The Mystery: Redefining Weird and Normal
by Jennifer Paros
Until we accept the fact that life itself is founded in mystery, we shall learn nothing.
~ Henry Miller
My youngest son was diagnosed as autistic years ago. There’s no blood test or scans for autism; the conclusion is behaviorally based. A person is observed and if he exhibits enough patterns that are considered markers of the condition, we give him the label. Early on, his neurologist was frustrated when other professionals inferred our son was autistic. He said that just because our son was demonstrating some “flag behaviors” didn’t mean he was autistic. He referred to our son as a “mystery.” And that was fine with me. I preferred the word mystery; it implied more discovery than limitation.
A couple years ago, my son and I were volunteering at a cat adoption site in a pet store. One of the workers there took an interest in him and had been lovely to both of us. Then one day she quietly asked me (alone) if he was autistic. I found myself stumbling through my answer. I realized that though he’d received a label, I’d always felt it was my job to see him unlabeled. For me, the label felt like someone’s compromised first impression.
Often, names or categorizations are applied long before we have understanding. And there are side effects to our conclusions – one of which is that our capacity to perceive the malleability of a situation can be impaired. When we think a conclusion has been drawn, we are inclined to stop actively imagining and expecting more. Life is fluid and the possibilities of change are greater than momentary conclusions can reflect. We could declare children ages 0-5 (unable to read or write) illiterate but we don’t. Though technically true, the label feels inappropriate because our expectation is that they will change and learn. more...
Overcoming Creative Burnout
by Rosemary Richings
I had my first experience with writer’s block when I was only sixteen years old. Then I found Writer’s Block for Dummies in abookstore. The first chapter was the best part. It was a psychological overview of writer’s block and its causes. It was also jam-packed with freewriting exercises.
By age 16 I was working hard to get into university. I thought about my writer's block a bit, and then I realized that I needed to focus on school for a while. I took a break from writing so that I could increase my chances of early acceptance. My writing was right there waiting for me when I finished university.
After university, writing became what I always wanted it to be: a sustainable business. It started with the sound of crickets dominating my inbox. Then the project requests started pouring in. The deadlines were tight, and the demand was high. I was so eager to work that I accepted every single project request that showed up in my inbox.
I got so caught up in my eagerness to work that I spent too much time working. The first couple of weeks were a flood of ideas, and eager dedication. Then it hit me, a moment of spontaneous weakness. A question that haunted my brain:
“Why is every idea I have the same as everyone else’s? Why me, instead of someone else? Now what…?”
That’s when the spark of creativity just stopped for a while. I stared at my computer screen, and asked myself:
“Now what…?” more...
A Singular Solution
by Cherie Tucker
I got a call last week asking if there might be a word to use that allows you to avoid using the “he/she” business with nouns that are singular but stand for a group. Sadly there isn’t such a word, but there is a way out.
If it is a word like “humanity” or “tribe” or “association” that includes people in groups but is still singular, you may simply use “it” without demeaning the members.
Humanity must weep when it sees how the climate has been abused.
If the word refers directly to the individuals in the group and is plural, you can use “they” or “them” to refer to it.
If people would be more careful, they wouldn’t have to worry.
On the other hand, if you are talking about a plural word in a phrase that begins with “each” or “one,” then you have a way to avoid the “he/she” nonsense that you are stuck with in the examples below.
Each of our students must bring his or her lunch money on the field trip.
One of the children will recite his or her poem tomorrow in class. more...
Not Your Mother's Rejection Story
by Noelle Sterne
The rejection experience I’m about to relate was the kind of marvel you may read about and say, “Yeah, yeah, okay for you. It could never happen to me.” That’s what I used to think . . .
It All Started . . .
About ten years ago in late September when, with the usual mixture of anticipated glory and stomach-sinking trepidation, I submitted an essay about my love for the thesaurus to a top writing magazine. With the manuscript, I enclosed a letter listing some credits.
A month later, to my shock, I received a personal note from the editor-in-chief (I still treasure it). She rejected the essay with great grace: “I regret that we cannot make a place for it and I am returning it to you herewith.”
It was the second paragraph that bowled me over and incidentally saved me from the canyons of depression. She wrote:
I note that you have written a very successful book for children [my Tyrannosaurus Wrecks: A Book of Dinosaur Riddles] and perhaps you’d like to try your hand at a piece on writing nonfiction books for young people. If you do so and are willing to submit it on spec, we’ll be glad to give it a careful reading and prompt reply.
More than ecstatic at this invitation, I set to work. But all I knew about writing for kids was creating the riddles for the dinosaur riddle book. I’d never taken classes in children’s writing, didn’t subscribe to any newsletters, didn’t read any children’s lit blogs, didn’t natter in kids’ chat rooms. I froze. more...