I like dog-eared pages, the feel of paper, and old notes falling out of book covers when I open them. I like seeing colorful spines of books along my walls, each rectangle housing its own complete world that I’ve entered at one time or another. I like flipping through books in search of a favorite passage, knowing exactly where to find it because I can literally see the page in my mind and where the words are located.
Now I’m not promising that some day you won’t look into my purse and see a wireless reading device. What I am saying is that I’m not a present convert. I still want paper books, books that I can toss onto the hammock, give to friends to read, or write in the margins of with pen instead of a keyboard.
I simply don’t mind being old-fashioned, but after being told multiple times that electronic books are the way of the future I decided to ask them – the future that is. Because I visit a lot of school campuses I set out to ask students half my age what they thought of paper versus electronic books. My focus was various classes of high-school freshman and many of the conversations turned out to be more interesting than I thought.
While many students expressed an interest in electronic books, after they had finished shouting “Save the trees!” they admitted they don’t even read outside of school. More often than not, the fourteen and fifteen-year-olds I talked with who read at home preferred paper books. They want to keep those distinct worlds on their shelves as well, not store their stories in an electronic box where they couldn’t see them. They like sharing their books with friends and receiving books as gifts.
One fifteen-year-old student at Vintage High School in Napa, California explained to me that his generation would prefer electronic books exclusively because they were raised in technology and know nothing else. I asked if he would buy something just because it was more “technologically advanced” without even stopping to consider its merit. He said yes. Still, other students were adamantly opposed to something being considered the way of the future just because it was electronic.
One student argued that with the constant changes in technology it was wasteful to download books to a device that would be obsolete within a few years’ time. Other students told me that printed books were already complete in themselves, not needing to be changed or manipulated; the print would last their lifetimes and beyond. Another student was concerned about the carbon footprint she would leave by buying an electronic device that would need to be replaced.
To be fair I am ready to admit that devices like the Amazon Kindle e-book reader have great features that paper books do not, but like those students half my age I do have another very important question. What happens when you drop it in the bathtub? Paper is still my future.
Tyler Oaks earned her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from California State University, Stanislaus and her Master of Arts in Spanish from California State University, Sacramento. Tyler lives in California's Napa Valley with her husband and twin daughters. Tyler is presently at work on her next novel.
By Lisa Burns
If the majority of people say that something is true, it must be true…right?
Not necessarily. As another school year comes to an end, academics continue to debate the validity of one of the top ten most visited websites in the world: Wikipedia. William Badke, in an article titled, What to Do With Wikipedia in Information Today, states, “If you want to get five opinions from four information professionals, just mention Wikipedia.” Even Hollywood is taking notice: Stephen Colbert, host of the wildly popular faux-news talk show, The Colbert Report, has coined the term “Wikiality,” with the tag, “Together, we can create a reality that we can all agree on—the reality we just agreed on.” University guidelines regarding students’ use of Wikipedia is very convoluted: Some universities automatically fail students; others accept Wikipedia as an academic resource. In an interview with Business Week, co-founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales says students and researchers shouldn’t cite Wikipedia, stating, “No, I don't think people should cite it, and I don't think people should cite Britannica, either -- the error rate there isn't very good. People shouldn't be citing encyclopedias in the first place.”
The question remains: What are academics supposed to do with Wikipedia? On one hand, Wikipedia has just about anything one needs to know on its website. Need a list of every Poet Laureate? What about a brief history of the fall of the Roman Empire? Wikipedia is inarguably the easiest method of obtaining information on just about everything. On the other hand, there is no peer review on Wikipedia; only volunteer watchdogs. If the majority of the watchdogs say the information is correct, then it stays on the website. Badke claims, “If the average university student can safely go to Wikipedia instead of consulting a specialized print reference source, then academia is broken.”
Some academics argue that the problem isn’t with Wikipedia. Perhaps the fact that students need to be told in the first place not to use Wikipedia is the bigger concern, and a testament to the standards of those admitted into that university. The standards of a university that admits students who may use Wikipedia needs to be examined, along with the students trying to use this user-monitored website.
