Sunday, January 31, 2016
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Amanda holds a Juris Doctorate and is a second year Ph.D. student of Public Law and Public Administration. Her research focuses on judicial decision-making both in American courts and abroad. Though the rigor of graduate school rarely affords time for fun, she has made it a priority to focus on her writing and to allow herself to indulge in a creative outlet.
Amanda's first post on this page follows.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
1. Even in exposition to a larger work, include compelling action. Weave the narrative into the story so the reader is engaged from page one.
2. Long, complex sentences drag the tempo down and often reveal the indecisiveness of the writer. Craft carefully with intent. No one cares that you aced Vocabulary for the College Bound Student in your AP English class senior year in high school. Readers care about characters, action, twists, and revelations.
3. Beware redundancy. Betty did this. Betty did that. Betty started a sentence with the word Betty so many times in a row that Betty landed on the bottom of the slush pile. Poor Betty.
4. Celebrate personal style. Just as my favorite outfit will not work on every woman, my writing style should not be imposed on every writer. My job, as I sit at the table, is to recognize the individual’s style and intent and offer helpful critique. Before opening my mouth I must ask myself, “Will my comment assist the writer tell his or her story or am I trying to force the writer to tell the story how I would tell it?” The latter is not stylish at all.
5. Ego isn’t pretty. Fabulous clothes cannot hide an ugly soul. Above all else, my critique circle has taught me to open my mind and heart to criticism. Every person at the table is there because he or she loves to write. So, Jodie, (Yep, I’m talking to myself here) shed that darn ego already. Oftentimes, I alone cannot see the problem with an outfit because I’m staring at my shiny, fancy shoes. The same can be said for clinging to clever passages.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Olga Agafonova is a front-end developer who loves good books and smooth coffee. Professionally, she is interested in 3D modeling and animation. Creatively, her background is in the visual arts and she is excited about learning to tell stories through fiction.
Olga's first blog post for SCWW Columbia II follows.
By Olga Agafanova
Some years ago, I used to see a woman on a street corner who bore an uncanny resemblance to a former professor of mine. The two had similar physical characteristics and they were close in age: it would have been difficult to tell them apart from a distance. It is unlikely, however, that they will ever cross paths: the professor was a promising scholar, a rising star in her field; the homeless woman had the absent gaze of someone with a profound mental illness. Without intervention from some entity willing to provide long-term care, this person is likely to spend her life shuttling between psychiatric emergency rooms and homeless shelters, never becoming stable for long enough to start rebuilding her life.
Pete Earley’s Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness is a good place to start exploring the plight of the mentally ill in America. The book is not academic in its approach: Earley gives us enough historical and contextual information so that we understand why things functions so poorly but his tone is intimate and his outrage is genuine.
For example, we discover the magnitude of the jail problem as he begins to visit the Miami-Dade detention center. While the jail has an entire floor dedicated to housing psychotic prisoners, we find out that they receive little treatment except for cheap alternatives to the drugs they are prescribed. If they refuse to take the medicine, the prisoners may spend months in isolation cells, often naked (ostensibly for their own good) and raving mad. Although Early spends relatively little time discussing policy choices, we can understand exactly how the existing mental health system fails when Early shadows several men as they bounce to and from the streets and detention centers.
Early is at his most compelling when he talks about the hopes and dreams he had for his son and how he had to make adjustments to them when the scope of the son’s illness became clear. Reading the perspectives from “the other side”, that is, the views of the police officers who confront mentally ill offenders and the attorneys who passionately argue for a crazy’s person right to remain crazy was illuminating.
I find it interesting that as a society, we happily treat people with advanced dementia, even though they may claim they are feeling great, but equally delusional people with diagnoses like schizophrenia are left to struggle on their own. Both categories of illness are outside of an individual’s control and yet we draw a distinction between them in our mental health and justice systems. If we could care enough to align our laws with the science of mental illness, we might be on our way to becoming a more compassionate society where people like the homeless woman on that street corner may get another shot at life.
Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness
By Pete Earley