Monday, April 23, 2007

Abortion has nothing to do with breast cancer!

A new study discounts the anti-abortion camp's claim that having an abortion increases your chances of having breast cancer.

According to the study, having babies before you turn 35 lowers your chances of having breast cancer. So does breastfeeding.

Inversely, this means that if you haven't had kids by age 35, you're at a higher risk for breast cancer. There is no link between having abortions and having breast cancer. The article doesn't say by how much having babies lowers your risk of breast cancer.

Does this mean that women should run out and have babies like mad to avoid having breast cancer? No, of course not. The anti-abortion people are taking it one step further, though, by lying and telling women that abortion increases one's risk of breast cancer.

In fact, according to the article, laws in Texas, Minnesota, and Mississippi actually require doctors to warn women that abortion increases their risk of breast cancer, if the doctor feels that current research supports that claim. What?! Why is that law at all, especially considering current research refutes the claim? Basically, that law could be rephrased to say, "Doctors, if you believe that abortion is wrong you can tell women that it will increase their risk of breast cancer, just as long as you can find some research to back up your claims."

Law should not permit doctors to use their personal opinions to justify giving women false information. Abortion does not increase your risk of breast cancer, ladies. Saying that it does is just another attempt of the anti-abortion camp to undermine the power we currently have over our own reproductive systems.

Another persons speaks up about Cho's creative writings

I apologize for not having written a lot lately. I've been busy getting ready for the wedding, but I've also been a bit troubled by the Cho controversy, and haven't felt much like blogging.

I ran across another story supporting my view that Cho's creative writings should not be seen as "warning signs." You can listen to the short blurb on NPR here.

Friday, April 20, 2007

More on Cho

I received a very nice email from a reader, agreeing with my opinions regarding Cho's creative writings, and recommending to me another article on the subject. Having recently gotten involved in a rather heated discussion on the Writers Weekly forum about whether Cho deserves any sympathy for being bullied, I ranted a little in my response. Below is an excerpt from my email, as well as a link to a very well-written article I found on the subject:

I cannot believe how unable some people are to separate what Cho did from what he endured, and condemn his actions at the same time as they sympathize with his experiences.

There is another very good article that I ran across, an in-depth discussion of school shootings and where we ought to be placing the blame. Shooters like Cho are easy scapegoats for people who don't want to see the larger problems in society.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush's 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. The ruling was close -- 5 to 4 -- and so contentious that one of the dissenters, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, read her statement to the court.

"For the first time since Roe," Justice Ginsburg said, "the court blesses a prohibition with no exception protecting a woman's health."

As Justice Ginsburg noted, the Bush ban does not allow abortions even in cases where it is necessary to save a woman's life. Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, you should be outraged by the court's ruling. No politician or lawmaker should have the right to intervene between a woman and her doctor -- in my mind, not at all, but most certainly not when the woman's health is at stake.

If you agree, click here to sign the Planned Parenthood Pledge.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

School shootings and youth violence: Do creative writings hold the key?

Most of you probably know about Monday's school shooting, where Virginia Tech senior Cho Seung-Hui killed 30 people before shooting himself in the face. I've been following it pretty closely, as it reminds me a lot of the Columbine shooting in my own town eight years ago.

Just as with Columbine, I'm noticing the media's tendency to point out "warning signs" and draw connections. With Columbine, they recognized (somewhat) that bullying and ostracization had something to do with why the shooters had developed such a hatred for other kids. Sadly, though, everyone spent most of their energy fingering everyone else for not seeing "the signs."

I'm seeing a similar thing going on with Virginia Tech and Cho Seung-Hui. The media is making a big deal about the "warning signs" -- that Cho was introverted, a loner, etc. The fact that he wrote two "disturbing" plays in a creative writing class is especially getting a lot of attention.

I read both of Cho's plays, "Mr. Brownstone" and "Richard McBeef", and I have to say I don't think they are all that significant. Realistically, they contain nothing worse than what I grew up reading in V.C. Andrews, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, etc. "Richard McBeef" is a little disjointed, like something he just threw together, but "Mr. Brownstone" contains some rather clever literary devices... And like I said, the imagery is no worse than what is fed to much younger readers on a daily basis. Would someone read these plays and automatically think, "This kid is going to kill lots of people someday"? I don't think so.