Wikipedia has responded to the concerns of academia by proposing a way for academics, students and Wikipedia to work together. Wikipedia is encouraging professors to teach students how an open content website works and having students post their work on Wikipedia. By asking universities to participate with students in submitting term papers, projects or notes to the website, it is the hope of all involved that, since the world will see students’ work, an increase in dedication to the project will subsequently occur. By doing this, in theory, students will continue to work with their preferred medium, and academics can rest easy, knowing that the university-posted information is indeed accurate. Some of the schools participating in Wikiversity, as it is called, include Texas A&M, University of Hong Kong, University of Pittsburgh, Northwestern University and University of Tokyo. Professor Jon Beasley-Murray, professor at the University of British Columbia, promises his students an A+ grade if their projects are accepted as a Wikipedia Featured Article.
Some may argue that it is a student’s role to learn information rather than posing as an expert who can disseminate information. Whether you are living in Wikiality or reality, those on both sides of the Wikipedia debate need to work to make Wikipedia as accurate and unbiased as possible.
Take a moment to look back into your past because everything we are today in terms of our personality and the way we perceive life has been influenced by this. In other words, all the experiences we have had that include all the emotions we have felt through childhood as well as all good and bad things that may have happened to us, make us the person we are today. You see, as we grow up, our thinking is shaped by all of these messages, which has to a large degree prejudiced us. All children are born innocent and pure. They are sponges and will absorb whatever the parents, caregivers and society put in them. Look around and you will see some adults instinctively kind and generous whilst others are just angry, malicious and violent, yet all of them started from the same point. It is easy to blame them, yet in some ways they are a product of their conditioning. It is therefore very important we look at the past that has shaped us because it may actually be blocking the love and abundance from entering our life.
The laws of Karma will ensure that the more we accept our negative behavior, the more we attract chaos into our life! Since we all carry our prejudices, it is important to ask what is in our backpack. The very things that are stopping the “light” from entering our lives may be in this backpack! Past resentments, bottled-up anger and grudges are some of the obvious ones that are found in most backpacks, and it is time to empty out the pack and let them go or you will carry them to the grave. Forgiveness is a very liberating force!
There are of course some very important positive things in the backpack too. The experiences that have enlightened us, the love we have given and received, the lessons that have taught us—all these are blessings that need to be remembered. However, the bitterness of all the negative things we carry from all those past hurts and grudges block out the light. By emptying them from the backpack, all that will remain are the blessings, and these will in turn attract more of the same your life. Letting go of these past resentments is not easy and it is important that some time is set aside each day to empty out the backpack. This can be done through some focused meditations. Just remember that by removing all the negative attachments, we are changing our karma, and this will automatically attract more abundance and light into our life.
Anil Giga Bsc is the author of The Invisible Way (USA Best Book Award) and an Investment Professional in Calgary.
While reading over reports written by my daughter’s classmates, I became aware of how many people take it for granted that Wikipedia is a dependable reference source. After all, the typical researcher is directed to Wikipedia by using a search engine, and immediately discovers it is an encyclopedia. So it must be filled with factual and reliable information that can be trusted, right?
Wrong. Wikipedia, an open content encyclopedia, contains articles that have been written anonymously by countless individuals from all over the world. The material can be written or edited by anyone with access to the Internet. Yes, I said anyone. Degrees or other credentials are not necessary when writing for Wikipedia, and no formal peer review process for checking facts is required. Articles are often submitted by self-proclaimed experts, so there is a good chance the contributors may not be truly knowledgeable or competent enough to discuss their chosen subject. In other words, any article could have been posted by a person who is actually uninformed and clueless.
There is no consistency in the quality of material found on Wikipedia. Some articles are outstanding, filled with helpful and pertinent information, written by professionals, knowledgeable in their fields. Other articles, however, lack experience or professional skill and are created by amateurs. The information is not only incomplete and inaccurate, but written with a lack of authority, making it almost impossible for a reader unacquainted with a certain subject to know what information to rely on.
In conclusion, when reading articles on Wikipedia, an individual should always consider the possibility that they might not be factual or completely truthful. Wikipedia may be a good beginning to see what information is out there, but it should never be used as a primary source for serious research.
Lisa Martin owns Martin-McLean Literary Associates LLC. She represents established authors as well as new writers.
Writers are a diverse lot. We come from every possible background and occupation. What is special about coming to writing from a medical background? I think that because doctors are accustomed to continually learning, we are open to new thoughts, new ideas and new ways of looking at the old. Each new piece of information must be weighed for its value, as it may be entirely useless or a true breakthrough. Reading stimulates ideas, and as we read a great deal of technical material, it is no surprise that many writers from medical backgrounds write about what they know best: medicine.
