Fake News

A while back, I read the book The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin, a fictional piece telling the story of Lindberg family told through the eyes of Anne Lindberg, Charles’ wife. Benjamin came to Little Falls to speak around the time my book club selected Benjamin’s book so I went to hear her. I have to say, she wasn’t all that well received. Members of the audience questioned her depictions with a bit more scrutiny than she might have gotten elsewhere on her book tour. This is Lindberg territory and residents of Little Falls have a better sense of the story of the aviator than most folks would. What I remember most about Benjamin’s presentation is that when something in her book was questioned as historically inaccurate, her defense was, “This is fiction.” She’d done plenty of research, she said, but had never consulted any of the Lindberg family members to get their point of view nor had she ever visited any of the Lindberg historic sights. I guess fiction writers don’t have to do those things.

The book and Ms. Benjamin come to mind this morning as I pondered this concept of fake news. I have a friend who read the book and told me how awful it was that Charles Lindberg had wives and children in other countries. As far a she was concerned, this fact so shadowed his credibility that anything else that he was or might have accomplished in his life was negated. I told her that Charles’ daughter wrote about her life growing up in the Lindberg household and gives a whole different perspective on Charles. “But she is his daughter. Of course she would be biased,” my friend said.

The fact is, my friend read The Aviator’s Wife as though it were a factual presentation. If Benjamin had been in on our conversation, I suppose she would have told her that the book is fiction and she aught not believe it as fact. But Benjamin was not present and my friend didn’t take my word for it. Benjamin, I suppose, might consider the readers who read her book as true to be just plain naive and let it go at that. But I think an author should take some responsibility just like those who write fake news should do.

Perhaps we need more genre categories. “Fake News” could be one of these. Why not? It is not a petty game when people believe a piece of news that is absolutely untrue and then make decisions in their lives as though it were fact. It has already been suggested that fake news may have influenced how people voted in the presidential election, but what about other ways people are impacted. Fear, for example. This is huge because fear can lead people to withdraw, to spread the fake news and stir up violence, to take up arms, or to turn to alcohol and drugs. This is not the responsibility of those who throw out those fake stories, you say? Not in my book! I believe we are each responsible for everything we say and do including the outcomes. When there are unexpected harmful effects to anything we do or say, it is our job to try to make these right if possible and to change our behavior. I am a writer myself and I am always trying to refine how I present my ideas in the most truthful and respectful manner I can. If I want to be satirical or if I am presenting fictional information, I want that to be clear to my readers that this is what I am doing.


Inspiration and Art

I pulled back from writing my blog for a while because I was working on my first book. I finally finished it in August and sent it out to a few willing folks to review. I am starting to receive their reflections and can see that I have more work to do before I publish.

Asking for honest comments on a work of art is a truly vulnerable thing to do. Fortunately the people I chose are kind-hearted and their criticisms come through softly. What is important to me is that they took me seriously enough to be honest. They understand how important it is if one wants to put something out into the world that people will like and want to share with others. Once I get all of my readers’ responses back, I will edit the book one more time before moving toward publishing.

My daughter, Heidi, shared with me a marvelous book by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the popular Eat, Pray, Love. “What is Creativity?” she poses in the opening page of her Big Magic. She answers, “The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.” What I got from the book is that art is not totally our own. Rather, we are in-Spirited. We don’t have to do anything about the Spirit come to work through us, but when we do, the outcome is something not totally our own. Rather, it is a dance between the Spirit within us and our own talent, hard work, and determination. Gilbert did a good job communicating just how inspiration works and how we can cooperate to produce our art.

Gilbert’s book was timely for me. It not only helped me in the finishing of the book, but it enabled me to let go as I moved into the next phase. It is amazing to me how free I felt handing the manuscript out for review. I had little or no fear of rejection because I believe that the work is inspired.

Those who read this blog will know when the book finally gets published. Meanwhile, I look forward to returning to writing my blog. I have had to let many thoughts pass by without grabbing them because I was focusing on the book. Hopefully, if they were worthy, someone else plucked them and shared them through their art.

Black Ice and the Road to Here

I was in a good place yesterday and I am still there today. I have been here before but I can’t remember the path to getting here. I just seem to happen. It is hard to describe. It is like driving on dry ice. Let me explain:

Years ago when our family was moving from Janesville, Wisconsin, to Alexandria, Minnesota, we launched out with a moving van out ahead followed by Bernie in one vehicle and I in the other. I can’t remember which cars the kids were in but the cat was definitely in mine. Bernie would not have brought him. I worked with the vet to make sure Scooter was drugged. At one point he woke enough to use the litter box and then proceeded to lay down right there through the rest of the trip. Bernie and I were able to communicate with one another using the CB radio that my parents had gotten me for my safety when I chose to go to Madison to get my degree. It was fun to listen to the truckers talk about those of us in the cars, warn about police cars up ahead and all of the other things truckers like to talk about. I had a handle, “Angel”, chosen by my family. I was flattered.

The day was bitterly cold and the wind was gusty.  I was tense. There was no turning back and no pulling off.  When we got near the border where I-94 would take us into our new state, snow started falling, not heavy but between the wind and the trucks stirring it around, I was getting nervous. The truckers were cautious – their radio banter had ceased. They were concentrating, I am sure.

Suddenly, my car lunged forward. It felt like I’d just shifted from sneakers to roller skates. It seemed my car was out of control but didn’t swerve.  It just moved over the road, but not on it. In hind sight, it was what I think time traveling might be like.  Just as suddenly, my wheels grabbed the road again. Feeling safe once again on my rubber-meets-the-road condition, I spoke into the radio, “What the hell was that?”.  A trucker responded, “Welcome to black ice, Sweetheart.” I am guessing the trucker and his buddies behind him were glad that I’d just gone with the flow of the car instead of trying to get control by messing with the steering wheel or slamming my breaks.

