Perfection at the Expense of Integrity?

By N. M. Cedeño

 

 

The 2012 Josephson Institute survey on cheating in high schools found 51 percent of high school students admitted to cheating on a test. Another study found cheating to be common in highly competitive, economically well-off schools. In fact, where the pressure to achieve high scores is emphasized over mastery, students are more likely to cheat according to a 2018 study by Eric Anderman, et al. If you search for cheating scandals in the news, you can read about the many and varied ways students have found to cheat.

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When I was in high school, the only students who felt the need to cheat on tests or assignments were academically disinclined students who were trying to pass a class. These students were either lazy and didn’t want to do the work, or they weren’t particularly gifted when it came to academic work and needed all the help they could get to graduate. The students on the other end of the spectrum, the academically inclined students, had no reason to cheat. They could do the work quite well on their own. They didn’t worry about the need for a better than perfect GPA.

In the 1990s a long-fought lawsuit over college admissions procedures, Hopwood v. Texas, caused Texas public universities (and other states’ universities as well) to re-examine and redefine their admissions processes. In Texas, from that re-examination of admissions procedures was born the Top 10 Percent Rule.

Enshrined in law by the legislature (Texas House Bill 588) in 1997, the Top 10 Percent Rule, provides that if a student is in the top 10 percent of a Texas high school’s graduating class, the student will get automatic admission to a public university within the state. Over the years, this law had to be adjusted for the University of Texas at Austin, the flagship school of the UT system, because of the increasing number of applicants and how little room was left for admissions beyond the top 10 percent of students. Currently for the University of Texas at Austin, the standard is even more stringent. A student must be in the top 6 percent of a high school’s graduating class to receive automatic admission there.

The intent of the Top 10 percent Law was to increase diversity in state universities and to increase opportunities for students from smaller school districts. While the law has mostly accomplished that goal, it has had unintended consequences for academic integrity. The people who passed the law didn’t realize that the students seeking college admission would see being in the top ten percent as an absolute requirement, a goal to be achieved by any means necessary. As high achieving students fought to get into the top 10 percent of their graduating class, the upper limits of grade point averages were pushed higher and higher, until bonus points have become the norm and a 3.99 out of 4.0 GPA is no longer good enough. Students began to believe that nothing short of perfection would get them into the top 10 percent.

Parents got into the game, pushing their children to achieve those better than perfect grade point averages because automatic admission to the best in-state colleges depended on it. The pressure on students steadily increased. Suddenly, students were no longer cheating to pass classes. They were cheating to attain perfection: the perfect test score, the perfect grades, the better than perfect GPA. Every class and every test from freshman year to senior year of high school had to be perfect.

The pressure on the students in some highly competitive, high-performing schools can be unbearable. And while student mental health is suffering terribly, so is academic integrity. The drive to perfection has placed academic integrity on the chopping block. Plagiarism, group work to achieve perfect answers, trading of information on test questions, and various methods of discovering test answers ahead of time have become the norm in many schools. Use of electronic devices to cheat became widespread. The methods of cheating have become so prevalent that many students don’t even recognize them as cheating. It’s simply what everyone does to achieve perfection.

What harm is this doing to our society? When our highest scholastic achievers from our best schools, the kids who want to be doctors, lawyers, and engineers, have no sense of ethics or integrity, what kind of adults will they be? We need to return to an emphasis on learning and mastery of skills. We need to move away from a system that makes a numerical goal the only goal in the eyes of the students. Several studies by Dr. Anderman found students were much less likely to cheat in an atmosphere that emphasized learning, in classrooms where the teachers evaluated students on mastery of skills. We may not be able to eradicate cheating, but we can certainly make huge strides to reduce it.

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N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her début novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).

 

Fork in The Road

propic11_1By L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

I received the letter “F” for the A-Z Blog challenge.  Since my maiden name is Flory I thought about writing about that, but the Forked Road seemed better-suited to this blog.  I hope you enjoy it.

