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Yellow Springs creative agency hosts December writers event

In Books, crafts, Education, Entertainment, Literature, Local News, Uncategorized on November 27, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Yellow Springs, OH – The Yellow Springs creative strategy firm, The Bricks Agency, will host the next session of the Western Ohio Writers Association (WOWA) at 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 8 at the company’s headquarters complex at 888 Dayton Street. This writing workshop and critique session is open to all area writers for a $6 door fee that includes a one-month membership to the organization.

12523171_10153637326689342_7047777894206660975_n The WOWA was founded in October of 2008 to provide resources for writers in Southwest Ohio, North Eastern Kentucky and South West Indiana. From monthly critique sessions and guest speaker presentations to special networking and educational events, WOWA offers support to writers of all genres, from hobbyist to professional.

Dayton area entrepreneur and business writer, Gery L. Deer, is the Executive Director of the Western Ohio Writers Association. “Our organization offers honest critique, peer support and networking opportunities as well as real-life experience to help guide our writers toward whatever goal they’ve got in mind,” he said. Annual events include guest speakers, author workshops, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) support and more.

“We have a diverse group of writers including novelists, poets, journalists, screenwriters, and copywriters,” Deer continued. “We’ve launched a few up-and-coming professionally published novelists over the years and all of them credit our group as a major factor in that success.”

According to Deer, the goal of WOWA is to offer, “consistent educational and networking

The monthly critique session of WOWA will be held in Yellow Springs at 7PM, Thursday, December 8.

The monthly critique session of WOWA will be held in Yellow Springs at 7PM, Thursday, December 8.

opportunities” for all members. They enjoy a regular schedule and professional, supportive meeting environment along with other membership perks such as sponsor discounts and access to special events such as the Beatnik Café, a quarterly live public reading.

The Bricks Agency is a creative subsidiary of DMS ink. Western Ohio Writers Association is an educational outreach program DBA of GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. designed to encourage the success of local writers in the art and business of writing. For more information or to register for the December Yellow Springs meeting, go online to westernohiowriters.org or email wowainprint@gmail.com.

 

Hogan’s hero: author celebrates life of slain actor

In Books, Charities, Education, Entertainment, Local News, National News, Opinion, television, Uncategorized on June 13, 2016 at 8:20 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGOIn 1978 “Hogan’s Heroes” star, Bob Crane, was murdered in his Arizona hotel room. The scandalous details of his death have been the subject of speculation and salacious headlines ever since. Crane’s murder was never solved.

I won’t give more press time to the dark circumstances surrounding this man’s death, except to say that Americans can’t seem to ever get enough of sensationalism when it comes to celebrity. Over the years a great deal of negative material has been written about the actor’s life, troubled marriage, divorce and personal addictions, and that was all anyone ever seemed to say about him.

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Gery L. Deer, with author Carl M. Ford at the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, OH

Always left out of those stories were the facts about Crane’s long career in entertainment and the character he couldn’t leave behind. Barely spoken of were his level of commitment to his colleagues, to his children and to the armed forces to whom he felt a deep responsibility and connection through his “Hogan’s” character and his older brother, Al, who was severely injured while serving in World War II.

Enter author Carol M. Ford, who has written a new biography about Bob Crane in a dedicated effort to celebrate the life and career of this beloved actor. Her care and commitment to restoring this man’s honor and humanity is nothing less than incredible.

I had the good fortune, recently, to meet Ms. Ford and talk with her about her experience in writing this book. She was holding a signing at the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. Next to her table was a display featuring a very important artifact – Col. Hogan’s leather flight jacket from the “Hogan’s Heroes” series.

“We all have those parts of our lives that we’re not proud of,” she told me. “Divorce, family strain, addictions, whatever it is, everyone has something. The sad part about Bob’s death is less about how he died but that how he lived had always been so completely overlooked. This is a celebration of his life.”