That sort of explains how I got to where I am today. I let go of the steering wheel and I didn’t slam on my breaks either. Here is what happened, I mean, here is how I know that I am here. Yesterday morning, I got around to a piece of writing that I have been avoiding for months. As I worked, I suddenly lunged forward. The ideas and connections were swirling around like snow stirred by wind and truckers. I worked until I had to stop to get on with the rest of my day. The swirling stopped but the forward glide I realized I’d moved ahead with barely an effort on my part. In fact, the ideas were way ahead of my ability to write them down – the dry ice effect.

The time I spent writing had me leaving the house a couple of hours later than I had planned. I wanted to spend some time at the pool, part of my post-surgery practice. The road to Little Falls was good even though it was misting. My windshield wanted to ice up so I had to blast my defrosters. When I arrived at the hotel where I swim, the guy at the desk asked me how the roads were. “Fine,” I told him. He said, “When I came to work a couple of hours ago, the parking lot was solid ice.” I’d left my cane at home. The physical therapist told me that the worst thing I could do with my new knee is to fall. The reality didn’t escape me. I realized the connection between being held by the creative moment and being protected from possible danger. I was still gliding on black ice and I am still on ice today.

I wish I knew the road to here.




Butterflies in my Stomach

I hate those times when I am unable to write.

This is true right now in my blog world
as well as in that other world where I create stories.

I think that right now it is because I feel so much in limbo,
in a space where events swirl around me
and I can’t make heads or tails out of them.

So many unknowns.

Based on the book I just finished reading for my spirituality book club,
I am falling into grace.

This is a pretty good place to be.
To take each moment as it is when I am in it,
without judgment,
without attaching all sorts of stories and explanations.
That is a sign of a really evolved person.

Alas, not much fun, though.

This is a pendulum swing.
I know that from experience.

Butterflies in my stomach.

When Writers Meet

Have you ever witnessed toddlers who just meet? They act as though they share a secret…”you are a little human just like me”. Writers are the same way. We are shy about admitting that we are writers, especially if we are not published or sparsely published. But real writers know that being a writer is not so much about being published as about the passion for writing.

I met a writer last night at a social affair. There were about 50 people there but this encounter is the one I will remember. She blurted out that she is a writer in a kind of test-the-water kind of way. That is what we do. Test the water. And we hope that the person we blurted to won’t go crazy with misconceptions. We even went so far as to talk about the type of writing we do.

We are off to the resort today. I am skipping my usual writing time this morning so we can get an early start. But I took the time to check out my new friend’s blog. I noted that she is more adept at formatting than I. That is fine. I let my son do my formatting. Computers and I are reluctant to get overly involved with one another. I don’t blame the computer…I just don’t want our relationship to get serious.

In the Groove

I’m in the groove. I love it when that happens, when I could write lots of stuff if only I had the time. Alas. My grandson comes shortly and I will be in his groove from that moment on.

Fear’s About Blogging

My son Chris put together a YouTube video this morning about my blogging experience over the last two years. I will post that link when he is finished editing, but I thought I would share one of the ideas I spoke about in the interview.

I am not an accomplished writer. I’ve had only a few things published over the years. I suffer from maladies many writers suffer:  laziness and inconsistency to name two. In spite of this, I have felt that I have a message to share with the world. That may sound arrogant, but I truly believe everyone has a message. In a way, that is why we are born. The form we use to share our message varies depending on our gifts, our passions and the circumstances of our lives. Our gifts are freely given by God; our responsibility is to hone them and use them for the good of others. You might say that a gift is really our unique nature. I just is.

There is another malady I suffer, more human perhaps than ones unique to writers. It is fear. Here are some of the fears I had about writing for others:

  1. Would my audience like me when they read what I wrote? Was I going to lose friends because of the opinions I shared?

I tend to be more liberal than conservative but many of those I love are people who hold their conservative views deeply.The reality is that few of my conservative friends and relatives read my blog. That is a little disconcerting because they are the ones whose minds I’d like to change. If they read it and don’t like it, they are kind enough not to tell me, I guess. Through the blog, I have been revealing to these folks who I really am. If someone reads me and sticks around, I guess that means they are pretty good friends. In the case of relatives…they are stuck with me. 

  1. Would I be misunderstood?

This was a good fear to have. It forced me to ponder very carefully each word, phrase, and metaphor that I put out there. I tried to listen to myself with the ears of others, especially those with very different views or people who have been wounded. In two years, I have only been challenged on one idea. Most people who took issue with what I wrote responded with respect and an intent to add more information than to refute.

  1. What if I change my thinking?

I am keenly aware of how my ideas about life change as I live more of it. What I believed 5 years ago I may trash as ridiculous later. I remember that being a point made when I took a through-the-mail (pre-computer) writing course years ago. A writer has to get over the fact that they may be labeled, pigeon-holed, or whatever you call it. Even if you write something later to refute the writings of that weird self of years ago, the same folks may not be read your later reflection. But this is a human problem. A person may remember, painfully, something a parent said to them when they were child that that same parent, who matured over the years, would never dream of saying.

  1. My last fear was the fear of hurting those I love.

Sometimes the most important lessons I learn come because of the encounters I have with members of my own family. There a  skill of I learned when teaching parenting of altering a story enough to protect the innocent. I also learned that you don’t always have to share the story in order to share the wisdom.