I spend a lot of my day listening to people. They tell me about their problems, their ailments, their jobs, their families, what they think about their coworkers, their significant others, their pets. While other writers may have to seek out such opportunities to hear a wealth of stories, I am awash in this. None of these stories is anything I would use directly, of course, but often some small piece sets off my imagination about possibilities. It may become part of a mosaic of many such pieces from different sources to form a whole, entirely apart from what investigated it.
Being organized is helpful in writing and crucial in medicine. Having a sense of structure — a beginning, middle and an end – and seeing the overall concept as a whole is part of the medical, as well as the writing process. When I worked in the emergency department, I often thought of the brief encounters over simple problems as a story in themselves: a patient would come in with a problem, we would find a solution, and they would be on their way.
One does a lot of writing in medicine. Every time a patient comes into the hospital- whether it be a trip to the emergency department or to be admitted – one or more doctors has to write a history and physical. The history, the medical story of a person’s life and present illness, is often the most important part of finding out what is wrong. This is also how we pass the information on to the next doctor or caregiver. Telling this story clearly and coherently is important, and taking the step from writing about a real person to a fictional character is not a quantum leap.
Some people are creative, some are not. Some people are more creative than others, some less. Maybe it is more accurate to think that some people are able to retain and express their creativity while the creativity in others remains dormant. Creativity may not be in the genes, but instead, it may be in everyone’s DNA.
Observe children in preschool, kindergarten, and first grade and you’ll see that oodles of creativity abound. Every child explores, creates, and imagines. But beginning around second grade, creativity flourishes in some and diminishes in others.
As an individual grows and matures, a perception of who the person is solidifies. As relationships are formed, skills mastered, and interests pursued, personalities are developed. Although people are complex, personality instruments indicate most people tend to see themselves and behave within three basic patterns: (a) traditional, (b) competitive, and (c) empathic.
The traditionalist tends to be hardworking, conforming, and loyal. The competitor likes to win, will take risks and is confident with his or her self. The empathic person places a high value on personal relationships, is sensitive and people oriented. Most adults are a combination of the three patterns but have a tendency to prefer one. Over time the adult forms a picture of who they are. This self perception forms a comfort zone. The comfort zone is an individual’s perceived personality. When a person is forced to perform outside the comfort zone, they become uncomfortable and in extreme cases anxious. As a person becomes uncomfortable or anxious, there is a natural tendency to get back into the comfort zone, that is, get back to who they believe themselves to be.
Of the three predominant personality types, none exclude creativity. Creativity transcends personality types. As a person forms their perceived picture of their selves, some leave room for creativity while others snuff it out. Persons wanting to revitalize their suppressed creativity need to reconnect with their childhood and explore new horizons. It can be done, it is easy but it takes some effort and at times it may become uncomfortable.
Here are a few ideas for those who want to ignite their suppressed creativeness:
• Play house or dolls with a young child or better yet, children. You cannot play the game without imagination, and imagination is the foundation of creativity.
• Using miniature action figures, soldiers, and/or cowboys, play with the young. This will solidify your personality while forcing you to make room for creativity.
• Play alone with Tinker Toys, Legos, Lincoln Logs and throw away the instructions and printed models. The purpose is to have fun.
• Get dirty with clay or Play Dough. You may want to get a lot of it. The purpose is to get at one with the dough.
• Try finger painting or if you are slanted toward being a traditionalist cheat, and use a brush.
• Write notes and/or letters to loved ones and make your writing come from your heart.
• Write to yourself and make your writing come from the depths of your soul.
• Take a different route to work; begin to explore geographic areas you are unfamiliar with.
• Try different foods. Expand your tastes, some pleasant, some not so pleasant.
As you experiment, explore, and expand your world, tell yourself, “I love playing, I am curious, I see myself exploring, I see others watching me, smiling with joy and approval as I create. I feel a fulfillment that overwhelms my very being.” This self talk coupled with creative playing experiences will open a place in your perceived comfort zone, and at that point in time you will be the creative person you once were.
Dr. James Payne, a nationally-recognized scholar, educator and speaker, is a professor of Special Education at the University of Mississippi and a Fulbright recipient. He is the developer of the PeopleWise Event Management System and the PeopleWise Profile System.
I’m not sure if every novelist has this problem, but I certainly do. Actually, the word “problem” might not be accurate. Maybe it’s more like I just see everyday things differently now that I am a published author. Life used to pass me by, as it probably does for others, with some laughs and cries, some goods and bads, some happys and sads. But now it’s all different, not that I live differently, just that I see things differently.
