Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Justice and Mercy

As I learn and grow, I continue to try to learn to balance justice and mercy.  Both of them are good ideas when they are balanced, but sometimes a person violates humanity to such a degree, that justice must step to the forefront, and simply... be there.  And were we to ignore the need for justice at that point, we would become morally unbalanced.  

For myself, I try not to be a vindictive person.  But I will allow myself to feel pleased when justice is done.  I appreciate the words of Judge George O'Toole:

* Sargent, Hillary. Twitter. 2015.  https://twitter.com/lilsarg

Note that I didn't mention the name of the perpetrator of the Boston Marathon Bombing, though his name is in the picture of the Judge's address to him.

As I continue to think of justice and mercy, and how neither can rob the other, I think of another recent violation of humanity by someone whom I believe to be as morally depraved as the person in the case I point out, above.  I won't mention his name either.   This individual entered a peaceful church, and in cold blood, murdered nine people, simply because he didn't like the color of their skin.  The people he murdered were: Cyntha Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson.  Tywanza Sanders was only 26.

*CNN Wire. "... Confesses to Killing 9 People in Charleston Church, Wanting to Start 'Race War'". http://myfox8.com/2015/06/19/charleston-shooting-suspect-...-confesses-to-killing-9-people/

It is true that Jesus Christ paid for our sins.  That's how mercy and justice can be balanced.  But when a person does something so unrepentantly heinous as this, that person is essentially refusing to accept Christ's payment.  When that happens, justice must absolutely step back in and assert itself.

Let me say again, I try not to be a vindictive person.  I'm by no means perfect.  But I try to do what's right.  And I will allow myself to feel pleased when justice is done.  And it will be.  Even if it takes longer than we would like.  Because God is in charge of this universe.  And I trust Him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Boys' State and The American Legion

My son recently finished an excellent experience with Utah Boys' State at Weber State University.  He learned a lot about government and responsibility, and gained a greater appreciation of the freedoms that we far too often, take for granted, and of the men and women who sacrifice so much to give us these freedoms.

I appreciate the mentors who helped him, the people from American Legion who took time from their own schedules to work with these boys for the week they were at WSU.

Boys' and Girls' State is a great program that helps produce successful young men and women who will bethe leaders of the future, whether they go into politics, the military, or any other future path.  I am glad that my son had the opportunity to participate in the program, and that he was able to be so successful. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Tips on Giving and Receiving Critiques

I followed a very interesting conversation today begun by a fellow writer, Braden Bell on his observation that the fine art of critique-giving is something that would benefit writers to develop.  Knowing how to give helpful critique as well as knowing how to accept it can both be very beneficial.

I mulled over these thoughts, and read some fantastic comments to Braden's, including a link to Annette Lyon's blog where she talks about tactful ways of giving and taking critiques, here.  In addition, Julie Danes blogged some excellent suggestions here, as well.

Giving Critique

My main thought on giving criticism is most importantly of all, that I need to be careful.  A piece of writing is the creation of its author, and the author is understandable protective of his or her work.  And that is as it should be.  Having said that, there are often things an author can do, especially a beginning author, to make a piece of writing stronger, and there are ways for a critique-giver to tactfully offer suggestions and correction.  Author Jennifer Nielsen put it very well when she said  "I think when approaching criticism, it’s important to emphasize that the goal is to find a weak choice and turn it into a stronger choice." Instead of considering it a "wrong" or "right" choice. She went on to add that when suggesting a change, a good way to approach this is to begin with the words: "You might consider..." so that the author can see the suggestion, but still feel in control of her own story.  In a situation where there is actually a glaring error (for example, at the beginning of the story, the main character's mother is dead, and her father is an unmarried widower, but halfway through the story she calls her mom, or writes her a letter, or tells her dad to tell mom hi) it may help to say something like, "At the beginning, I noticed xyz, but halfway through, I noticed abc."  This too, can help a writer see a chance to make a needed change without feeling as if she's under attack.  Perhaps the writer meant to bring back the mom into the story, and forgot to rewrite her in at the beginning, or she simply needed to remember to keep the mom out of the picture, and had forgotten to do so, which is a fairly easy mistake to make, and easy to correct.

Getting Critique

In receiving criticism, I agreed with several of my fellow writers who said that they like to consider a critique slowly, and mull things over in their heads before rushing to make suggested changes.  Angie Lofthouse offered this helpful suggestion:  "My rule of thumb is to let any critique soak in for three days before doing anything about it. After three days, the changes I'm excited to make, I know are right for the story."  Joyce DiPastena added that being humble, and not so quick to reject criticism one disagrees with, can go a long way in making us better writers.  She likes to think, "Is there something I can learn from this comment?" and there usually is, even if in the end, she disagrees with a piece of criticism.

In the end, giving and getting critique whether it's for writing or something else, is often best done with a teachable, and open minded attitude.  Being willing to learn and grow will help us all get better, whether it's at writing, or simply being more productive, contributing human beings.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Children of Darkness by David Litwack

Boy, I have had a busy day today!  A busy reading day that is, having gotten through two novels in one day (though the first I did start yesterday).  The second of these fantastic novels is entitled The Children of Darkness by David Litwack, a book that isn't out yet, but I was lucky enough to get an ARC, so now I get to blog about it!  If you like dystopian novels featuring a scary future ruled by tyrants with a few brave young people going up against them, then you will like this book when it comes out, and I suggest you check it out!  It isn't available as of today, but feel free to check out Mr. Litwack's author page on amazon, here!

I am a fan of James Dashner's post apocalyptic novels, presenting dystopian civilizations ruled by cruel tyrants, and this book, written with several similar themes, was one I truly enjoyed.
Still, while there are some themes similar between this book and the aforementioned books by Mr. Dashner, David Litwick has a style that is all his own, and has created a wonderful, albeit frightening image of a future world ruled by a dictatorial theocracy. This theocracy, whose headquarters are ironically called the Temple of Light, seeks to control individual thought, and control the actions of its people. One of these control tactics, called a "Teaching" is one of the most truly terrifying ways the Vicars and Deacons (who are nothing like I know of modern vicars and deacons) use to control the people. They claim to teach "light" and shun the "darkness" but what they really do is just the opposite.

And this controlling theocracy might well have continued, but for three brave friends who set out to find the real truth for themselves.

I noticed a few small conventional errors here and there, but nothing that interrupted the flow of the story for me.

If you are a fan of future dystopian like I am, you will enjoy David Litwack's The Children of Darkness. And the best part, is that it's only the first book!

Interlude at Cottonwood Springs by Liz Adair

I just finished a book by the talented Liz Adair, and it is very good.  You can read more about it, here.

Liz Adair, in a word, is a master storyteller.  She has a way of ripping your heart out, and then shoving it back in a little mangled, but also a little wiser than before.  She also did a beautiful job in Interlude at Cottonwood Springs in teaching the universal truth of choices and consequences without becoming didactic.  To be honest, when I started into this story, I began to dislike the characters.  But by the end, I was able to feel compassion for them.  Not that I excused their faults or their foolish choices, but I was able to see their inherent value as people.  And it was thanks to Ms. Adair's fantastic skills as a writer. 

As one of the characters aptly put it,  "Sometimes you make choices that are wrong, and it's not just a mistake.  You know what you're doing is wrong.  Later on you can be sorry for what you've done.  You can even be forgiven for what you've done.  But that doesn't- that can't change-  
"Even though you're sorry, even though you're forgiven, the consequences of your choices stand.  You can't change them."

 I am so glad I was able to experience this story.