On a wing and a prayer

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One of my favorite places to daydream…33,000 feet in the air overlooking the world. I get a lot of reading, thinking, and writing done as I’m flying between here and there, the cramped space of an airplane somehow manageable. Up in the air I’m totally out of reach of the strum and drang of home. This is probably as close as I’ll get to suspended animation, or my own set of wings. All I can see is air and clouds, the sky and the horizon and wonder, what’s out there?

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Look at Me!

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Self Portrait : Writers should learn to use all their senses. Be more visual. Use your eyes to see past what you’re used to. What you’ll find might surprise you. In this image I see myself multiple times, differently. It’s an interesting way to explore or develop other personalities or characteristics. I do the same with the characters I create for my books. What is this? And where am I? What do you see when you look at me? Even if you’re not sure, make something up! You can always go back and change it at any time.

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Touching Reminder

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Commercial: Young 30-something couple walking down a street, not touching or smiling. Walking towards them is an elderly couple, not talking or smiling, but holding hands.  They pass each other.  The 30-something woman suddenly takes her partner’s hand. Their fingers entwine as they continue on. The woman slowly smiles. The picture said a thousand words. Here, at an exhibition where guests were encouraged to sit and lay about the floor, no one spoke during a brief performance.  The moment evoked closeness, smiles, and contentment.  Reach out and touch someone.

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My Dad’s Favorite Character

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The Disney character, Goofy, was my late father’s favorite cartoon character. I keep this small stuffed doll on my bookcase, easy to see to help me remember how cheerful, kind, and engaging my Dad was. There are other reminders in my office, but this doll never fails to make me smile. It’s a good idea for all writers to have a symbol, a token that helps us lighten-up, stay irreverent, not take ourselves too seriously. Then we can go back to the business of creating stories, making up our own beloved characters, and enjoying the process.  Writing should also be enjoyable.

goofy


Meeting Anna Quindlen

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I met the Pulitzer Prize author Anna Quindlen at a publishing event. She captured my attention as she talked about her career and work. She loved writing; wasn’t fond of the editing process…after all, every word was perfect…but gave kudos (and respect) to her editor for making her do the extra work that improved the story and pacing, or rounded out characters. I related to everything Ms. Quindlen shared. I’d found a kindred spirit who understood that being a writer was also about trying to become better one.

sandy and anna


Book Lovers

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If you are an avid reader like I am, this will be your idea of a candy store.

If you are an avid reader like I am, this will be your idea of a candy store. Rows upon rows of books.

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I began my own private collection in high school, around the time I earned money and could buy my own.  This was way pre-ebooks.  Soon I had ten books; twenty five, and then hundreds. I loved seeing titles and author’s names lined up on the spines. Ebooks may be convenient, fast, and less expensive, but they don’t beat being able to flip through pages, rereading the jacket blurb, seeing the author’s picture, or examining great cover art, so glad that you have this book in your library, always.

 


The Words

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What’s wrong with this picture?

Depends on your point of view. What I see is a 21st Century couple a 21st Century couple in America, and a growing segment of the population.  It’s a timely manifestation that ‘variety is the spice of life.’

This poster image is from the movie, THE WORDS. It is not a movie about an interracial couple, and the racial difference of the man and wife is never even hinted at.

That’s because race is not relevant to this story about a young struggling writer who publishes someone else’s novel as his own. This image, that may or may not offend some readers and/or movie viewers, was not pulled out of  the air, some fantasy visual technique of the director.  But it is a fair and accurate suggestion of what America is really becoming. Not just Black or white, but also what we use to refer to as ‘other’, as the 21st Century produces biracial children who are the future of the nation.

Our national and racial history may always raise its ugly head but history always gives way to the future. We’re already there. There are lots of familiar factors that can’t be ignored when couples meet: opposites attracting, biases dropping away, circumstances and chance, like, lust, and falling in love.

A movie’s primary purpose is first and foremost to entertain.  It can also be a statement about society that the writers, directors, actors turn on its head.

Mix it up. Be unpredictable.  Like real life.

 


Interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Here’s an excerpt from an exclusive interview I did with Dr. Tyson for AALBC.com, The #1 Site for African American Literature.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Dr. Tyson is the first African American to head the Planetarium, or any major scientific department at the Museum.  Neil Tyson grew up in Riverdale and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science.  He received his PhD from Columbia, and did a three year post doc at Princeton where he is still on the faculty.  He is a  teacher in astronomy and astrophysics at Princeton, the author of ten books, and a frequent guest on late night TV. It was announced on August 5, 2011, that Tyson will be hosting a new sequel to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage television series.

Dr. Tyson is also very vocal about science education and the need for students to seriously consider STEM field professions (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) so that America can move into the future prepared for the challenges and possibilities. In 2001, US President George W. Bush appointed Tyson to serve on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry and in 2004 to serve on the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, the latter better known as the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission. Soon afterward he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by NASA.

Sandra Kitt: When did you first begin to realize that you also enjoyed writing?

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson:  I wrote a column for Star Date magazine. Which was published out of the University of Texas. It started out as a newsletter. It was a question and answer column for them. This is where I decided, sure, I can answer any question you have about the universe, but that’s no fun. I could send you to page 12 of the encyclopedia. Today I’d just send you to Wikipedia if it’s just an answer. So, I just wanted to have more fun with it. So someone might ask, how hot is the sun? Rather than just give a temperature I might say something like, well if you visited the sun in flameproof underwear (laughing) and pulled out your thermometer, you’d get this reading. In a book or an essay that I might write for a magazine if you lose someone along the way they put it down. And you don’t know if they’ll ever pick it up again. So I try to write in a way where you care deeply what the next paragraph will be. I hear the rhythm of prose and that, to me, distinguishes great writing from ordinary writing. By the way, I don’t even claim that I’m good. I claim that I value it. So I’m not writing for myself. I’m writing as an educator, I’m writing to stimulate others.

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