A Writer’s Education and a Rant

John Clark: I’ve just finished the rough draft for what is my 13th book (either written or in some form of completion). Don’t Say It began four years ago as the following concept: Thirteen year old boy with OCD which cost him a big toe, discovers a skeleton while bush hogging alders for his grandfather.

Back in February of this year, the boy morphed into Marcy-Jo Parmenter, a Maine high school junior who lived with her grandfather, a recovering alcoholic and retired county sheriff after her mother hopped on a bus when she was two and her father drank himself to death. The year is 1969 and she’s beyond mad at the way males treat her and other girls her age.

Having graduated from high school in 1966, I thought I had a pretty decent handle on the times, but as the book progressed, I realized how fuzzy memories can get. Here are some of the things I had to remember more carefully or research.

As you can see, skirting the pants issue was common when I was a high school senior.

1-Females had to wear appropriate length skirts, or dresses. I went through my high school yearbook and alas that was the case. Kate verified it was the norm her freshman year at Tufts.

2-Darn near every call was a toll call.

3-Trying to verify I-95 was complete all the way north of Augusta was tricky, so I had a bus go up Route 2 to a state cross-country meet at the University of Maine instead.

4-When Marcy-Jo wanted to increase endurance and leg strength, she couldn’t buy a treadmill, the only ones in existence were in hospitals to test cardio function, so she and her grandfather built a dogsled and she hauled it around with various weight sacks of grain.

5-There were no females in the Maine State Police, nor any female game wardens.

6-Research was slower and more challenging as no online databases existed, hence her making friends with a reference librarian at the Maine State Library.

7-Prices were a heck of a lot lower. When Marcy-Jo and her friend Tess take a truckload of apples to a cider press, the cost per gallon to have them pressed and what they made when selling the resulting cider will have many readers protesting.

8-Which rock groups played where that year, as well as what albums were available needed to be checked carefully.

9-Movies had to be seen at a theater, or on TV because VHS wasn’t around.

10-There were no salvage laws regarding aircraft either at the state or federal level.

11-The term transgender didn’t exist.

I’m sure something will jump out and bite me, but that’s what editing and beta readers are for.

Now for the rant. COVID-19 isolation helped me more than it hurt. I realized I’m less of a social being than I thought. Now that we’re coming out of it, being around others, even family, tires me quickly. However, that isolation gave me plenty of time to contemplate, especially once I got off Facebook. I realized a couple things that in hindsight should have been obvious as hell a long time ago, but weren’t because of the way the world sped up. First, We were horribly racist in World War II. The Japanese internment camps were an atrocity, but I can guarantee you that hell would have frozen over before we dropped an atom bomb on the Germans because they were white and looked like us, but it was okay to bomb people who didn’t. Second, it hit me just how horrible it must be for Black Americans to know that some fat white southerner owned their great grandparents.

That brings me to what’s really frying my bacon these days. The pace of life, thanks (or not) to technology, particularly social media and cell phones, has kicked the ability to think things through to the curb. Even worse, it has decimated most people’s attention span to a point where they’re prone to see something online and accept it at face value. Meals are interrupted continually by text messages, people can’t walk ten feet without pulling out their device for fear they’ve missed something, and social media throws so much at us there’s almost no chance to evaluate.

I’m not looking, because I can’t take anymore.

Online advertising is horrendous. Think about all the ads you’ve seen on online newspaper sites, or Facebook. How many times do you need to be harassed about improperly cleaning your butt? Do we really give a rat’s patootie who’s been with whom as a couple for x number of years when anyone who follows celebrities knows the couple shown have no connection. Heaven forbid you’re foolish enough to click on whatever rabbit hole lurks behind the ad. Heck, even Amazon and Google are sliding off the rails thanks to paid ads. More times than not I try searching for something and have to slog through three screens of hits in order to find what I’m looking for. /Rant.

Agree, or disagree, I’d like you to ponder this question for yourself: How can humanity fix what we’ve done to our planet while our minds are dizzied constantly?

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2 Responses to A Writer’s Education and a Rant

  1. John Lovell says:

    Good! Thanks!

  2. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    Rant away! I am concentrating on what I can fix, because otherwise it’s absolutely overwhelming. The circle gets smaller every day.

    And I got a chuckle about the skirts–when I was in COLLEGE, girls could not wear pants unless it was below 20 degrees. So nice they cared about our legs way back then. We’ve lived through a lot of absurdities and atrocities.

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