We have all been down the forked road, but why do some take the left fork and others take the right? Is it that left-handed people take the left and right-handed people take the right? I don’t think so.

I read an article once before I took my children to Disney World. The author of the piece said “Most people tend to take the right entrance to an attraction, while fewer take the left”.  In other words, if you want to get in to the attraction, bathroom, or gate, take the left line because you’ll get there faster. We tried it and the advice was right. We did find the time it took to get in on the left was speedier than the right.

We’ve all seen and traveled down many forked roads or trails throughout our lives.  Some curve Forked Roadaround an ancient tree while others are man-made. They may lead to the same place, or not.

Pretend you need a solution to a problem or have a big decision to make. You sit at the tip of the forked road trying to decide which way to go. Confused and anxious, the decision is waiting to be made. It may be a new move, a new relationship, or anything that will make a big impact on your life.  As you sit contemplating, you cannot decide, thinking about all the “What ifs?”

Deepak Chopra, an internationally known  New-Age guru says, “Get rid of the what-ifs.  It’s not an A or B situation. Don’t control or predict what will happen.”  His suggestion is to sit alone in a quiet place and be still. The answer will come; in fact, your heart always knows the right answer. It’s up to you to tune into your thoughts to know the right way to advance.
thinking

Decision-making is generally difficult for me and perhaps some of you who read this post have the same problem.  I know the issue, I really want to decide one way or the other, but the thoughts go around and around in my head until sometimes they make me physically ill and unable to reach a verdict at all.

I am definitely not a critical thinker and I’ve made snap decisions that ended up without the answers I sought. Sometimes the decision I made was not a good one, so when the next one comes along I worry that I will make the same mistake again.

A Therapist I know shared with me some insight about the forked road. She told me “A decision is just a decision and if it’s not right you can make another decision.”

That advice helped me to see more clearly that even if I make a wrong decision, I have learned from that one and can make a new choice next time. It also made me think about my fear of making good decisions and why it can actually be a learning experience that will help me each time I have an issue.

Here is a passage from the Bible that speaks of a “fork in the road”.

Ezekiel 21:19  Mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to come; both of them shall issue from the same land. And make a signpost; make it for a fork in the road leading to a city;roadsign

What do you do when you’re picking an editor for your manuscript? Do you research several editors?  If you get the list down to two do you waffle back and forth between the two choices or do you confidently choose the one you believe will have your best interests at heart?

Do you write your latest novel and at some point come to a place where the protagonist must go one way or another? Which fork in the road do you choose for her/him to follow?

Another bit of advice from Deepak Chopra says; “Find a place of total quiet. Make sure there are nomeditation distractions. Clear your mind and sit silently for maybe fifteen minutes. During that time don’t let thoughts race through your mind, instead, focus on the quiet. You may need to do this more than once, but it will put you in the right spiritual place to make the choice, and the answer will be there. Prayer is a very important part of the journey.”

When you stand at the fork in the road, remember this advice and you’ll make the right choice. But if you don’t, remember, you can always make another one!

Here are a couple of quotes on decision-making.

“Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clean and straight; indecision, a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind it.”

Gordon Graham

“Don’t even leap to actions and decisions before you’ve found that sense of natural calm, well-being, or enthusiasm.”

Frederick Dodson, Parallel Universe of Self

Courtesy of Goodreads.com

I’d like to share one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost. I’ve always loved it but it means something different to me now that I’m an adult. See if the same applies to you.

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 Poem courtesy of Poemhunter.com

 Here is a link to an article on decision-making.

The meaning of Fork in The Road.

Bios of Deepak Chopra and Robert Frost

There’s even a joke about the Forked Road (a 2000 year old classic)

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Books by L.Leander:

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Those are NOT my monkeys!

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Those are NOT my monkeys!3monkeys

Ever get into one of these predicaments? How do you handle it?

The school calls. The person calling apologizes, but the parent who was supposed to make 100 cupcakes for tomorrow is ill. Could you please take her place? What do you do?