Everything I see now is a potential scene for a current or future book. For instance, last night my family went out for dinner. With my wife and kids, my mom, my sister and her family, we were a party of nine. We went to an ethnic place in Port Chester, NY. The restaurant was an inexpensive Peruvian family-style place. Lots of great chicken, shrimp, and beef piled high along with rice and pasta on plates big enough to feed a small army. It was one of those places that you know has to be considered good by its country’s standards because almost every table was filled with South Americans. The ambience or lack thereof was part of the charm of the place; babies crying, kids underfoot, people smiling, laughing and just enjoying Saturday night with family and friends after a tough week.
Before my writing career began, a dinner like this would probably be ancient history in my mind after we got in our cars and drove home. But now, as I write this piece, I think of some of the discussions at our table, such as my 15 year old nephew trying to communicate with our cute waitress using whatever Spanish he has managed to learn in school, poco at best. We debated the meaning of "De nada," which technically translates to "of nothing." However, it is the Spanish equivalent of "You're welcome!
The food was very good, the music was fun and we had a wonderful time. The fact that I will definitely use the whole incident in a novel just adds to the experience. I can’t wait to hear my nephew’s response when he reads one of my novels that describes his interaction with the waitress, possibly with a new outcome.
My point with this little offering is that, as an author of fiction, for better or for worse, I now look at life in an entirely different way: Every moment is now potential fodder for fiction.
Michael Balkind, the author of Sudden Death, is a graduate of Syracuse University, has a successful career in sales and marketing, and has owned several businesses.
There’s a lot to be said about our marriage. We’ve been together now for 17 years. Larry King was our matchmaker. I was on his show to introduce my first book, Full Circle. Charles Whitfield flipped on his TV and there I was. We had met 5 years earlier at a conference in DC. He realized as he watched me with Larry King, that he was coming up to Farmington, Connecticut where I lived the next weekend to speak at a conference. Charlie has a best seller that had come out two years earlier. It’s called Healing the Child Within. It’s still selling well in English and in 10 other languages.
That year we dated, his second book was released and he wrote his third book. When we moved in together, I wrote my second book as he wrote his fourth. At this point we have 14 published books. The one two years ago, The Power of Humility: Choosing peace over conflict in relationships, we did together. Both our names are on that one.
Actually, our ideas and words are all over each other’s books. We read each others’ “stuff” and ask each other questions that spur us on to expand what we are writing. And I type our manuscripts. Charlie edits them. Over the years (if it’s not a technical paper) we have moved toward sounding alike. Our goal is to write without jargon and clearly. Simple is elegant and we strive for that, although The Power of Humility tested us repeatedly.
The Power of Humility, or what we affectionately refer to it as – PoH – was a shared writing experience with another couple. They brought us the idea in a one-page map that changed our relationship for the better -- and took us five years to write. During that five years, Charlie wrote two books quoting over 350 scientific studies about depression and mental illness. I wrote The Natural Soul during that time because it was overflowing from PoH. PoH is really a map of transcendence using our relationships as our spiritual path.
Sometimes I spend all night at my computer. Sometimes Charlie is sitting in his chair, writing by hand at odd hours too. We watch the sun come up. We chuckle about the muse keeping weird hours. We finally have two pens that have flashlights in them so we can write in bed without waking the other if it is just a few words to jog our memory in the morning. We help each other during these “Writing Zone” times to stay present for the simple things in life; gardening, household chores, soccer (for him) and a gym (for me) plus independent films keep us remembering how important balance is. We also meditate together daily.
How did this happen? I don’t know. We didn’t start writing books until our 40s. And, this is a second marriage that happened in our 50s. I do know that what underlies this life we share together is gratitude. We’ve both got something to say, and being together enhances our writing and our writing enhances our relationship because – just for starters -- it’s impossible to be grateful and not be happy!
Barbara Harris Whitfield is the author of five books and numerous articles on the near-death experience and natural spirituality. She is a near-death experiencer and respiratory and massage therapist. She spent six years at the University of Connecticut Medical School researching the psychological, emotional, and energetic after-effects of spiritual awakenings and recently retired from teaching at Rutger’s Institute for Alcohol and Drug Studies. Barbara lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, author and physician Charles Whitfield, MD. They share a private practice helping adults who were repeatedly traumatized as children. Barbara’s new book, The Natural Soul, will be coming out in 2009 with SterlingHouse Publisher. For more information go to www.cbwhit.com and www.barbarawhitfield.com