The entire situation reminds me of something that happened to me in middle school. Back then I used to carry a spiral-bound journal to school, and I wrote in it constantly. Being rather bullied myself, a couple of girls once thought it would be great fun to steal my journal and read it. Eventually the school counselors intervened (though it took a while, since they were always convinced I was doing something to deserve being bullied).

When the counselors got the journal from the other girls, they wouldn't give it back to me at first, because of a rather dark poem I'd written and attached to the front cover. They thought that the poem signified that I had some rather serious problems (although as much as I was bullied, and at that age, did it really surprise them that I suffered some angst?). I remember being surprised, but I stubbornly maintained that it was just a poem I'd written, and that I wanted my journal back. When they finally returned it, they had removed the poem -- as if holding my writing hostage would banish my feelings of being ostracized.

If, sometime after that incident, I had taken a gun to school and massacred a bunch of other students, those counselors would have told everyone that they "saw the signs," and pointed to my poem as evidence. And perhaps if Cho Seung-Hui had grown up to write bestselling horror novels or screenplays instead of shooting up a school, "Mr. Brownstone" and "Richard McBeef" would have been hailed as early explorations of his natural talents.

Obviously, of course, Cho did shoot up a school. However, from what I can tell there was likely a lot more going on in that kid's life than just writing violent plays. All I'm saying is that let's not forget that in hindsight, we often read meaning into things that simply wasn't there. In other words, let's not start using these "warning signs" to make assumptions any time a kid writes something dark. And before you tell me that won't happen, remember that after Columbine, trench coats were banned in schools nationwide, simply because of Harris and Klebold's affiliation with the (rather harmless) "Trench Coat Mafia."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Writers and taxes: Why you should be honest

While browsing some of the top headlines this evening, I spotted this article, about the IRS's recent push to reclaim taxes. It's probably unsurprising that the amount of unreported income is so high. I know that I've heard a range of comments and excuses from people, from the misconception that PayPal income isn't taxable to the reasons why a personal car should be written off as a business expense.

Lying about your income is a shady thing to do, in my opinion. Deliberately writing off expenses that are completely unrelated to work is even worse.

Judging by what this article says, though, if you are not already honest with the IRS, you had better reconsider your evil ways. It sounds like the IRS is going to start cracking down on self-employed individuals and small businesses. Getting audited is a hassle, but it's even worse if you've been naughty.

There's really no excuse for not keeping good track of your income and expenses. My personal preference is to keep an Excel spreadsheet for income and another one for expenses. Anytime I receive payment or spend money on something work-related, I just enter it into the correct spreadsheet, copy the check if it's a payment, and file the receipt if it's an expense. That way, not only do I have a running tally throughout the year, I also have a paper trail to back up the income and expenses I report to the government.

If you're interested in more about doing taxes as a freelance writer, you might be interested in several articles I wrote for Write-From-Home.com:

How to File Taxes as a Freelancer: An Overview
Filing Taxes as a Freelancer: How Deductions Work
Taxes for Writers: Paying Your Estimated Tax

I really hope for your sake that you're not still working on your tax return at this late hour, but if you are, maybe these articles will help. Even if you have already filed your taxes, perhaps you might want to be better prepared next year -- or perhaps you still need to figure out your estimated taxes. (You know about that, right?)

Either way, good luck -- and remember, be honest!

Friday, April 13, 2007

The trouble with wannabe writers: The redux

Fair warning: This diatribe is about crazy people. More specifically, a crazy person who thinks he's a writer. And the things I'm going to say could be interpreted as slightly mean if you sympathize with crazy people, so read at your own risk.

I posted about wannabe writers several months ago, when I started getting emails from advice-seekers following the publication of my article in Writers Weekly. Today's story beats them all hands down.

I rather liked the guy at first (we'll call him C.G., since I want to rant about him and what he represents, not embarrass him). He keeps a momma cat and her three kittens in his vintage clothing store, and they run around greeting customers, climbing furniture, and playing amid racks of brightly sequined dresses. The way he talks reminds one of the stereotypical gay guy running a clothing boutique. And he has some really great vintage costumes in his shop.

