Vera's First Story in English

You don't know what's going to happen when you write. That's doubly true when you're co-writing with a kid.

Vera is an eight-year-old girl from Russia who likes English, and is good at it, but finds her class in school to be the normal form of boring. She likes dolphins, break-dancing, and math. This is the first story she's ever written in English. I started, then we alternated, going over changes and corrections along the way.

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Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a small dragon sleeping in a cave.
He had a son. And he had a lot of food.
But, there was a problem. His son wouldn't stop growing. He was already twice the size of the father, and he wasn't slowing down.
One day the son was gone.
The father sought him everywhere, but he couldn't find him.
As he was walking home he heard some laughter from nearby. As he peeked through the bushes he couldn't believe his eyes.
He saw a dolphin dancing with his son. The dolphin had L…

Maksim Makes a Story

Fiction writing has a higher level of technical skill at both the stylistic and structural levels. That can be useful.

If you've never written a story before, it can be intimidating to do. That's especially true if English isn't your native language, and you live in a non-English speaking country. I have helped a lot of people break through that barrier. I seem to have a bit of a knack for it, and I find it fun.

Maksim is a middle-aged family man from Belarus that does online marketing for a large computer gaming company. He likes soccer, has some expensive guitars, and is making a music app. And, he was a little skeptical about writing fiction. I could tell. We did it anyway, and it went well. I started, and then we alternated.

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Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived an old man. He went for a walk in the woods everyday at noon. He walked the same path, in the same way. Looked at the same trees, and across the same lake.

Everything was the same unti…

20 Tiny and Mind-Blowing Documents for Learning

I recently sent a few documents to a 13-year-old girl that is intelligent, but is annoyed by reading long texts that take too long to get to the point. I've read thousands of books, and the more I read the more I value writing that can change your perspective on the world in just a few pages.

My book list is always changing. I update it every few days, but right now I have 388 things listed in 10 sections. Some of them are large book series. But, some of them are small. Some, very small.

So I looked through my list and pulled out a few small things that I thought might surprise her as to how valuable a small work can be. My selection was excellent. But, there were too many things. And, even though they were smaller than you would think, some of them could still be considered a book. I wanted to make the list smaller, and I wanted the works to be smaller. I went through it again.

This time I guessed at how long each work was and included the length. I got it down to 20 items. And I…

Hope in the Time of Quarantine

I went for a motorcycle ride a couple of days ago. In Michigan right now that might be illegal. Governor Whitmer has been issuing new executive orders every day limiting people's freedom. It is sad to see the death of freedom. But, something more important is happening.

When you're riding a motorcycle it's common to give a sign to other riders. It's a sign of solidarity, a connection between like-minded people.

I rode from Twin Lake through Whitehall and Montague to Lake Michigan. I saw a few other people on motorcycles and we gave each other the sign. You hold out two fingers. It's a sign that commonly means peace now. In WW2 the sign meant victory. Those two go well together, for peace is the highest form of victory, and there is no peace without victory.

But, those weren't the only people that gave me the sign. People were riding bicycles and giving me the sign. People were walking down the side of the road and giving me the sign. People were walking dogs, a…

Moral Engagement

Morality is one of the greatest confrontations people have, both with themselves and with others.

Albert Bandura is one of the greatest psychologists of morality in history. In his paper "Selective Moral Disengagement in the Exercise of Moral Agency" the first line of the abstract reads, "Moral agency has dual aspects manifested in both the power to refrain from behaving inhumanely and the proactive power to behave humanely."
Bandura focused on identifying the eight different ways that people morally disengage. Those are the things that we have to work on avoiding. But, in addition to that there needs to be the things that we are aiming for. There's a reverse to each of the eight things that Bandura identified, and in addition to avoiding moral disengagement, which rightly brings self-condemnation, we must also pursue moral engagement.
Moral Justification

This is the basic idea that the ends justify the means. If the end is justice we cannot reach it through inj…

The Short and Long of Grief

My aunt Deb died a few weeks ago. I received an email the very next day from my friend Don. I'm in a writing group with him and his wife Jean. And he asked me about grief.