  • Nicely ask your monkeys to get in their cage and give them a toy to play with?
  • Say no, sorry, I’m too busy but maybe next time, then spendcms_cupcake_1 the evening feeling guilty, even though you have a report that needs to go to your boss in the morning?
  • Say yes, feel totally overwhelmed, rush to get the report done while you bake and frost 100 cupcakes that you now have to drop off on your way to work and you haven’t even had time to sleep?

A friend calls with exciting news, although it isn’t about you and it isn’t about her. It’s a juicy tidbit about someone in your circle of friends. Do you:horses_1

  •  Shove your monkeys in their cage, say dinner is burning and cage_1you have to go?
  • Listen to your friend and file the information away in case
    there might be more to the story?
  • Add your take on what’s going on and gossip with your friend.
    You can’t wait to call another friend to tell her/him?
  • Tell your friend you really don’t want to talk about this and change the subject to something neutral, like making a fantastic dessert, or the awesome shoes you saw on sale in your favorite department store?

hotdogYou’re on the baseball food stand roster for your 5th grader. The game is in two days and the roster coördinator calls frantically, asking if you can pitch in and take over for her in Saturday’s game? Oh, and by the way, the candy bars, soda and sandwiches are low.
Could you please go to Sam’s Club and get them? You can bill them to the baseball fund. Please be sure they are there and put away in time for the game. Do you:

  • Immediately become frustrated that the chairman chooses to call you this late in the game, but put on your syrupy voice, and as you scowl, tell her “Of course, “I’d love to do it”, while you silently punch your thighs?
  • Suggest another person on the panel who might have a little more time?
  • Tell her your monkeys are ill and you really need to stay home with them because they might have monkey fever?
  • Explain that you and your beloved have a getaway planned for the weekend, but if she really cannot find another person, you’ll pitch in, then break the bad news to your spouse and feel extremely guilty?

Your boss comes into your office at quitting time. He wants a teamboss of managers to stay late and confer about some problems with staff and make some changes. You’re supposed to meet your friends at a restaurant across town in an hour. You have just enough time to swing by the house and change. You’re on salary. Do you:

  • Tell your boss to get a life?
  • Tell your boss YOU have a life?
  • Tell the boss you have to get home to take your monkeys outside because you don’t want them to pee all over the carpet and destroy the house. After all, you’ve already worked 9 hours without a break.
  • Say “what room are we meeting in?” make a hurried call to your friends saying you won’t be able to meet them, feel guilty about that and hope your monkeys behave?

Let’s look at the ramifications of each.

In situation one, you know you can’t possibly get 100 cupcakes done and at the school tomorrow unless you stay up all night and drop them off on your way to work and leave for work right after you drop them off. What would happen if you said NO, not this time, but you can count on me for another occasion, as long as I have enough time to make those little critters?

2monkeysSituation two is an ethical question. Should you be gossiping about your friend or even think of passing it around? Wouldn’t it be more fun to take the monkeys out for a walk (RIGHT NOW)?

And the third predicament.  Why don’t you say NO, I can’t do that on such short notice but you can count on me for another time.  I have a work project that needs to go to my boss in the morning.  As long as I get fair warning there’s no problem.

And situation four involves your boss.

Your boss just gave you a raise so you feel obligated. Do you worry that if you say no he’ll fire you on the spot? (You’ve just received a superior evaluation and got a nice bonus along with it).

I have a very dear friend I met in Mazatlan and she phoned me the other day. Imagine my delight when I heard her voice. We chatted about the hot weather and sunshine there and the snow here. She’s from Canada so knows all about cold weather. As we talked and caught up she mentioned that she had taken a part-time job she’ll be able to do on the Internet as she and her husband travel. She is excited about it and I’m happy for her. She’s been writing a book and I asked how that was coming along. She told me she shelved the project about six months ago because it was just not coming together and she had spent a lot of time worrying about it. I remarked that in therapy I have talked about the fact that I always feel guilty saying NO, so I put my personal life on hold and give the other person what they need or want. Then I feel overwhelmed and anxious because I’m not able the work done I need to do. My friend hesitated for just a second. Then she said something that has had me laughing (and thinking) a lot this week.

