, people from local churches sponsored them and helped them get places to live. I see Hmong names among Realtors, pastors, teachers.
Sue Knopf, book designer, Graffolio, LaCrosse, WI.

Sue's response makes me feel better and I guess that the question I always asked is simply unanswerable. See this movie.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Recently, I received a promotion from a writer. I always want to encourage but could only think, "talk about someone in for a few disappointments." But, he is an example of how us lessor lights who love to write and want to make some impact have to do: self promote, self promote, self promote. I admire persons like this in a sense, as they are willing to do it. I don't have it in me so to satisfy my need to write, I stick to blogs, etc.

I do get lots of emails from wonderful folks, especially my age (retired from a real job) or close, who love to write, who, email the Airbornepress website wanting to see if we will publish their writings. They have wonderful stories and want to be an author. My suggestion is that they have to do it for themselves; but, if they expect to get a reading from some big publisher, it is going to be lots of rejection. It is simply the nature of the beast. But, if writing is just a hobby as it is for me, maybe they might be better off getting some mechanics tools. I am always kind.

With this writer, even though naive, I don't think he needs much encouragement and has a "pair" of them. AMEN!!!!!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I write to process my thoughts, to make sense out of my “conflicted” world. I do not think I have the stamina nor the gifting to write anything new. I am a high “iNtuitive” on the Myers-Briggs scale :-o (Oh no, Mr. Bill!).

I appreciated Paul Tournier’s approach on “thinking and hearing.” He said he always had a paper and pen to process his thoughts, even in his times of silence, “… through the words in my mind or through my inborn unconscious faculties, the recipient of thoughts that come from God.” (A Listening Ear).

Like I quote to my students, “I have never said anything original or profound in all my life.” (author unknown).

Everything is borrowed, only restated db

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Slumdog Millionaires is a riveting movie. But, it ain't as my buddy says, "a feel good" movie. The only "feel good" aspect is what movies can do, if they desire, "they can make anything happen they want to happen." In this case, it was "feel good" at the end where the Slumdog wins the prize. I know, I know, I have given away part of the movie. Not really as one thing is evident: the risk of the Slumdog (great acting by the way) is a philosophical thing: if he lost, he really was only where he began anyway. Meaning of course, that if we have no "real" risk, it's easier to risk.

The movie was good on many levels. The techniques of the film in flashbacks was especially effective, I thought. The flashbacks peeled away the mystery of how a kid from the slums could know answers to trivial questions. The knowledge went way beyond the scope, even of those with advantages much less a Slumdog.

I always liked the American version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire even if the stakes were considerable higher in these; the contestants (or anyone for that matter) could be tortured. The term, slumdog, is pretty telling and thought provoking in itself. The sad fact kept running through my head as I watched--there are really kids who live the life of slumdogs in horrible and squalid conditions.

My daughter asked me whether it would be OK to take her teenager to Slumdog Millionaires. Absolutely. A great teaching opportunity. This is life for kids in many countries and the "teaching" lesson is how lucky to be an American--a fate of birth. Our absolute worst is far better better than the "slumdogs" of the world. We should be so thankful.

Just as an added benefit, the movie maker slipped in a couple of digs at Americans: overweight and thinking that throwing money at a problem will solve it.

See this movie. The Little Miss Sunshine of this movie season but more sober. Three parachutes.