Ford’s new book, “Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography,” is a fitting tribute to a man whose life is, to most fans, a blur between fact and fiction, where the focus has been for more nearly 40 years on his death. This book chronicles, in great detail, Crane’s life as told by family, friends, colleagues and fans who had the good fortune to share a moment with him.

Ford’s research is impressive, having collected interviews from nearly 200 people who actually knew Crane. Going as far back as elementary school, the interviews, photos and stories provide us with a real picture of the man we loved as Colonel Hogan but who was obviously so much more.

Bob Crane's costume jacket from Hogan's Heroes is on display at the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, OH

Bob Crane’s costume jacket from Hogan’s Heroes is on display at the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, OH

Crane’s character of Hogan was a hero to me, and to countless others of my generation. But, like so many celebrities, most of us never knew who he was outside of Stalag 13 or away from the microphone.

As a fan, I am grateful to Ford and her colleagues for writing this book to focus on the life of a man I had admired since childhood. Much of my stage persona comes from watching him – and Colonel Hogan. I’m glad I get to understand the man over the mystery.

This wasn’t intended to sound like a book review, but I have a great respect for the effort, time and commitment that went into this book. As a fellow writer, I can’t imagine the work, personal expense and thoughtful insight that went into the attempt to capture the life of someone whose life was so full and still resonates today with all those who knew him.

You can find the book Barnes & Noble, on Amazon and at the website for the official campaign to have Bob Crane entered into the National Radio Hall of Fame www.vote4bobcrane.org. I highly recommend the hardback version, filled with historical documents, more than 200 pictures and more. So, all my thanks to Bob for his talent, and to Carol Ford for hers.

*******

Author’s Note: I strongly related to the idea of writing the positive of a celebrity’s life after they’d died in scandalous circumstances. A colleague and friend of mine, well known in the media, passed away suddenly after a long struggle with addiction and depression. The only things the media would write about seemed to be the negatives in her life and the circumstances surrounding her tragic death. I couldn’t let that stand. I wrote a piece, from her own word as she had told me, of the good in her life, the promise and the hope. It is my hope that her legacy carries more of that than of her ending, as I hope with Carol’s book and Bob Crane’s story. 

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com.

Old Haunts Beatnik Cafe celebrates original Halloween stories by local authors

In Books, Children and Family, Dayton Ohio News, Entertainment, Holiday, Local News, Theatre, Uncategorized on September 11, 2015 at 8:37 am
Artwork by Michael Martin, WOWA Editorial Committee

Artwork by Michael Martin, WOWA Editorial Committee

Beavercreek, OH – Beginning at 7pm on Friday, October 16, author members of the Western Ohio Writers Association (WOWA) will take the microphone at Books & Co. to present the 2015 Halloween addition of their popular, “Beatnik Café” event. Writers from all genres will regale visitors with original works of poetry and prose to the theme, “Old Haunts.” The event is free and open to the public.

The live reading pays homage to the hole-in-the-wall poetry clubs of the 1960’s, but with a more modern style. Reading aloud from original work, each writer will take the stage for 10 to 12 minutes, dazzling audiences with short stories, poetry or who knows what. This is the 6th year for the quarterly event.

Barbara Deer is the co-founder of the organization. “WOWA was intended to provide a regular resource for peer critique, educational programs and networking opportunities to local writers of all genres, both amateur and professional,” she says.

Barbara Deer, WOWA co-founder.

Click to watch the video!

“Annual workshops are held all around the country, with two of the most well-known right here in the Miami Valley. But for most writers to thrive that type of support needs to come on a more regular basis,” Deer says. “Our group consists of professional writers and editors, college professors and everyone is ready and willing to offer help, a fresh eye and, sometimes more importantly, an honest opinion about the quality of the work – good or bad.”

 

Writers come from all around the region – southwest central Ohio, eastern Indiana and northern Kentucky – to attend monthly critique sessions, educational lectures and write-in events. Meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month at the Event Connections, 4140 Linden Ave. in Dayton, near the intersection of US 35 and Woodman Drive.