I started noticing little stuff at first. Like the long, unwashed hair that poked out from under his cap and trailed down his back. Or the fact that the couch, coffee table, and TV setup in the back room -- amid racks of costumes and pieces of leopard-print second-hand furniture -- seemed like it might be where he lived. The store was really cold, too, and in retrospect it was probably because he couldn't afford to heat the place.

My mom and I were looking for a dress for her to wear to my 1920s-themed wedding, and although we did find it there, the fact that I was waiting while she tried on dresses meant that I was a captive audience for C.G. He started talking about his upcoming book, and I was going to mention that I'm a writer -- until he said his book would be the next biggest spiritual book since the Bible. At that point, my bullsh!t radar switched to hyper-sensitive. Several seconds later, it just about overloaded when he asked me to email Oprah and ask her to let him on her show.

Over the next twenty minutes, whenever I couldn't escape by checking on my mom or fetching a kitten, I was held hostage by this guy. The premise of his book sounds more like something the crazy homeless guy on the street corner would be muttering under his breath or shouting at nervous passersby. Seriously, if C.G. and I met on a street corner and he started ranting about the "flesh house of 2007," I'd cross over to the other side.

At one point, he told me, "This is a line from my book." He started quoting, and I smiled, nodded politely... Kept nodding... Kept smiling and nodding... And he went on and on and on. I think this "quote" lasted at least a minute. It started out okay, but as he went it turned into this long, run-on sentence. The meaning of what he was saying fizzled out completely after about six words -- after that, it was just a string of pompous- sounding phrases. Either he just made it up on the spot, or he shoved everything he wanted to say in his book into one sentence and memorized it.

Oh, but wait -- it gets better. My mom asked for his business card, because she liked the store, and instead he gave us each a "billion dollar bill." It's basically a mock-up of U.S. money with a head shot of him dressed as a pirate. Really weird stuff. All of his store info is on this bill, like on a business card, except that it's a really awkward size. When I went to fold mine, he said to me, "Don't fold it. It'll be a collector's item someday. Just wait a couple of years."

I'm at a loss to explain C.G. as anything other than crazy. With the wannabe writers that I ranted about before, there was an obvious lack of understanding about the writing business, combined with delusions of grandeur. With this guy, I think it's more like a psychosis of grandeur. (And I shouldn't doubt that it has something to do with the drugs he probably did in the 60s and 70s. And probably still does, for that matter.) Although this may be simplifying the issues here, I didn't get the feeling that this book was a real work-in-progress -- no matter how much he talked about how famous he was going to be.

Okay, so I know this guy probably isn't playing with a full deck, but he is still indicative of a rather large group of people: The "writers" who talk endlessly about their idea for the great American novel, but never actually write anything. They want the attention without having to put forth the hard work of actually writing a book and seeing it through to print. It's the fear of becoming like this that keeps me from ever talking much about a novel or short story idea before I write it. Another writer once wrote that talking about how great your novel is going to be is only wasting time that you could be spending writing it, and I take that advice very seriously.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Slow Mondays and Sleeping Beauty's return

Yesterday (Monday) I only got half of what I'd planned done. Thinking about it some more, I realized there's a definitely pattern: I tend to have a harder time concentrating on Mondays, and therefore work more slowly and get less done. Does anyone else have this (or a similar) problem?

I also regret to have to say it, but I'm having problems with my schedule again. I blame it entirely on the all-nighter (and sleep-all-dayer) I pulled Friday night -- I haven't gotten up earlier than noon since.

I'm also finding that wedding plans are encroaching on my work time more and more frequently. For example, so far this week I've had to make a trip to the cobbler regarding my shoes and to the seamstress to pick up my dress. I'm not done, either -- I need to go with my dad to get measured for his tux tomorrow (to make sure he doesn't change the coat to something that won't match), in addition to running several other errands sometime this week (i.e. picking out nice paper and plastic ware, hunting down some soft drinks in retro bottles to go with the 1920s theme, etc.) and sewing my veil onto my headpiece. (I have been tracking these details on a separate wedding blog, if you are interested in checking it out.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Time for a good laugh?

