A Different Kind of Nazi in Paris

517b-t7n-jL._SR600,315_PIWhiteStrip,BottomLeft,0,35_SCLZZZZZZZ_ Junger was a well-known German author and officer during World War II who “met intellectuals and artists across the political spectrum” while living in occupied Paris. As such, he can be considered part of a Franco-German dialogue, if not “alliance.” I personally was interested in this book because I wanted to know the atmosphere of Paris under German domination. Apparently “Junger frequented the Thursday salon of Paris editor for Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Louise Bousquet,” wife of the playwright Jacques Bousquet. Pablo Picasso and Aldous Huxley also attended those meetings. I am just getting into the book and realizing that nothing is black and white–life is always varying shades of gray. Junger, for instance, judged the brutality of fascist sympathizer Ferdinand Celine’s vicious character harshly. It is amazing to see who dallied at these “salons.” In visiting the George V hotel, he would have been conversing with Cocteau and the publisher Gaston Gallimard. This may help you keep reading: “When Junger saw an opportunity to help save Jews at an acceptable level of risk, he did act.” His help proves he had a conscience despite Cocteau’s comment that he had no hands. I think it is wonderful of Columbia University Press to publish Junger’s journal. It will help scores of researching writers and anyone interested in what German officers were doing while in Nazi-controlled Paris. #NetGalley #ColumbiaUniversityPress. arr de triomphe



Who are the real cut-throats?

16Hemley-jumboClaire Prentice, author of The Lost Tribe of Coney Island (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014) made me CARE about a tribe of headhunters called the Igorottes from the Philippine Islands, sweet-talked by an American named Truman Hunt, who saw some financial promise in displaying the 50-odd tribespeople to the American public for profit. I do not blame him for wanting to display them since that was a trend at the beginning of the early 20th century. The tribe was at Dreamland, one of the three big amusement parks at Coney Island, where freak shows displayed any willing people who were “different,” either by birth or culture. (I imagine the lives of all those who were engaged in a circus fashion, to amaze or horrify the public, were as difficult as those of struggling actors in Hollywood today.)

Everything I might have found repellant in the traditions of the tribespeople, who after all, were headhunters, and their primitive way of life (eating dogs for celebrations, for instance) slowly but surely shifted to an abhorrence of their jailor, Truman Hunt. Hunt was a prime example of selfishness, a man who left two wives without a penny and who forced a people whose tradition it was to eat dog perhaps twice a year to eat it every day. If not, they starved, while he made 20 thousand dollars a WEEK and blew it all on women, clothes, hotels and gambling. He made up lies about them frequently to draw in the public

Who are the real vermin? The pages of this book turned so fast for me! I was enthralled by Prentice’s research skills and her ability to write the story with carefully considered human interest, the same that is decried by a few finicky reviewers who say that she could not possibly know what anyone else is feeling. Thus say the potential Truman Hunts of the world! #Claire Prentice #Coney Island #Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt


A Woman’s Stroke Made Me Laugh!

Kimberly In I’m A Little Brain Dead, Los Angeles writer Kimberly Davis Basso describes her experience of having a stroke and its scary consequences.

It was one of the funniest books I have ever enjoyed—and one of the most courageous.

Decades of professional writing experience combine with over 25 years as a theatrical director and producer to demonstrate her understanding of audience:

We are held by fear.
We are held by laughter.

Oh, how well Basso wields this double-edged sword!

I'm a Little Brain Dead

Basso is very approachable via Goodreads, where she patiently answered my numerous questions: Did she describe events truthfully? Did she and her husband really obsess over zombies?

Basso replies:

–We have always enjoyed ridiculous little games and jokes, so the escapism is real. And of course that’s what it is – so much easier to side step into a zombie apocalypse than to play the “what if” game – which is dangerous, scary, and entirely unproductive unless you’re trying to raise your stress level. The chapter called Scared? is my true, honest view of life. Panicking never helps. The bigger the problem, in fact, the less panicking helps. Of course, in day to day life, this is harder to remember. Which is why I backed up that chapter with the also true story of my panic over a medical issue that turned out to be nothing.

“Did your daughter really call you ‘Stroke Woman’?” I ask.

–Yes, she really did. She gets her irony from me, I’m going to say, because I have the caustic wit. I was born in New England, where sarcasm is an art form.

My biggest question, as for anyone writing about a life event, is whether she took notes! Basso replies:

–Oh, the actual notes/writing. I write, I’ve always been a writer. I asked my husband to bring my laptop to me in the hospital, so I had it with me on day two. Hospitals are boring, after all. And I wanted to be able to Skype with my folks who live out of state. I type very fast, I’ve been accused of faking it actually, but I was writing the experience from day two. So that immediacy and honesty is all because it was all still happening.

I think aspiring writers who want to cultivate humor need to know how you did it so well.

——– My best advice is to watch comedians and read how they do it. Read David Sedaris, Read and watch Steve Martin. And read Erma Bombeck.

Have you ever written for stand-up comedians?