WOWA Logo 2Now in its seventh year, this talented group of scribes definitely have plenty to celebrate. In addition to the many individual members who have been published on their own, in May of this year eleven of them were featured in an anthology titled, “Flights of Fiction,” produced by GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing and published by Handcar Press (ISBN: 978-0-9885289-4-9). The book features stories set in and around the southwest Ohio region and is available in print and electronic formats from the WOWA website as well as Amazon and BN.com.

The Beatnik Café is a family-friendly, free, public presentation of WOWA and GLD Enterprises Communications. Books & Co. is located at 4453 Walnut St. at The Greene in Beavercreek. For more information, go online to www.westernohiowriters.org or call (937) 902-4857.

A favorite book can comfort and enlighten.

In Books, Entertainment, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on June 23, 2015 at 1:58 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

DIH LOGONot too long ago, I published a Deer In Headlines column on the subject of how, as a writer, I’m frequently asked what books I read and why. Since then, I realized that I have a tendency to re-read certain books that I’ve enjoyed over the years and I know that most people do the same thing.

Click to watch the TV interview of this topic from Living Dayton, WDTN-TV2.

Click to watch the TV interview of this topic from Living Dayton, WDTN-TV2.

So, it had me wondering, in a world with countless literary choices, why we often choose to go back to an old favorite, rather than boldly going where we’ve never read before. After a little research and some asking around, I learned that the reasons we sometimes revisit the same bookshelf are more complicated than I first thought.

For starters, humans are creatures of comfort, at least to some extent, and many of us read because it was one of the ways our parents made a connection when we were very young. Reading was soothing, like an old blanket you wrap up in before bedtime and have a hard time parting with once it’s tattered and threadbare.

Gery holds copies of "Flights of Fiction" - one of his favorite books. Produced by the Western Ohio Writers Association.

Tradition might be another word to describe this idea too. Personally, I like to read Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol,” at the holidays every year – time permitting – as one of my own traditions. It’s a story that never fails to entertain and enlighten, and I always take away something new.

If a certain book imprints on you from a young age, you’re likely to go back to it again and again for the sheer level of reassurance it brings you. A familiar story can be calming and offer a welcome escape from the daily rigors of life or just a fun adventure into another world.

Re-reading a book you once read in your youth can also offer a different perspective. Life experience can change how we view ideas or motivations first encountered at a much younger age. Going back to that book you read in high school English class might just take your understanding of its meaning to a new level.

Plus peeling back the layers of the author’s work with a more mature perspective can even help you learn more about yourself. One article I read on the subject referred to this concept as, “cheap, effective therapy.”

When others talk about a book you’ve already read, you may discover that there are elements of the story you might have missed the first time around. Going back over it again on a quest to uncover those points for yourself can turn a good read into a great adventure, even if it’s not your first trip through the tale.

There are many other reasons why we re-read our old favorites. We may like the author or just enjoy the book for no readily apparent reason. Whatever your impetus, dust off that old copy of your favorite novel and give it another look. In case you are wondering, here are two of my favorite re-reads and a bit about why I choose to go back to them time and again.

I seem to repeatedly choose, “Microserfs” by Douglas Coupland. This is a fictional story, set in the early 1990s, about a group of Microsoft programmers who broke away to go out on their own while dealing with life’s road blocks. I always find it inspiring and I can easily relate to their desire to be part of “version one point zero.”

Another book I revisit regularly is, “Hit Man,” by Lawrence Block. There are four books in the “Hit Man” series, but I always go back to the original. The main character is, as the title suggests, a killer for hire. But the way Block presents him to the audience as somewhat mile mannered and tells the story of his rather violent occupation is intriguing and thoughtful.

I have others, but these make the point of how varied our favorites can be. Just like old movies and TV shows, favorite books have a meaning in our lives. Sometimes it’s just good to go back and visit that world, whether it’s over the rainbow or just down the street.