I just discovered the "Best of Craigslist" section. More importantly, I just discovered the funniest rant ever about stupid people and their resumes. There's also a post that makes me glad I don't have to deal with office drama anymore. And, oh, it's on a totally different level, but there's one about someone masturbating in the restroom that is pretty funny, too.

Another meme: My favorite type of writing

Jess over at the JM Writing blog tagged me for a new meme: What's my favorite type of writing?

This is almost too easy to be a meme. :o) My favorite type of writing is... fiction. Of course, now I have to explain why I write so little of it.

Basically, as a writer who has only been freelancing for two years (full time for a year and a half) I have discover that it pays to follow the money, rather than my dreams. Basically, I'm achieving my dreams in steps. The first step was to make it as a writer, which I did when I worked for ten very long months as a technical writer. The second step was to "go freelance," which I did in October of 2005. The next step will be to devote more of my time to writing fiction, but before I do that I need to establish an income that will let me divide my attentions being directly-paying and potentially non-paying pursuits.

So there you have it: Fiction is my favorite kind of writing. And hopefully, someday (soon) I'll be doing more of it.

I'm returning the favor and tagging...

Harmony at Writer in the Making
scriptgirl at the Writer's Confidant Blog
Alicia at WritingSpark.com

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A well-deserved break

Last night -- Friday night -- I worked another all-nighter. From 1am to 8am, I worked on finishing the copy for a client's website. (Sadly, as a result I slept until 4pm -- goodness knows what this will do to my schedule.)

I've decided to take the weekend off -- something I haven't actually done in what feels like eons. Usually, if I'm not working all weekend I'm trying to find time to work all weekend. As productive as I have been recently -- increasing my billable work hours each week, completing the backlogged work I have been accumulating -- I feel I deserve a little break. (And no, it actually doesn't have anything to do with Easter being this weekend.)

Anyway, Monday will be here soon enough, so I'm off to read a little and enjoy my reprieve.

A heartwarming story about a writer

I haven't been blogging as much lately, due to my busier schedule. I've had a full work load lately, not to mention a lot of wedding-related things to take care of. As a result, blogging has not been among my priorities.

However, I ran across this article about a writer realizing his dream at 96 years of age. What a heartwarming story! I hope it doesn't take me that long to successfully publish a book, but it's always good to hear about the writers who refused to give up.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

McGraw-Hill and the threat of stolen submissions

On the last couple of weeks' issues of Writers Weekly, the "Whispers and Warnings" section has included a thread about McGraw-Hill and a book containing a stolen submission. Basically, the writer had submitted an essay, which the author "twisted into a profile" for use in her book, without permission from the writer. The author of the book, Jan Goldberg, has not (as of yet) responded to either the writer or Writers Weekly, and McGraw-Hill seems to be giving them both the run-around. Basically, the author and her publisher stole someone else's work, and they're going to get away with it because of how large and established McGraw-Hill is.

This whole thing reminds me of a fear that constantly keeps me from submitting to anthologies or similarly-minded collections. I'm always afraid that exactly this is going to happen: My work will be published without my consent, without payment, and perhaps even without my byline. Even in a best case scenario, anthologies usually pay very little, and the chances of being selected for publication are fairly low. In my mind, submitting to an anthology, or even a collection that is being published by another author, is a gamble that I'm just not willing to take.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Meeting deadlines, suffering relapses

I suffered a relapse last night...er, this morning. I didn't get to bed until nearly 7:30am, and got up at 2pm. It was for a good cause, though -- I worked through the night in order to meet a deadline (and make several hundred dollars).

Apparently when I went to bed I was not able to add and subtract correctly, because I set my alarms for about noon, thinking that would enough sleep. Needless to say, it wasn't.

It seems that to meet a deadline (and still be able to enjoy my weekend) I've sacrificed my hard work so far to change my sleep schedule. I'm hoping that a little over seven hours' sleep won't be enough, and I'll still be tired tonight, but we'll see.

What have you sacrificed in order to meet deadlines? Click on the post title to comment and tell me about it!


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