Here's part of the email.

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Hi Jeff,

Interesting to browse through your comments on grief, thanks. Question: can one grief about the present, case in point, can we grief that we are stuck in a lockdown on account of a damn little virus that is killing some of us. Given your implied sense of time relativity, I’d guess that grieving the present situation is possible. Today certainly means the future we were anticipating is different. We’ve already had our trip to the Netherlands canceled, after planning on it for more than a year.

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Obviously the trip to Europe is most likely annoying, but not a major emotional issue like the loss of a life. Although emotions are complex things, and it's hard to know what's going to hit people the hardest. Across all of these situations the proc…

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 17 of ?

When it is easier for those in power to violate the rights of citizens than for the citizens to seek redress for injustices, it's time for a change. Two things are necessary to save Dalton Township from the corruption and government overreach that has infected it: better people and better policies.

In a civilized society elections take the place of revolutions. They allow for the peaceful transfer of power, and the reformation of policies. We've had brave citizens step forward to run for office. Without them no progress can be made, with them we have the opportunity to restore rights that have been trampled underfoot by the current township officials. A just government secures the freedom and property of its citizens, rather than attacks it. Now, we must look at what changes are needed to secure those rights.

My mother has always extolled the virtue of balance, and it applies to government more than anything else. The United States was founded on the idea of individual rights …

The Opposite of Communism - Part 2 of 2

Chapter 2 of "The Communist Manifesto" is only 16 pages long. With just 9 quotes from these pages we can reveal the ideas that are the basis of the horrors of communism. And by taking their opposite, we can reveal important truths for a Free and Just society.

In order, let's begin.

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In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single phrase: Abolition of private property.

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That makes the matter rather simple. Either you are for the "Abolition of private property." Or, you are for the Protection of private property.

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In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

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At least Marx was plain. Others are not so forthright in stating that doing "away with your property" is what they stand for.

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Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.

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An Email About Writing, and a Reply

A friend sent me an email recently asking some pertinent questions about writing.

Here is part of the email from Sharon.

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Have you ever coached a fantasy writer? How silly do you consider this genre?
I have this dream to finish my story before I die and that’s not looking as good as it used to! Years go by really fast as it turns out.
What’s a good first step for this process? Or, do you have a series of essays on how to get off your butt and just write?

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Those are good questions, and hard to answer questions. Here is my response.

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I quite like fantasy.

My writing coaching has just been on the skill rather than on projects, so I've mostly played with tiny little stories that we make up at the time.

There is no correct process for writing, and no correct writing time frames. Patrick Rothfuss worked on his first book for 14 years before it came out. Stephen King took 30 years to finish the Dark Tower series. J. K. Rowling had all seven books pl…

The Opposite of Communism - Part 1 of 2

My father used to leave a copy of "The Declaration of Independence" laying next to "The Communist Manifesto" in the middle of the dining room table. Just to see what people would say. In the manifesto he left a bookmark on page 94, where Marx and Engels laid out a ten point plan to transform advanced countries into communist utopias. Communist utopias are the greatest dystopias ever created, so let's see what happens when we reverse those ideas.

Marx and Engels precede this list by stating that, "These measures will of course be different in different countries. Nevertheless in the most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable." So that's where we'll start. If you want to be communist, here's your list.

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1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

4. Confiscation o…

A Custom Religious Wedding

All weddings are unique. Some are more unique than others.

When I first sat down with Joel and Kelly we had already rejected the wedding ceremony that I had created and used three times previously. It's an excellent ceremony, but they wanted something religious, and that one really wasn't. I didn't know how the meeting would go, but I knew that I wanted to be open to exploring the possibility of something custom made and tailored just for them.

The Bible offers a plethora of stories. Humans think in stories, and we live stories. They contain more of a comprehensive framework for interpretation and interaction with the world than can ever be processed in a less symbolic way. I thought I might be able to use that.

I wasn't sure if I could turn any story in the Bible into a wedding ceremony, but I was willing to give it a go. I was curious to see if it would work. If it did, then we would have an awesome wedding. And, if it wasn't working, then we could just switch to…

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