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com

Books and Co. hosts live reading by local authors of WOWA, June 19

In Books, Children and Family, Dayton Ohio News, Education, Entertainment, history, Local News, psychology, Technology on June 15, 2015 at 5:38 pm

IMG_0030Beavercreek, OH – Beginning at 7pm on Friday, June 19, author members of the Western Ohio Writers Association (WOWA) will take the microphone at Books & Co. to present their popular, “Beatnik Café” event. Writers from all genres will regale visitors with original works of poetry and prose to the theme, “Leave No Trace.” The event is free and open to the public.

The live reading pays homage to the hole-in-the-wall poetry clubs of the 1960’s, but with a more modern style. Reading aloud from original work, each writer will take the stage for 10 to 12 minutes, dazzling audiences with short stories, poetry or who knows what.

Barbara Deer is the co-founder of the organization. “WOWA was intended to provide a regular resource for peer critique, educational programs and networking opportunities to local writers of all genres, both amateur and professional,” she says. (Click to watch the television interview about last summer’s Beatnik from WDTN-TV2, Living Dayton 6-12-2014)

Barbara Deer, WOWA co-founder.

Barbara Deer, WOWA co-founder.

“Annual workshops are held all around the country, with two of the most well-known right here in the Miami Valley. But for most writers to thrive that type of support needs to come on a more regular basis,” Deer says. “Our group consists of professional writers and editors, college professors and everyone is ready and willing to offer help, a fresh eye and, sometimes more importantly, an honest opinion about the quality of the work – good or bad.”

wowa-beatnik

Writers come from all around the region – southwest central Ohio, eastern Indiana and northern Kentucky – to attend monthly critique sessions, educational lectures and write-in events. Meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month at the Event Connections, 4140 Linden Ave. in Dayton, near the intersection of US 35 and Woodman Drive.

WOWA Logo 2Now in its seventh year, this talented group of scribes definitely have plenty to celebrate. In addition to the many individual members who have been published on their own, in May of this year eleven of them were featured in an anthology titled, “Flights of Fiction,” produced by GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing and published by Handcar Press (ISBN: 978-0-9885289-4-9). The book features stories set in and around the southwest Ohio region and is available in print and electronic formats from the WOWA website as well as Amazon and BN.com.

The Beatnik Café is a family-friendly, free, public presentation of WOWA and GLD Enterprises Communications. Books & Co. is located at 4453 Walnut St. at The Greene in Beavercreek. For more information, go online to www.westernohiowriters.org or call (937) 902-4857.

WOWA’s Beatnik Cafe, “Here Be Dragons,” Jan 16 at Books & Co.

In Books, Children and Family, crafts, Dayton Ohio News, Entertainment, Literature, Local News, Media, State News, Theatre, Uncategorized on January 5, 2015 at 9:50 am
Graphic design by Michael Martin.

Graphic design by Michael Martin.

Beavercreek, OH – Once upon a time, sailors threatened to hang their captains from the yard arm if they ventured beyond a certain point in the sea. Venturing out into the unknown is something about which writers are far too familiar. At 7PM on Friday January 16, authors from the Western Ohio Writers Association will perform their own original tales of uncharted territory at their Winter 2015 Beatnik Cafe event at Books & Co. at The Greene. This quarter’s theme is, “Here be dragons, stories of adventure, exploration and uncharted territory.”

The WOWA Beatnik Cafe reading is a quarterly presentation that pays homage to the hole-in-the-wall poetry clubs of the 1960’s, but with a more modern style. Performing original work, each writer will take the mic to dazzle audiences with short stories, poetry or who knows what. The event is free and open to the public.

Jamestown writer, Barbara Deer, is the co-founder of the organization. “WOWA was intended to provide a regular resource for peer critique, educational programs and networking opportunities to local writers of all genres, both amateur and professional,” she says. “The Beatnik Café offers the public a chance for a glimpse at some of the most talented writers in the region as they showcase their work, in person, to entertain and enlighten.”