—— I haven’t, but I did coach a stand up a long time ago, so I went to all these open mics with him and was able to watch as his stuff evolved. And I’ve written a bunch of comedies (plays). I also had a student (high school) who started off freshman year doing standup. Talented from the get go. His name is Eric Gil. He is still working it- so if you ever come across his name.

What else would you say to writers trying to be funny?

–The rules apply. Write what you know, just write it with unflinching honesty. I’m pleasantly surprised that people think it’s funny. That probably sounds odd, but it’s true. Originally I kept categorizing it as memoir then I realized that nope, this is straight up humor, because that is how all the readers are responding. I mean, I didn’t think it was a tear jerker. But you know, first book, reader reactions are so different from theater audience reactions. OH OH OH and the cursing – don’t do it. I know that sounds odd considering that every other word is an F-bomb – but unless it’s naturally there, don’t do it. The curses in this book were all exactly what I was thinking at the time. And I swear a lot – so yeah. But if I didn’t swear in real life, I wouldn’t be cursing in the book. None were added in for effect. That would be fucking cheap. And EDIT. Ruthlessly. I took paragraphs down to a sentence or removed them altogether if they didn’t work.




The 2018 Etiquette of Book Reviewing

DSCN7023.JPGA lot has changed in book reviewing in my lifetime. Nowadays, professional book reviews still appear in published magazines, both online and in print, but more book reviews appear on Amazon, B & N, Goodreads, varied social media like blogs and on/through NetGalley, a site to which publishers pay money for the right to display the titles they would most like to promote to readers.

What is expected from reviewers? Readers of Goodreads know that many reviewers are hard to please. If a book does not sink its teeth into these reviewers by Chapter 3, an author may expect less than five stars, even if he is Tolstoy. The reviews are sincere, if harsh.

If you read reviews by people who get their books through NetGalley, then “I got this book for free” is the amateurish first line–one of the drawbacks of handing books out for free.

Professional writers know that the first sentence is worth $58. Or close.

Then there are reciprocated reviews. Those are tricky. Authors who review for other authors do not know what they are getting. If they write nice things about bad books, no one will believe them as time goes on.

Still, etiquette dictates a certain amount of grace. If someone is kind enough to give your book a good review–or let us go a step further–if someone is kind enough to give you a great review (without being asked) on a blog and on Amazon and/or Goodreads, that person deserves more than a message of thanks. That person deserves some investigation. Is he or she an author? Might you investigate that person’s writing to repay the favor? (Since you have already received the great review, the discovery of the author being a horrible writer simply means you don’t have to do anything. Be grateful and do not send the reviewer your latest work, hoping for more freebies.)

That is the etiquette of book reviewing in 2018.

You are welcome!

The Children of Aleppo’s Struggle to Survive

40199729 We have seen the heartrending images of babies crying on missile-shelled streets, heard the furor of debate over desperate people seeking shelter from a war-torn country, but rare is the on-the-scene tale in English that gives us a window to feel it all up close. This coming-of-age story starts with a 13-year-old Syrian boy running for his life through a battle zone to no safety at all.

The narrative then slams backward, to a place any young person will recognize: the classroom and a tedious lesson. The teacher is driving home the message of what Assad’s presidency has meant to the people of Syria. Zaid’s classmate Ahmed is one who, echoing his father, presumes Assad is a great man who helped the economy.

Readers who have not grown up in dictatorships may find it strange that school lessons include whimsical “leader” stories given on a daily basis. Such propaganda is a reality that children in free societies are spared.

Zaid’s life seems normal in the sense that families get up, go to work or school, and come home to eat and sleep, but his 13-year-old neighbor and classmate, Fatima, notices that nine students are absent.

The Heart of Aleppo is a courageous and versatile account of young Zaid, who discovers the “heart” of his home city even as it is destroyed. His life moves from some semblance of normality living over his rug merchant father’s shop to learning how to survive with Fatima and her brother Salman as adults die around them. Zaid comes to question every notion or tradition which structured his life before chaos. Prefabricated ideas of who and what represent safety fall away as government soldiers and rebels fire through civilians to dominate each other. There is no safety.

Ammar Habib is a prolific young American author who manages to make a 7,000-year-old city under onslaught come to life. Readers will feel they are running in the rubble and understand what it must mean when there is no way to stay out of a fight—not when it has engulfed an entire country.8442873

How to Write your Research Essay in One Day!

If you follow these instructions, you will be able to finish your research paper in one day. (You might have to go to a library for peace. Add half a day if you have done no research yet. Some teachers provide example papers. I know I do!  When using a library database, try to restrict yourself to newspapers and magazines because they are easier to digest.)placement thesis

* Put the prompt at the top of the paper while you are working on it.

* Make sure you have a working thesis statement to begin with (that addresses the prompt at the top of the paper).

* Each paragraph following the introduction should (theoretically) have a topic sentence (the first sentence) that will introduce an idea that supports the working thesis (which can be your definitive thesis statement if you are happy with it).