Her remark? Wait for it…………..

“Not my Monkeys, Not my Circus”

tent

monkeyman_1

 

“Hmm,” I thought. Not my monkeys? Not my circus? Of course I think I’m a bit of a circus expert because my books are about a circus performer. I already have a circus. Do I really need another one? And, why in the world would I want monkeys at home anyway?

Take a deep breath. Isn’t it easier to say no than give your life up for someone else’s problem? What’s the worst that can happen? Even if it were a close friend, wouldn’t you rather be truthful? If you say no, won’t you breathe a sigh of relief and get those monkeys off your back? I’m not talking here about things you want to do because you have time set aside, rather expectations that come at you out of nowhere that you don’t have time for or want to do.sock monkeys
Of course, you don’t have to say “Not my monkeys, not my circus”, as you firmly and politely say no, but you sure can laugh inside as bigbanana_1the monkeys are jumping for joy. Think about this the next time you are called upon to do something you really don’t want to do. Just say no. You don’t have to make excuses. It’s your life and it’s in your hands. You have to stand up for yourself. No one else is going to. Oh, and give the monkeys a banana. It’s not their fault!

For a good article on saying NO, read this report at Mayo Clinic.

 

Books by L.Lwander

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Links for L.Leander

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Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders (Book 1)

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Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)

 

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To Live History

This post written and copyrighted by Doris McCraw

Doris

 

 

 

 

 

What is it like to live history? There are numerous ‘towns’ and ‘ranches’ that allow visitors to watch living history. Some of the more famous are Colonial Williamsburg and Plimoth Plantation. In Colorado there is  Rock Ledge Ranch. There are those who recreate historic battles from the Revolutionary War on.

then there are people who take on historic character. I know Ben Franklin (Christopher Lowell), Theodore Roosevelt (Don Moon) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (Richard Marrold). Of course there are those who are unique to Colorado history.  Pearl DeVere, the Cripple Creek madam who died of an overdose of laudanum, Poker Alice, a poker player  in the Old West, Wm. J. Palmer founder of Colorado Springs and his wife Queen and James Burns, the Cripple Creek magnate who was one of the owners of the famous Portland Mine on Battle Mountain near the town of Victor, Colorado.

Theodore Roosevelt The Bad Land Years

All the people who have this passion to pass along history, to create characters as in the living history sites or to research and bring to life people from the past, do so to keep the stories alive. From the period correct costume to having the facts straight, to them the best way to remember the past and learn from it is to relive it and share it.

I too have this passion for history, be it the early women doctors, the labor wars in Cripple Creek/Victor or the founding of Colorado Springs and Colorado, I want to share the wonderful information I find. I also have made it my mission to bring the life of Helen (Hunt) Jackson back to public consciousness. For over twelve years I have researched and performed as this amazing woman. For me and those others who have this passion it is not an option to not do this. We live history because we don’t want to lose history. History is the stories of our lives. As writers we tell stories, as historic characters we do the same. As I prepare to take part in the “Think You Know History” series, I want to share the passion to live history.

 

Follow my haiku post five days a week at: http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com

Below is the link to my non-fiction piece on the first state film commissioner in the United States included in this book.

“Film & Photography on the Front Range” can be purchased online at: http://www.amazon.com

 

Unsung Heroes

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Lloyd Schuyler, Rupert Adams, Hudson Doxtator, Rimton Doxtator.  Do these names mean anything to you? They should. They were proud men, members of the Oneida Tribe of Native Americans whose tribal lands are situated in and around Green Bay, WI, a town that is more notable for it’s NFL Green Bay Packers than these men of bravery who posthumously received the Gold Congressional Medal of Honor in a ceremony held on the Oneida Reservation May 23, 2014. It’s been a long time coming for these specialists who served bravely in WWII. Their unit? US Marine Code Talkers.

