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Why #OwnVoices & #OwnYourOwn Matter to Me   Leave a comment

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I’m not part of the demographic for #OwnVoices and #OwnYourOwn, but I strongly believe in their message. Why? Because books open worlds to anyone who reads them.

Think about the voices that shaped who you are today. When you’re very young, your parents and teachers begin to mold your view of the world. As you become a teenager, your friends and social networks took on ever-increasing importance. That’s enough for some, but what if the box society chose for you doesn’t seem to fit? If you’re like me, you turn to books to explore a larger world, always searching for one that does fit. You look for role models, real or fictional, to provide the pieces that seem to be missing.

When I was a teenager, I was fortunate that my parents encouraged reading anything and everything I could lay my hands on. What spending money I had generally went towards buying more books, the public library sustained my need for more than I could afford. Mysteries, thrillers, and coming-of-age stories introduced me to new ways of looking at life and other people. Historical fiction taught me that social expectations were far different even a hundred years ago than in modern society. Science fiction and fantasy opened brand new worlds for me to imagine living in. All of them opened my mind to possibilities that I wasn’t likely to see otherwise.

One of the books I’m currently reading is “The Bad-ass Librarians of Timbuktu,” by Joshua Hammer. It’s about successful efforts to first preserve thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had been collected and handed down through generations, and then save them from Al Qaeda, who sought to destroy them. Because the book is both well-researched and engaging, I’m learning a lot about a part of the world I know very little about (specifically Mali and generally the Middle East), but I can’t help wondering how the narrative might have been different if it was written by someone native to the area.

That is not to say that Joshua Hammer should not have written this book—I enjoy it far too much to say that. I believe there is room for books from the point of view of BOTH visitors and natives to every area. Without such a mix, how are people like me to ever achieve the balanced viewpoint that leads to true understanding of complex events?

I support #OwnVoices and #OwnYourOwn because I believe writers from within under-served groups can open their world so that people like me can better understand it. And I WANT to understand.

Whether they write fiction or fact, memoir or biography or history or worlds that have never been, they can bring their unique perspectives to everyone. Including them detracts nothing from those already writing.

The maps at the start of this article were made just over a century apart but they show a vast expansion in the known world. Hearing from more voices expands our world view in an even more substantial way. And that can only be good for us all.

Posted June 24, 2016 by Leoma Retan in Uncategorized

Not all disabilities are visible   1 comment

Yesterday at the market my husband made a remark about the handicapped spots in the parking lot that got me thinking.

Many people resent those legally mandated handicapped parking spots as “political correctness” or “pandering to people who should just let others take care of them”.  I am not one of those people and become annoyed when I hear those comments.

I used to have a good friend (used to because he died 8 years ago) who suffered from a severe form of schleroderma (http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Scleroderma/scleroderma_ff.asp).  In Michael’s case it caused scarring of his internal organs, leaving him with only 18% of his lung capacity.  On his good days it didn’t look like anything was wrong with him.  People would glare at him for using the handicapped spots, probably assuming he was using someone else’s placard.  He wasn’t.  On his bad days he could only walk very slowly, with extreme pain.  He would be exhausted just by walking from the bedroom to the door.  He never knew when a “good” day would change to a “bad” one.

The point is, not all disabilities involve wheelchairs or crutches or guide dogs.  Besides diseases that affect the organs, as in Michael’s case, various stress disorders, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be far more debilitating than many people realize.  These are people who need your support, not your scorn.

Bottom line – Next time you see someone using a handicapped parking spot, don’t assume they are “sponging off the system”; don’t assume they are using someone else’s placard.  Instead, be happy that you are healthy enough not to need a placard and give them a smile instead of a glower.  Not all disabilities are visible from the outside.

Posted December 15, 2013 by Leoma Retan in Uncategorized

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Pitch Wars   Leave a comment

I haven’t posted a blog this week because I’ve been busy preparing an entry for #PitchWars.

If you’re not familiar with Pitch Wars (http://www.brenda-drake.com/) , it’s a competition run by Brenda Drake which allows writers to submit a query letter and the first five pages of a completed, unpublished manuscript to mentors.  If you attract a mentor, they will work closely with you for five weeks to polish your manuscript for submission to agents.

This year there were 46 fabulous mentors but you could only submit pitches to 4 of them unless you were lucky enough, as I was, to win the right to a 5th mentor submission.  Since only 5 people were selected for the 5th mentor, I was definitely doing a happy dance when I found I was one of them.

The trick is to find the mentors most likely to be interested in your particular book.  Each of them provided a list of what they are looking for and, equally important, what they do not want to see.  Some are doing only young adult, some only new adult, adult, or middle grade.  Some signed up for multiple categories.

Now, after days of polishing my query letter plus five pages, perusing the mentor list, and tweeting with my fellow writers for assistance and support, my 5 pitches are sent.  The only thing I can do now is wait.  This is the hardest part for me since I’ve never been a patient person.

The submission window ends tonight at midnight.  The mentors won’t see any of the queries until then.  If I succeed in interesting one of them, I will probably need to send more material.  If I have done as I hope and written a query and start to my book sufficiently compelling to win the support of one of the mentors (keeping my fingers and toes tightly crossed), I will be spending a lot of time polishing my book through December and January so I won’t have time for much blogging.

In any case, the mentors will not finish their selections until 11 December (still hating the wait, like everyone else).  The successful writers will have their polished work reviewed by 17 agents (awesome ones by all reports).  In the past, contracts have often resulted from this contest, so wish me luck.  If I don’t win a mentor this time, I will still keep working on my manuscript and submitting it to agents – just not at such a furious pace.

 

I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.