“Our group consists of professional and hobbyist writers, all of whom check their egos at the door,” Deer continues. “All are willing to offer help, a fresh eye and, sometimes more importantly, an honest opinion about the quality of the work – good or bad.”

600_376854182Writers come from all around the region – southwest central Ohio, eastern Indiana and northern Kentucky – to attend monthly workshops, critique sessions, educational lectures and write-in events. Meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month at the Event Connections, 4140 Linden Ave. in Dayton, near the intersection of US 35 and Woodman Drive.

About to embark on its seventh year, WOWA members definitely have plenty to celebrate. In addition to the many individual members who have been published on their own, in May of this year eleven of them were featured in an anthology titled, “Flights of Fiction,” produced by GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing and published by Loconeal Publishing (ISBN: 978-0-9885289-4-9). The book features stories set in and around the southwest Ohio region and is available in print and electronic formats from the WOWA website as well as Amazon and BN.com.

The Beatnik Café is a family-friendly presentation of WOWA and GLD Enterprises Communications. Books & Co. is located at 4453 Walnut St. at The Greene in Beavercreek. For more information, go online to http://www.westernohiowriters.org or call (937) 902-4857.

Watch the Video Interview from October’s Beatnik with co-founder Barbara Deer on WDTN-TV2’s Living Dayton

WOWA-LD_MASKS_SCREENSHOT

 

The creative process cannot be quantified

In Books, Children and Family, crafts, Entertainment, Local News, National News, Opinion, Print Media, Technology, Uncategorized on November 10, 2014 at 1:04 pm

If you haDIH LOGOve any friends who are aspiring novelists and you haven’t seen them for a while, I may know why. November is National Novel Writing Month, a time when writers – hobbyists and professionals alike – forsake virtually everything else in life to get down at least 50,000 words towards a completed novel in just thirty days. As executive director of the Western Ohio Writers Association I am, like many of our members, one of the anticipated 400,000 worldwide participants in the event. But attempting to pen a full-length novel in under a month is not for the faint of heart.

“NaNoWriMo,” as it’s known for short, is a non-profit organization started in 1999. In 2013, more than 310,000 participants signed up, spanning six continents. In the 2014 official press release, NaNoWriMo Executive director Grant Faulkner said, “Every year, we’re reminded that there are still stories that have yet to be told, still voices yet to be heard from all corners of the world. NaNoWriMo helps people make creativity a priority in life and realize the vital ways our stories connect us. We are our stories.”

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Given their commitment to the encouragement of writers as a whole, the NaNoWriMo folks certainly seem to want to keep people motivated and working and that extends beyond the November event. The organization also promotes youth programs, writing camps and other writing-focused activities throughout the year.

NaNoWriMo’s organizers insist the purpose of the 30-day novel challenge is to inspire and motivate authors to actually finish something, a common barrier for new writers. To hit the goal, writers must pen approximately 1,667 words per day, regardless of quality. But the “just keep writing” approach doesn’t sit well with some and there are those who say that it instead may be more counterproductive than helpful.

Opponents believe that the idea of such incredible pressure of deadline and competition undermines the inspirational process; robbing the author of the creative time necessary to be more selective of words, phrasing and flow.  Classic American author Mark Twain might well have been in agreement with this thinking.

In a letter dated October 15, 1888 to English minister George Bainton, Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

nanologoBut those who are regular participants seem to really enjoy a process that they say gives them the opportunity to stay focused and inspires a bit of healthy competition. Throughout the month, each writer updates a public profile on the NaNoWriMo website which includes word count to date; a practice largely appreciated as one of the most motivating aspects of the exercise, or the most discouraging, depending on how you’re doing.

Whether you are a writer or a reader, this is probably a good time to point out that the creative process is not something that can be qualified or quantified. It is different for every artist. While there are people who are proficient with grammar, punctuation, style and general mastery of the English language, there is no such thing as an “expert” writer. Most successful authors – and not just in the commercial sense – will insist that good writing cannot be taught, it has to be practiced and that the creative process is ongoing.