Although it is the Navajo tribe that is most known for being Code Talkers, there were many tribes involved who received no recognition until lately, after many were deceased. The reason? They gave an oath never to reveal their part in the war, thus receiving no heroes welcome upon their return to America after the war. Many took the secret to their graves, never divulging how important their unit was in the war.codetalkr

Code Talkers weren’t a new idea in WWII. The Choctaw Tribe, serving in the US Army, created the unit in WWI. This unit was named the Choctaw Code Talkers. However, the name Code Talker is generally referred to as the Navajos who served in the US Marines in WWII.  During the war, the Japanese managed to break almost every code the United States military could come up with. The Japanese were fluent in many languages and had decoders who could almost always crack codes, thus obtaining strategic military decisions that helped them in battle.

You may wonder why Native Americans were willing to serve in  Wartime for a country who had robbed them of lands, culture and language for so long. The answer is that Native Americans come from a long line of Warriors and it is an inbred spirit that calls them to protect what is rightfully theirs. So they came in droves to enlist in the service and join the league of Americans who fought for their country against Hitler. In 1942, according to records, 99% of all healthy Native Americans had registered for the draft.flag I read an anecdote that made me smile while researching this post.  One Native American who offered to fight was turned down because he had no teeth.  His answer?  “I don’t want to bite them, I want to fight them!”

Phillip Johnston, a Civil Engineer who was brought up on the Navajo Reservation as the son of a missionary and was fluent in the language, approached the US Marine Corps at the start of WWII.  He suggested there be a unit devised to train and use the Navajo as Code Talkers, as their dialect and language could not be understood because it was used solely on the reservation. Handpicked Native Americans became a class of soldiers never honored, but instrumental in helping to win the war. Johnson was given the go-ahead to train 200 Navajo as Code Talkers and it was proven that these men could encode, decode and transmit a 3-line English message in 20 seconds. At the time, decoding machines took 30 minutes. The first 29 Navajo to graduate helped establish and invent an alphabet based on Navajo words. These soldiers were known as the “29”.  Because of their hard work, the Japanese could not understand the missives sent back and forth about strategy, location and other necessary contact information.

The irony of this is that Native Americans had, in the past, been forced to conform to English and lose their native tongue. An Oneida veteran, Cletus Ninham said, “My mom used to be punished.  She would actually be beaten to stop speaking her language.”

Native Americans were excellent in basic training. With a history of marksmanship, patrolling, and scouting they made names for themselves. They were better able to endure thirst and loss of water than a normal soldier. They took to commando training; after all, their ancestors had invented it!  One Native American soldier became a commando unit’s leading German-killer. These men were tough, they were focused, and they were fighting for their homeland. iwojima

Code Talkers were praised for the taking of Iwo Jima.  Six Navajo Code Talkers were employed around the clock, sending and receiving over 800 messages, all without error. Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, stated, “Iwo Jima would never have been taken by the Marines were it not for the Navajos.”

These Code Talkers were protected at all cost. Their unique specialty insisted that they be kept as safe from harm as possible as they were the only way the Americans could transmit and decode messages that could not be translated.

The declassification of the project in 1968 allowed President Ronald Regan to present Code Talkers with Certificates of Merit in 1982. After a bill signed by President Bill Clinton in December 2000, the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, and the Silver Medal to the approximately 300 other Native Americans who qualified as a Navajo Code Talker. President George W Bush personally handed out the Gold Medals to the five living Code Talkers, one of who could not attend.