Posted December 2, 2013 by Leoma Retan in Uncategorized

I nearly ran over the Thanksgiving turkey   2 comments

Wild turkey

Last Wednesday I was driving to work on a quiet road when I saw a turkey starting to cross.  I know this sounds like the start of a “why did the turkey cross the road” joke but, trust me, it isn’t.  I slowed down, even though I assumed that the turkey would notice my car and do something sensible like stop or slow down.  But this was a turkey – a bird not known for its high intelligence.  It did notice my car.  I know because it immediately sped up, bringing it in front of my car more quickly.    I braked immediately and avoided hitting the foolish fowl, but it was a near thing.  Turkeys are large birds so I suspect a collision would have done some real damage to my car, in addition to making a mess.

Turkeys on the road are not unusual in New England, where I live.  This one was different mainly because it was alone.  They usually move around in gangs (my term, based on their behavior).  I have seen a group of turkeys stop traffic on the local roads for several minutes as they trotted back and forth, deciding which side of the street they preferred to explore.  They are more common in the spring and summer but, as this incident shows, they are still around and must be avoided.

Apparently there are now approximately 7 million turkeys in the United States now and they are becoming a problem in many areas, congregating on people’s lawns and sometimes causing traffic accidents, either causing the driver to collide with them or to be hit from behind when other drivers fail to stop.  Attempts by officials in some areas where they reside to round them up and kill them to reduce the problem have resulted in outcries from those who like and support them.  Personally, seeing them always makes me smile.

The bottom line is: turkeys are likely to remain a periodic road hazard so you need to watch for them when you drive anywhere they live.  With that in mind, drive safely and let your only “close encounter” with a turkey be with the one on your Thanksgiving table.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.

Posted November 22, 2013 by Leoma Retan in Uncategorized

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Gwawdodyn: Birth of Fyrnlosing   Leave a comment

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Last week Robert Brewer described a Welsh poetic form called a Gwawdodyn in his blog on Writer’s Digest (Gwawdodyn article).  I found the form interesting and decided to use it to write a poem about the creation of a land called Fyrnlosing, in which I set the novel I am currently writing, out of the near-destruction of of the world.

In this world, before the destruction and subsequent creation of Fyrnlosing technology and magic co-existed in nearly equal proportion.  After the destruction the magic still exists and there are surviving bits and pieces of technology but the infrastructure that linked them is completely gone.

I hope you enjoy it.

The Birth of Fyrnlosing – by Leoma Retan
Lights burning, platforms floating in air,
Magic waiting, sourced in land so fair,
Power calls power, high in the tower,
Greatness desiring, they should beware.

Science and magic, they would combine,
Sorcerers, Engineers, now define,
Hybrid tech machines, filling all their dreams,
Hidden in labs, their plans now refine.

Read the rest of the poem

I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.

Posted August 13, 2013 by Leoma Retan in Uncategorized

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Poetry to resolve conflict?   Leave a comment

I’m not the easiest person to be close to.  I tend to be passionate about the things I believe and have high expectations for those close to me, though never higher than I expect from myself.  In the past, this led to some very loud and unpleasant arguments with my husband.  Recently, I found a new, far more pleasant way to defuse the situation – poetry.

About a week ago, he did something that upset me.  What it is doesn’t matter.  It started out the usual way – I yelled and cried, he went off in a huff.  If things had proceeded as they normally do, he would have come back later and I would have continued the argument.  I would have yelled, he would have become defensive, eventually we would have made up but nothing would have been resolved.

That day, I was sitting with my computer in my lap, still upset, when the idea came to me.  What if I tried to capture my hurt in a poem?  I opened my editor and started writing.  As I wrote, working to choose the words that would both keep the proper meter and capture the essence of my emotions, I grew more calm.  When I was finished, I e-mailed the poem to him.

A little while later, he came in.  I was still upset, though less so than in the beginning.  I told him to read his e-mail.  For some reason there was a delay in its arrival to his inbox but he finally saw my poem.  I don’t know how long it was before he came to talk to me.  When he did, he just said, “That was hard to read.”  I understood.

We talked a little about why I reacted the way I did, which had far less to do with the actual situation that it did with old hurts that were never resolved.  Instead of yelling, I could talk calmly.  Instead of being defensive, he was able to respond from a place of reason and love, after having time to think about my words.  For once, the hurt seemed resolved at the end.

A few days ago, I was feeling happy with him and wrote another poem.  I sent him that poem as well.  He said it made him far happier than the first.

Both poems are on my website – his choice.  The best part is that I have a new and better way to cope with conflicts with him.   I intend to keep using it.

How do you deal with personal conflicts?

If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, or in seeing these poems, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.

Posted August 9, 2013 by Leoma Retan in Uncategorized

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Who is Leoma Retan?   Leave a comment

For many years I have described myself as half mystic and half technofreak, which is no more nor less than the truth.

I have a background in science and engineering but, for very personal reasons, I believe in the reality of things we can not measure or completely explain – the things some call the mystic.

In addition to this one, which I will generally use to talk about specific writing projects, I have created two blogs.

In my Heroes & Friends blog (leomaretanheroes.wordpress.com), I will write about heroes and friendship – what makes a hero and what is a real friend.  That blog exists because I think the modern world needs heroes now more than ever.  I believe that most people can be heroes given the right circumstances and that anyone can be a friend.

In my Mystic vs. Technology blog (lretanmysttech.wordpress.com), I will write about mystical and technological subjects and the often fuzzy line between them.  I pose the following question: Are the things we call mystical just science we don’t understand or is there something more, something that will forever be beyond us?

If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at http://www.leomaretan.com.

Posted August 4, 2013 by Leoma Retan in Uncategorized

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