Ways to get ideas for body paragraphs:

  1. Give background of issue or individuals or groups
  2. Define (explain) terms or issues
  3. Talk about why your thesis is correct
  4. Give the opposing point of view and then explain why it is incorrect or not viable (argument strategy).
  5. If your issue depends on historical chronology, try to stick to it so you do not confuse a reader who has never read about this problem before.

6. Itemize the reasons for or the problems brought on by the issue you are discussion (cause/effect strategy).

7. Enumerate the subsections of the issue you have to write about (classification strategy).

Ways to find more ideas to develop the research essay:

  1. From your text book readings, if that is where the prompt comes from and you are allowed to use that reading as a source, find a line (quote) that you like. Take it as the main idea of a paragraph, introducing it with your own observation (try not to begin a paragraph with a quotation from someone as it is much better to state a problem and follow with the writer’s observation). Then you can enlarge upon what the author said, making it relevant to the modern reader.
  2. Look at example papers (In my classes, I provide examples from students in previous semesters). If you like something someone said, you can use the idea so long as you do not steal it word for word. Look at that writer’s sources and if he or she is directly referring to a newspaper or magazine article, find it and look at it. You might discover a new idea or another line you want to quote that can enrich your essay.
  3. Read what you have out loud to yourself or someone else or a tape recorder. Read slowly. If you record it, don’t listen to it immediately. Go take a walk or have lunch to clear your head.
  4. Last but not least: the more articles you read (newspapers or popular magazines are easiest to comprehend!), the more ideas you will get.
  5. Write about what you understand best. Don’t worry about the parts you don’t understand if you feel you have tried very hard to understand. Some of us feel most comfortable writing about armaments, some about political personalities, government, foreign policy, and so on. Write about what you understand!
  6. You have the right to talk about mistakes of people or governments that no one has talked about. For instance, one student mentioned to me yesterday that she felt very disappointed the Benazir Bhutto did not use a bulletproof shield when she went into the street on the day she was killed. What a great observation! The student felt that Bhutto’s courage was eclipsed by her foolhardiness. Students have the right to make those observations! We teachers love that. : )


The last edit:

* The last edit is always reserved for spelling and punctuation.

* Don’t use “you.”

* I allow my writers to use first person, “I” or “we.”  In other classes, you must consult your teacher first about whether first person is allowed.

* Look for vague words like “it,” “this” and “that” in your research essay. If you have printed the paper out (a really good idea), circle each “it,” “this” and “that” and then make sure it is clear. Try reading those parts to someone else and then ask the listener, “What did I mean by ‘it’?”

“That” is sometimes used to begin a clause. Sometimes you can take “that” out and the sentence still reads fine. Try it. Here is an example: “I told him that I could not come today.” Revised: “I told him I could not come today.” (That is invisibly still there!)

* Concrete nouns work so much better than vague words.

* Double check your possessive pronouns (his, her, their) to make sure they correspond with the word they are referring to. (“If a child is sick, take him or her to the doctor” (not “If a child is sick, take them to the doctor.”)

* Double check your pronouns in general (he, she, they) to make sure they correspond in number to the word they are referring to.

*On that subject, remember that a country is a collective noun, usually referred to in the singular: “Mexico refused to sell its territories” and “The United States had its own interests at heart.” Yes, even the United States is generally thought of as singular when we write about it.  It takes action as a collective unit.

* Collective nouns become plural ONLY when they have to for the sake of logic: “The jury have put on their coats and gotten in their cars to go home.”

* If you have an apostrophe addiction, make sure every single ‘s in your paper is for a possessive: The president’s idea (the idea belonged to the president). We do not create plural words with ‘s. Americans, when referring to the people living on the American continent or the USA, is written without an apostrophe.

* At the end of the paper, click on insert>page break so that your Works Cited is on its own page.

* Make sure all the entries on your Works Cited page are in alphabetical order.

* Block all your entries on the Works Cited page and then click on Home> paragraph (go to the lower right hand box and click on that, and it will open up another box)>indent (choose “hanging”).


Hate Those who Sell our Freedom

facebookThe two greatest values in life are health and freedom. Ask anyone who has managed to safeguard his or her health while living under totalitarian rule, and that person will say that without freedom, health diminishes.

My health diminished while I lived under totalitarian rule for 17 years.

Decline of health is a reality for family members of abusive, totalitarian people.

For the years I lived under totalitarian rule, I thought of the USA as a free country because it is a democracy. A democracy is a state in which the people have the right to vote and speak freely, where they have equal rights, being created equal by God. In a democracy, the people make the rules by which they respect one another’s rights to health and freedom.

Foreign powers are not part of that decision-making process, or at least they had not been, until the emergence of international social platforms like Facebook could sell the rights of a free people away to outside elements, so that our elections were not our own.

I am sickened by Facebook’s willingness to give democracy away for money. Perhaps that group of people who have control over these international social platforms (here is the definition of an oligarchy) do now own and control us.

Then we are no longer a democracy and no longer free.

And you know what’s next if we don’t try to get our right to freedom back.