President George W Bush Jr signed the Code Talkers Recognition Act of 2008 into law. This law depicted that all Native American Code Talkers (from both WWI and WWII) be honored for their service by presenting each tribe with a Gold Medal (to be kept in the Smithsonian Institution). Each Code Talker received a Silver Medal duplicate.DCF 1.0 So, back to Lloyd Schuyler, Rupert Adams, Hudson Doxtator and Rimton Doxtator, who have finally received the recognition they deserved. In the ceremonies on the Oneida Reservation in Green Bay, WI, it was a happy day for surviving relatives of the four Code Talkers from their tribe who served bravely in WWII and came home just like any other soldier.

Except, they weren’t.

Comments welcome.

The 2002 Movie Windtalkers was based on the Code Talkers in WWII.  You can see the video trailer here, and if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it.

Here’s a book I found on Amazon that looks like a great read about this subject. Code TalkerCode Talker: The First and Only Memoir By One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII Chester Nez with Judith Schiess Avila

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits:

Morguefile.com

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Free-Photos.Biz

Research Credits:

Native Americans in World War II

The Code Talkers of World War II

We Are Green Bay.com

Wikipedia

ABC 2 WBAY

The Washington Post

 

Books by L.Leander:

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Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)

 

 

 

 

 

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Fill In the Blanks

Post written and copyrighted by Doris McCraw

doris curiosity

How do you fill in the blanks when you don’t have all the information? Do you make something up? Perhaps you make an educated guess. You may even spend countless hours trying to find the answer. Whichever one you choose is the correct one for your project?

Let’s take a look at how you might answer.  If you are a fiction writer, it makes perfect sense to make something up. It is your story, so of course you put in what you think works. Then of course there is the historic fiction writer, the horror writer and so on. There are certain rules to what is and is not true in your universe and your readers will let you know if it is wrong.

If you are writing a memoir or creative non-fiction you may make an educated guess. That may or may not get you into trouble. You might also opt to research and find the best solution to your unknown. Do you tell the truth as you know it,  or the truth of those involved in the story? It is not always a comfortable choice.

If you are writing non-fiction it can be tricky. You can make an educated guess or you can research until you find an answer. Either way you could be called on your decision.

As I continue my journey with these early women doctors I come upon more and more blanks that have possible explanations. The fact that between 1880 and 1890 women are not listed in the professional section of the city directory, but you can find them individually in the regular listings. There also was no real growth in the number between those years. Why? At this point I would need to make that ‘educated’ guess.

Why were three of the four early women doctors in the region graduates of the same medical school? (At least according the sparse records I have found.) Did someone from this region go back there and recruit them or did one arrive first and tell the other two about the region and the opportunities available? I may never know the answers unless someone from the families has letters or knowledge of the facts.

Finally, why are the women physicians left out of the histories, the newspapers and other writings of the day? These questions plague and fascinate me. It is what drives my desire to bring these women to life for the present and future generations. I may never be able to fill in all the blanks, but I will give it one hell of a try.

How do you fill in your blanks? I would love to know.

Follow my haiku post five days a week at:

http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com

Below is the link to my non-fiction piece on the first state film commissioner in the United States included in this book.

“Film & Photography on the Front Range” can be purchased online at: http://www.amazon.com

Passionate on Purpose

Post written and copyright by Doris McCraw

doris curiosity

Between now and March 16, I will be speaking to two history groups on the early women doctors and two public performances as Helen (Hunt) Jackson. I will also perform with the murder mystery company and continue my writing and work hours. For those who have known me for some time you are aware that I have a number of work and creative endeavors. I enjoy, no I love, what I do most of the time. I will point out that while I have a passion for all, I cannot and will not sustain the passion constantly. It is way to tiring.

As I prepare myself for the story of the women doctors, I have a commitment to getting it as correct as possible. I am passionate on purpose to finding the truth of these women. If they entrust me with their stories, I must get them correct. If I say that a doctor was in competition with Dr. C. F.  Gardiner then I need to be able to verify that they also treated consumption patients. I know that Julie E. Loomis would have been for she stated that she was coming to Colorado Springs to set up a clinic for the treatment of the disease. I cannot in good faith say the same for a number of the others. I simply do not have enough information to do so. I could infer, but this is history and I am passionate about getting it right.

