Posts Tagged ‘mark morford’

The Nature of Communication

Feb 15th, 2011

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Communication is tricky at best. We interact, thinking we’re on the same page, and sometimes suddenly, we find out we’re not.

It’s not unusual to write a phrase and find out later that what was clear to me was lost on my readers. Choice of wording is tricky, and inevitably things can get lost in translation from my brain to the paper. All writers have this happen to a degree, it’s just a part of honing the craft and perfecting skills.

I recently finished reading the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, and the final book, ‘Shadowfever’, debuted #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, so to say she’s got a healthy audience is an understatement. This dark urban fantasy series is full of flawed, power-hungry characters fighting over a dark object of of unimaginable power as they claw their way through an apocalypse in Dublin.

I visited the authors forums and enjoyed sharing revelations of the final tome with fellow readers. You know, who guessed certain plot points correctly, what Moning’s next series spin-off might entail, etc, etc. But then there were the questions by some that made me wonder–did you read the same book as the rest of us? The answers they got back were uniform and wonderfully politely handled, true to the plot the majority remembered (happily I counted myself in that group). But seriously, their comprehension in some cases was so far off the mark, I’m not sure where they even got the ideas. Moning is a great author, with awesome editors–is it just not possible to communicate clearly with every reader?

Now, from another angle, I’ve been reading Mark Morford’s ‘The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism’. This is a compilation of his articles from 2000 – 2010, and he’s lovingly added in select hate mail for your reading pleasure. Why? Because hate speech, when brought to light, loses its power. And they’re funny in their ignorance. :) At least that’s my personal take.

In the hate mail you get the impression that the writers saw the word ‘homosexual’ and fired up their emails, unable to even process the remainder of the content of the message due to the power of the trigger being tripped. Granted Morford is unabashedly straight (not that it matters), but the gay-bashers don’t take the time to get their facts straight, all that matters is he defended gay rights in a column, and this deserves a page a vitriolic hate because he must be gay. What?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Literacy is the challenge of our time. Reading comprehension is not a given. Healthy debate requires understanding the issue. Perhaps I only say this because I’ve written too many training manuals and user guides. It’s much harder to write directions than people think. Try it sometime. It’s a true education in how the human mind processes input, and how we tend to leave out assumed yet necessary steps.

What communication challenges do you suffer due to comprehension? Due to hate? I hope none. I hope when you find these issues in others, that you do your best to point them in the direction of education and open-mindedness. Of course, I did say ‘homosexual’ up there…

Here are some literacy statistics is from my friend Ursula’s 50 Books in One Year blog this week. How do these apply to you?

From The Literacy Company on reading:

  • 46% of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine.
  • It is estimated that as many as 15 percent of American students may be dyslexic.
  • 50 percent of American adults are unable to read an eighth grade level book.
  • There are almost half a million words in our English Language – the largest language on earth, incidentally – but a third of all our writing is made up of only twenty-two words.
  • In a class of 20 students, few if any teachers can find even 5 minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student.
  • Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year.
  • The average reader spends about 1/6th of the time they spend reading actually rereading words.
  • When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade.

Those are some sobering stats! How about these:

  • 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
  • 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 57 percent of new books are not read to completion.
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Freezepocalypse 2011, or the blizzard that wasn’t…

Feb 2nd, 2011

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It’s day two of freezepocalypse 2011, and children all across the Front Range in Colorado are rejoicing in the second of two ‘snow days’ off from school due to blistering cold temperatures and our apparent inability to deal with what’s normal weather if you’re in Iowa or Minnesota or whatever. I know when I was a kid we went to school when it was this cold. Is there fear from the schools that they’ll be sued by the parents if a child suffers frostbite? Or just that parents here in Colorado aren’t used to these temperatures, aren’t prepared for it, and therefore kids will inevitably suffer if they don’t act? Are the schools right?

Not that my first grade son is complaining…no, he’s relishing every minute of it. The irony of calling them snow days is there’s very little actual snow, only about 1-2 inches here. The temps have been around -15 in the morning with the wind chill another 10 to 15 degrees colder. Last night here it fell to -23 at the lowest, which is a record low for us. I’m hoping our micro-vineyard with our hybrid vines emerges unscathed through this winter. They are rated to -20, so this will be a winter to test their cold-hardiness.

Not sure if you’re discovered Bluntcard.com yet, but here’s a nice one that fully summarizes my thoughts on the Freezepocalypse.

Snowpocalypse

Snowpocalypse

Now, on to other things. I must confess I’m secretly enthralled with Mark Morford’s weekly columns. It’s partly his succinct and hard-hitting writing style, and partly the topical and amusing content. For instance, college kids are more invested in compliments than sex, and you can apparently improve your metabolism by turning down your thermostat. He also speaks to the GOP plans to redefine rape this week. Because, you know, if you aren’t beaten into a bloody pulp during the rape, then Congress doesn’t consider it an actual rape anymore, right? Now, I suspect this has more to do with their desire to pinch pennies anywhere they can and this is just yet another place to cut costs, and women’s rights simply aren’t top billing to the GOP.

Finally, I’m going to talk about my publisher’s yearly charity anthology because it’s the right thing to do. Dreams & Desires, vol. 4 is now available in eBook for $5.99 and in print for $14.95.

By purchasing this collection, you can help turn someone’s nightmare into the pursuit of dreams. Every year, four million women are assaulted by their partners. At Freya’s Bower, we want to do our part to bring this statistic down to zero. To this end, all net proceeds from every Dreams and Desire anthology volume 4 purchased will go to A Window Between Worlds, a non-profit organization that provides art supplies and training for art as a healing tool free of charge to battered women’s shelters across the United States. Through education and support, we can make a difference.

If you read romance, consider picking this up as it benefits a worthy cause and will also expose you to a number of new authors.

Until next time…

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