It may very well be that a 30-day novel, after editing and revision, could end up the next New York Times best seller. It is just as probable that another manuscript, in the works for many years, might turn out to be the worst 300 pages ever put to paper. It’s really a coin toss.

Truthfully, the process really doesn’t matter. Although the value of art rests with the audience, its quality depends on the talent, determination and hard work of the artist (writer), rather than the method used for its production. As for those of you typing your way to 50,000 words this month, we who are grateful to get out 700 words every week salute you! Good luck.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and executive director of the Western Ohio Writers Association. More at westernohiowriters.org.

Zombies, the lamest monsters

In Books, Entertainment, Movies, Opinion, sociology, television, Uncategorized on October 20, 2014 at 11:28 am

DIH LOGOHalloween is upon us and, once again, zombie-mania continues to reign supreme. From so-called, community “Zombie Walk” events to AMC’s season premier of the “Walking Dead” boasting the highest-rated cable television show in history, Americans certainly seem to be zombie-obsessed. But why; what is it about an animated, decaying corpse that seems to capture people’s imaginations and gets them to shell out millions of dollars in search of the next big zombie fix?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word, “zombie,” has its origins in West Africa, but the concept of the animated corpse most likely comes from Haitian folklore. Legend suggests that the dead are raised by magical means to walk the earth again and do the bidding of the one who performed the revival ritual, as a sort of creepy slave.

Zombies first appeared in American popular literature as early as 1929, then shortly after, actor Bela Lugosi, famous for his portrayal of “Dracula,” starred in the film, “White Zombie,” which introduced the familiar personification of the creature. The modern American zombie pop-culture most likely took hold after the release of George Romero’s 1968 film, “Night of the Living Dead,” although they were never actually referred to by that word in the movie.

zombiesZombies in modern tales aren’t usually created by magic, but science. Today’s authors have penned a more realistic origin for what has become known as the “zombie apocalypse.” In most current story plots, a rogue virus escapes to the population, infecting everyone and turning them into, essentially, zombies. Instead of one or two slave zombies on the loose, entire populations of walking dead murderously meander across the globe, destroying civilization as they consume the living for sustenance; right, whatever.

Really, except for the fact that they’re pretty gross to look at and can sneak up on people, as far as monsters go zombies are probably the lamest (pun intended) and least scary creatures ever dreamed up. Think about it – re-animated dead people, hobbling along with one foot dragging behind them and moving so slowly, any granny on a walker could whiz past. What’s scary about that?

These monsters have no motive for being bad and there is no end goal or desire for world domination. They’re just hungry. They wander the night, aimlessly, hoping only to happen upon a fresh brain to consume.

And would someone please explain why they even need to eat anything? They’re dead! What possible nutritional value could there be in anything for a zombie? And why are they bleeding always? Does it need to be pointed out again, they’re dead – there shouldn’t be any blood pumping.

Add to that killing them is really a piece of cake, depending on which version of zombie lore you adhere to. In the modern, “Walking Dead” style, all you need to do is smash in their heads or decapitate them or something. But, according to Haitian lore, the goal was not to destroy them but to release these poor souls from their magically-induced, wandering purgatory and there were several methods available to do that, like pouring salt on them.

In any case, zombies are just not all that intimidating compared to vampires or werewolves (ignoring the Twilight-styled, sparkling, Calvin Klein model types). And yet, inevitably, story protagonists nearly always get caught by the marauding zombies and get their brains eaten. Really, how dumb does someone in a monster movie need to be to actually get caught by a crippled, decaying dead guy?

So, here is the best possible advice for escaping zombies – run! Or, just walk fast; it’s not that hard to get away from zombies. Just be sure to sacrifice the comic relief character first, giving you extra time (not like you need it).

If for some reason the zombie gets too close, and yes, that will be because you are really, incredibly stupid, just grab the arms and pull them off – how hard can it be? They’re dead and decaying, right? Hopefully the zombie fascination will diminish soon, leaving room for even more ridiculous obsessions, like brooding, teenage werewolves. Oh wait, that’s been done already too. Oh well. Happy Halloween!
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is a production of GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing. More at gerydeer.com.

