Sunday, April 26, 2015

#NepalQuake Relief: Three top-rated charities with no religious agenda

Lots of dubious text-to-give opportunities popping up. Here are three organizations that have a strong presence in Nepal, no religious agenda and excellent report cards on Charity Navigator.

American Red Cross
Fundraising and admin costs prevent them from getting a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator, but they are always the first relief organization I donate to. Maybe this is just me being an old fart, but I've seen them in action during hurricanes down here on the Gulf Coast, and they are amazing. The Nepal Red Cross was in place and prepared. British and American Red Cross disaster training is ongoing, so they were immediately rendering first aid and working to rescue people.
Donate via credit card or text “redcross” to 90999 to donate $10.

Direct Relief
Coordinating with local and emergency response partners in the hours and days ahead, along with corporate and technology companies. According to Charity Navigator report card, 99% of your donation goes to actual, on-the-ground efforts.
Donate via credit card or PayPal

According to their website, an emergency response team from the AmeriCares India office in Mumbai headed into the impact zone yesterday, and relief workers are preparing shipments of medical aid and relief supplies for survivors. AmeriCares stocks emergency medicine and relief supplies in its warehouses in the U.S., Europe and India that can be delivered quickly in times of crisis. According to Charity Navigator report card, 98.2% of your donation goes to actual, on-the-ground efforts.
Donate via credit card or PayPal

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mommy blogs and memoirs: Where do we draw the line when writing about our kids?

Just saw this excellent piece that appeared in the Atlantic two years ago: The Ethical Implications of Parents Writing About their Kids (Tips for spotting a problematic new genre: parental overshare) by Phoebe Maltz Bovy, who makes many valid points and has a name I would like to steal for a character in a novel.

With the ease of publishing a blog post or even a book these days, there's been a glut of confessional writing, and there's been some internet sturm und drang over this issue. (Do not say "mommmy wars." I will punch the next person who uses the term "mommy wars" or "women's fiction." Do not test me. I will punch you on the arm.)

The way the two sides have been presented reminds me of this amusing anecdote, which really is not about my kids, though they are in it, and they are naked:

When my son and daughter were toddler and infant, I gave my mother-in-law an adorable photo of them in the bathtub. In the photo, my mom is sitting on the closed toilet playing guitar, and the kids are in full song, suds flying everywhere. My mother-in-law pursed her lips, folded the photo in half and said, "I never took naked pictures of my kids. There's enough smut in the world."

Moral of the story: On the one hand, the concept of "overshare" partially depends on the audience; on the other, as the article says, parents are the first line of defense for a child's privacy.

When I wrote a memoir about being a young mommy with cancer (Bald in the Land of Big Hair, HarperCollins 2001), I agonized over what to say and not say about my kids. I had written the book I wished was available to me when I was sick. I hoped it would be a gift to the next young mom in the chemo lounger. But my kids had been through a rotten, rotten couple of years, and I didn't want to traumatize them any further. My husband and I made the difficult decision to hold back the movie rights when interest was expressed by Lifetime. I was in remission, but we were told not to hope for more than five years. We'd been bankrupted by my cancer treatment and needed the money desperately, but we didn't want to force our kids to live with a Hollywood version of our family after my death.

As it played out, I lived (GOFIGHTWIN CHEMO!), and my kids survived being characters in a bestselling memoir. They turned out great and regard me today with all the eye-rolling, long-suffering love most 20-somethings have for their mom. Over the years, I've published maybe 10% of the words I've written about my children. The other 90%, including a full-length memoir called Offspring, I've either destroyed or set aside for them to read after my death, when the decision to publish or not will be theirs. They are entitled to tell their own stories or to keep their experiences private, including the story about growing up with a writer mommy.

Here's the advice I give my ghostwriting clients on memoirs in general:

1) I have the right to tell my own story, but it's not right or reasonable for me to project subtext, motivation or intention on other people who figure in my story, and I can't control the filters readers bring to my work, so I have to consider how the story might land on the adorable-smut-in-the-world spectrum.

2) There's no such thing as a tell-all memoir, nor should there be. When making decisions about what to share and what to keep to yourself, do a cost/benefit analysis: Is telling this story going to cost you or someone you love more than it benefits the reader? It's not fair to tweak the truth in a memoir; if you open that door, you should be prepared to let the reader in, but you're not obligated to share everything. I believe strongly in the art of memoir as cosmic cartography: we each have a tiny piece of the map of human experience, and sharing those disparate fragments, we help others find their way through the same perilous territory. However...

3) Published memoirs should earn their footprint in the world. Why are you telling this story? Are you sharing something new, shining a light on something unexplored, potentially offering a great gift to someone who is lost and afraid or is writing a way for you to process the experience for yourself? Memoir writing is a powerful way to work through a traumatic experience or to find meaning in the grind of everyday life. But not everything that's written -- even if it's beautifully written and took hundreds of hours -- needs to be published. Maybe the gift of this memoir was in the writing.

Not trying to kick a hornets nest. Just my two cents on the topic. Apparently, writer/photographer Penny Guisinger will be doing a panel on this topic at AWP 2016. I suspect it will be well attended.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cannot believe I just bought THE ACCURSED by Joyce Carol Oates for a buck #BuyThisBook

Okay, setting aside my fundamental moral objection to selling books for 99 cents...squeeeeeeeee! The publishing angel on my right shoulder just got its butt kicked by the greedy little reader demon on my left. I couldn't resist.

I hope they don't keep it marked down very long, just on principle, but I also hope it will turn cheapo readers on to JCO, one of my all time favorite authors.

Friday, April 10, 2015

One for #SiblingsDay :)

No one has challenged, vexed, loved, hated, teased, comforted, tormented, tested, uplifted, entertained or inspired me than my brothers and sisters. From left: Janis, Diana, Linda, me and Allen with our baby bro Roger piloting the scrap wood and mop bucket airplane.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter! (Some things just never stop being hilarious.)

It's been 25 years since I dragged my kids to Wallgreens for a free photo with the hapless Crayola bunny. I still die laughing every time I see it.

My daughter looks like the angry piglet from Alice in Wonderland, my little boy appears to be suffering a psychotic break, and I feel certain the bunny went out drinking that afternoon and passed out in his own vomit somewhere in the black, black abyss behind the balloons.

Anyway, um... Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Author Toolbox: Snazzy QR cards from @Moo = perfect book event tchotchkes

Later this month, Foyles on London’s Charing Cross Road will host the Indie Author Fair, part of the London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe Festival. I'm thrilled to see the next wave coming: indie authors and indie bookstores FINALLY partnering in meaningful, mutually beneficial ways.

I was really hoping I could be at LBF this year, but alas, twas not to be. Next best thing to being there: I'm sharing a table at the Foyles event with Roz Morris, one of my Women Writing Women boxmates, via these nifty cover art cards.

I had them printed and sent directly to Roz by Moo allows you to design a mixed lot of cards with as many different images as you like. I chose six cover images and kept it simple on the back with a QR code that takes cardholder to my website. The Green paper (optional) is 100% recycled. Gotta love that.

When I entered Roz's shipping address, I was directed to Moo's UK site, which saved me the price of shipping overseas. Total cost for printing and shipping 200 cards: less than 40 quid. Roz flipped me this photo of the cards, which arrived at her flat in about a week and appear to be nice and sharp.

Thanks, Moo! I'll definitely be ordering another lot for general purposes.


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