With Helen, I have spoken as her for over twelve years. I could coast and just speak about whatever came to mind. The audience wouldn’t know the difference, but to do so would be a dis-service to Helen. Many people may wonder why I always place (Hunt) within parens. It is my way of letting people know that in her lifetime she never used all three names together. She had said that when she remarried she would not constantly remind her husband of the death and life she had with her first. I am passionate about getting it as correct as I can.

By being purposely passionate, I am able to devote my energy to what I am doing. I have the drive and responsibility to being as honest as possible.  I am passionate about my life, my work and my friends. I am purposely passionate when it comes to being true to the history I find. I believe this passionate drive comes from all the years of working within the correction system and juveniles in particular. One untruth could ruin a life. That is a responsibility. These women may no longer be alive, but their stories deserve the truth.

If I am writing non-fiction it must be right. I want to tell the story of the women doctors as non-fiction. Helen is non-fiction. The Labor Wars in Cripple Creek, they will be fiction with a major portion of truth. Why the difference? That story has too many sides and truths and untruths to be told otherwise.

May you also have lives that you can live passionately on purpose. I wouldn’t have mine any other way. Until next time…

http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com

“Film & Photography on the Front Range” can be purchased online at: http://www.amazon.com

You Can’t Go Home Again?

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

You can’t go home again. This phrase is part of our American culture.  What the author, Thomas Wolfe, meant by this statement is that home isn’t the same once you’ve changed.  The book by this title was published in 1940 and is a riveting study of what happens to one man who writes about people and happenings in his hometown.  He then returns to find the townspeople have turned on him and his life becomes unbearable.home

The author, George Webber, leaves and seeks to find answers in other countries and cities before he returns to his own country a changed and more rounded person.  By going through many trials he has encountered sorrow and grief as well as great happiness and joy.  It is the melding of these europeevents that makes his character memorable.  Here is a link to Wikipedia’s post on You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Can%27t_Go_Home_Again if you’d like to read it.

I belong to a cohesive writer’s group and three of the members are currently writing manuscripts they have a hard time categorizing.  Is it memoir?   Is it fiction?  Or should it be called Fiction Based on True events?  These are all good questions, and one our group of fifteen have discussed again and again.

One person has written a riveting tale of one woman’s descent into despair and alcoholism afterbottles a torrid love affair with a much younger man.  Her indomitable spirit shines throughout and it has been a painful process for her to write.  She began by using true events, names and cities; then changed course and made those things fictional while holding on to the true events.

Another person is writing a book on the relationship she had with her father.  Her naked writing draws the reader into her life by sharing some of the most heartbreaking and bittersweet details she remembers from a childhood with a stern, unyielding undertaker who loved her more than life but was unable to show affection for his eldest child.  She, too, is confused about which category to target and at this point her manuscript is all truth and no fiction.  She has concerns about naming names and places, though, and is thinking of writing it as fiction.

Still another writer is in the beginning stages of writing a memoir of a middle-aged, overweight nurse who accepts an opportunity to live out her wildest dreams in another country and leaves family, friends and everything she owns to reinvent her life.  This writer staunchly refuses to change anything in the book, claiming that it will not read well if she doesn’t include every last detail.

These are questions many writers face.  And, I believe a degree of modicum should be followed.  If there are people who are still living who may be hurt by scenes or things included in the book it might be better to change some of them.  Using fictional names and places could solve that issue. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA If you are writing a sweet story of coming of age in the sixties and everything was idyllic in your childhood you may not have a problem with the people you mention in the book.

Only you, the writer, can make the right decisions for your particular situation.  I see no reason to hurt people or include them if you think they might be offended.  (There are always exceptions, of course, as in court cases, etc.)  Perhaps a simple phone call or letter might serve as a lead-in to a better relationship with that person and their understanding of events that may have happened long ago.