 

It’s not what you read, but why.

In Books, Children and Family, Literature, Opinion, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on August 11, 2014 at 12:10 pm

DIH LOGOAs a professional writer, and the executive director of the Western Ohio Writers Association, I am often asked what books I read or what I’d recommend to someone. But, over the years, I’ve learned that it’s not so much what you read that’s as important as why you’re reading it. Let me try to explain.

For example, it would be pretty short-sighted to read bestselling novels simply because they made the list, rather than because of their actual content. Just because a book or movie is popular, particularly with critics, by no means guarantees its quality.

The same could be said of reading only one genre or restricting your choices to only a couple of authors. Science fiction buffs, for instance, might really enjoy a good political thriller – I know I do – but rarely does one give the other a chance.

I tend to go take risks on books or lesser known writers. Since I work with so many unknown authors, I have the advantage of being exposed to material you’ll probably never see listed in the New York Times but which is still of outstanding quality and entertainment value.

I tend to ignore online reviews considering, instead, the recommendations of friends or family. A great many reviews today are pretty unreliable since they’re often paid for by the book’s publisher, or even the author, to boost the book’s visibility and increase sales.

"Flights of Fancy" is an anthology of stories set in southwest Ohio by local authors from the Western Ohio Writers Association. It will hit shelves in mid-April 2013 and features local talent and production.

“Flights of Fiction” is an anthology of stories set in southwest Ohio by local authors from the Western Ohio Writers Association. Click the cover art to order!

Local authors are also a favorite of mine and I’m always surprised at how people rarely give them a chance until they’ve hit the big time, as if they’re not good enough yet – nonsense. Remember, talented writing does not require residence in a high-rise loft in Manhattan. Helping a new writer break ground is part of my job, but I also enjoy having a connection with the author. Even if you don’t know the individual, however, chances are you’ll have a greater appreciation for their work if they’re from your hometown.

The format of the book is also less important to me than the content. I like e-readers like Kindle Fire and Nook because they make reading convenient, but I still buy hardbacks when I want to collect a book or have it autographed.

So, having said all of this, I will break my rule and answer those questions for you, starting with my favorite author: Douglas Adams, the British author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” series of novels. I’ve always loved Adams’ satirical style of storytelling and his ability to say precisely what everyone else is thinking but won’t speak aloud. You don’t have to be a science fiction buff or a fan of Monty Python to enjoy his work.

If I had to pick a periodical I read regularly, it’d probably be split between “The Writer,” a magazine for – you guessed it – writers; and “The New York Times.” As a former editor and long-running op-ed writer, I enjoy reading the work of my fellow columnists. It’s interesting to see all of our different approaches to the same subjects.

Lastly, here is a list of books I’d recommend. I won’t say why I’m recommending them, however, because that would spoil the reader’s personal discovery of their value.

In bestselling fiction I can recommend, “Hit Man,” by Lawrence Block, as well as “Camel Club,” “Simple Genius” and “Stone Cold,” all by David Baldacci. If you’re looking for work by local authors, I suggest “Pretty Girl 13,” by Liz Coley, and “Flights of Fiction,” an anthology of stories set in and around the Dayton region by member authors of the Western Ohio Writers Association. For non-fiction I would propose “Lucky Man: A Memoir,” by Michael J. Fox; “I Will Never Forget,” by Elaine C. Pereira, and “The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu.

There you have it. My recommendations, at least up to this point. There are others I could suggest but these are the top of the list. So put down the video game, turn off the TV and pick up a good book. See you in the library stacks!

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and executive director of the Western Ohio Writers Association. More at westernohiowriters.org.

 

 

Improving American language skills: Reading and writing are fundamental

In Books, Children and Family, Education, Literature, Local News, Opinion, Technology, Uncategorized on June 30, 2014 at 3:53 pm

dih-logo-SENext to the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence may be the single most important document ever created in the history of America. It established our country’s formal separation from England and set in motion more than two centuries of global influence and an example of how a free republic can succeed.

But what would have happened if the men who founded our country lacked the basic language skills to create that first, all-important document? How would these men have properly and so effectively communicated the displeasure and intent of an entire people without such a firm grasp on the English language, not merely to speak it but to put it down in a document to be revered for centuries to come? In short, they couldn’t have.

On this 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we need to remember that it’s author had but two years of formal, college education. In those days, a man wishing to become a lawyer apprenticed under other attorneys, reading the law and learning to interpret and apply it for the good of the people for whom it was put in place. Jefferson eventually became a lawyer but not by obtaining any degree we might understand today.

Likewise, Benjamin Franklin went to school briefly but, because of financial issues, he had to stop to help support his family by going to work with his father. He furthered his own education, however, through reading and self-study, a practice that is, sadly, frowned upon today. Both of these men demonstrated the vast important of language and writing, and how the written word can change history. Some people, though, struggle with language skills or never learn to read at all.

One of my favorite books from childhood was called, “The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read,” by Irma Black. The book chronicles the story of a little, old toy maker who, despite his amazing craftsmanship for pleasing children, never learned to read. One day, his wife went to visit a sick friend and left him alone for what must have been the first time. He was forced to do the grocery shopping on his own, which turned out to be a very frustrating endeavor. Upon arriving home, he sadly discovered that what he thought was a spaghetti box turned out to be wax paper and the can of sauce, coffee instead. It was very disheartening. But it motivated him to learn and he did. The book was written many years before the technology age, but imagine what he would have to deal with today if he couldn’t read at all? It would be nearly debilitating in modern American culture.

little_old_manI have always been a writer, even back into childhood, but most of my language skills came from audio books and those children’s books that came with a 33 rpm record. I found later that I had been dealing with a learning disability that hindered my ability to retain what I had read. Over the years, I adjusted and coped, but was not diagnosed until my mid-30s. Today, I have new ways of dealing with the problem and read as much as I can. I learned to defy my disability because I wanted to read.

There’s no question that Jefferson and Franklin were above-average men, but we all have the ability to move past our limitations, just as Franklin taught himself what he needed to know and just as I worked past my reading issues. For those who want to improve their language skills across the board, here are a few tips and they work for pretty much all ages.

First, try to write as much by hand as possible. Using paper and pen will slow you down a bit and force you to think before you write. People were better writers in the old days because it took time to get thought to page. Today, technology has us whizzing through sentences without a thought to grammar and word usage.

Next, although it’s fallen out of favor with the public school set, use cursive writing as much as you can. As with the first point, handwriting something makes you think and use the right language. It even gives you the chance to look up a word before you use it.

Try to learn a new word every day. Vocabulary is the key to better language skills. Take the time to look up words you hear throughout your normal day. But if you don’t hear any that grab your attention, pick up a hard-bound dictionary, open it up, close your eyes, and point to a word on the page.  That’s your word for the day. One of those “word of the day” desk calendars is a great resource too. Of course, you need to put the word into use whenever possible to make it stick.

Read, read, read, read. And, did I mention, read? Newspapers, well-written blogs, congressional briefs, comic books, it doesn’t matter what you read, just make sure you read a lot. If you’re trying to improve your language skills, however, the more advanced the reading the better. It’s ok if it takes time, look up words you don’t know and charge ahead.

Finally, don’t write like you text. In fact, don’t text how you text, either. The wave of “texting shorthand” is maddening to those of us with good grammar and language skills. Use full words and sentences – even in texts. It’ll make a big difference in how you communicate in email and in other written documents as well. Take your time and say it right.

So this Fourth of July weekend, go out and enjoy the picnics and fireworks.  But remember, when you hear the words to the national anthem or the preamble to the constitution, think about the meaning of each word and be grateful that those guys were diligent enough to get every one of them right. Our very freedom depended on it.