Authors have the innate ability to create memorable characters.  Why not use bits and pieces of people you have known in the past to create someone who will stand out in the reader’s mind and put them in a real situation?  While it would then be called fiction, is that a bad thing?

Fiction Based on True Events is an interesting category.  If the events are true are they all true?  Are only some of them true?  Are the characters real or imaginative?  Have names been changed to protect the innocent?  Did the author really experience these events?  It almost seems to me that this is an even harder area for writers to walk the fine line between truth and fiction.

I believe all fiction has truth.  Which of us has not based a character loosely on someone we’ve known?  Mannerisms, speech, physical characteristics and dress are all fodder for the imagination.  A good writer can use them to his advantage by using different aspects to create a character that resonates throughout the book.  Events can be the same; with a little tweaking here and there they can be riveting or sad, happy or full of suspense.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Authors are a lucky breed.  We are able to take our entire life circumstances and use them to create books our readers love to get their hands on.  But is it just possible we may have a cross to bear?  Do we owe it to the people we’ve known in our lives to keep some things secret?  Or are we free to include anything and everything we have ever met?  Good things to ponder and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Books by L.Leander:

Finish Well

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis Blog Post by Gayle M. Irwin

It’s President’s Day. As with all politics, people generally disagree whether a president is “good” or “bad”. However, a recent poll indicated President John F. Kennedy enjoys a 90% popularity rating, the highest of any president during the past 50 years. Sadly, he died at the hands of an assassin and therefore, we will never know if he would have finished his presidency in good public standing.

Stories of presidents and their administrations are often food for fodder as well as great debate. The same is true for athletes, movie and TV stars, even authors. Controversy in life and in literature compels one to wonder “can anyone finish well?”

There will always be critics, no matter if one is a politician or a writer (or a minister or a chef or a … you get the idea). I believe the only way to truly finish well is to be true to oneself. If a person is a liar, a thief, a womanizer (or “menizer”), an alcoholic, or a steroid-user, unless that person changes his/her ways, s/he cannot truly finish well. Especially in this age of instant technology, critics wait in the wings to tweet, hashtag, blog, and Facebook post the most major, and minor, infractions … or perceived ones. Even if you’re not in the public spotlight, you can become someone’s silage. And, as writers, we can be more prone to such things as people read our work and write reviews. In life and in literature, writers should be persons of integrity. That’s something for which I strive and will continue to do so through the end of my time on this planet.

Like life, stories we write can either finish well or not. Whether those be screen plays, novels, memoirs, or children’s books, our characters must be believable and have stories with endings that our readers think plausible. Even fantasy needs conceivability. When Wells wrote 1984 back in 1948, reviews looked at this work of fiction as prophecy, one even saying the work was “grim and convincing.” What an amazing thing to have someone say about your futuristic work!

Storytime_Knowledge Nook_withMaryandKidsAs writers, we want readers to be engaged in our stories. We have to write in a way to keep them engaged, to keep them turning those pages. And, we can’t disappoint them in the end – we have to finish our stories well. What are some ways you feel work to help you end your stories well?

I’m currently working on a children’s book about dog rescue. I have my beginning (which I started three different times), I’m still building in the middle, and I’m also working on the end. I know how the story ends (the book is based on a real rescue dog I helped transport four years ago) – I plan to finish it well (happy-ending dog stories for kids – gotta love it!). I desire to be, through my writing and speaking, one of the leaders of instilling empathy and compassion in people toward God’s creatures, and one way to do that is by writing great dog books for children.

George Washington was hailed as a great leader, both a strong military leader and an amazing leader of our newly-birthed country. He served two terms as president and was, and still is, endeared by the nation he led. George finished his story well – hopefully, we do, too.

Happy President’s Day (and happy birthday, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and William Henry Harrison, U.S. presidents with birthdays in February)!mount rushmore

 “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of Life’s Little Instruction Book and numerous other books.

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazine as well as the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. Her future plans include creating newsletter and brochure content for businesses, writing more magazine articles, and authoring additional books. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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