The Times They Are A Changin’

       “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts

On Saturday, October 29th, those of us living on the U.S. East Coast were pummeled with a pre-Halloween storm. “A fifty-year storm,” one weatherman called it. By early evening over a foot of snow had fallen. Our trees, still holding tight to their brilliant autumn leaves, were quickly blanketed with wet, heavy snow. Branches began to droop dangerously low.

We lost our power around 1:30 PM. I was at my desk writing on my computer when the lights flickered on…off…on…off, in rapid bursts, as if struggling to hang on. Finally the power failed altogether. Lamps, computers, and all things electrical went out.

The electric igniter on our gas range didn’t work, but that’s what kitchen matches are for. For a late lunch, I heated chicken rice soup on the stove top instead of the microwave. And instead of completing another chapter on my computer then watching Bride of Frankenstein on the television as planned (it is almost Halloween), my husband and I spent a few hours engaged in deliciously quiet conversation.

After a time, a dear friend called from Wisconsin and we caught up on her life, and mine. Then my brother and sister-in-law called from their nightmarish vacation in Hawaii. (Yeah, nightmare…in Hawaii, but that’s another story.) More talk. I’m glad we still have a non-electrical land line. My cell phone battery never would have lasted.

Our power was restored before nightfall. We were lucky. As I write this, many in the East are still without electricity as diligent linemen work non-stop.

Youngest son called home around 11:30 PM. His bus from New York City had been cancelled so he took a different line but it didn’t go to where he’d left his car. So, around 1:00 AM middle son and I drove to a Park and Ride to bring him home for an unexpected overnight visit. On the drive there we skirted four fallen trees.  This morning revealed cracked branches in our own backyard.

Such were yesterday’s small adventures, courtesy of the changing weather patterns. But global warming and changing climate, if that’s what it was, isn’t the only change going on in the world. Change is constant, and it is everywhere.

“The only thing constant in life is change,” wrote French author François de la Rouchefoucauld in the 17th century. Given the times he lived in, the man well knew what he was writing about. So, too, did Bob Dylan. His classic 1964 song, “The Times They Are A Changin‘” became an anthem during the Viet Nam peace protests of the 1960’s as well as the Civil Rights movement. It maintains its popularity.

This morning I watched a news story on CBS Sunday Morning about Asian carp that have escaped from Arkansas to the Illinois River, and the havoc these vicious leaping fish are wreaking. The story told of other invaders to the U.S., the Kudzu vine creeping across southern states, the Burmese python slithering through Florida, and others. A sign of our changing world as species once unknown in this country flourish in a landscape with no natural enemies.

Gunpowder caused massive change in the Middle Ages. The invention of steam engines heralded the Industrial Revolution. In today’s world, along with weather and environmental changes, the primary element of change is technology and its many ramifications.

Earlier technology – telephones, radio, and television gave way to computers, microwaves, cell phones, i-pads, e-readers. The list grows daily. Keeping up with hardware, software, and applications is not always easy, especially for this aging baby-boomer.

As writers, the change in most minds is the transition from traditional publishing to e-publishing. The issue is more complicated than it might seem to those unfamiliar with the topic. What is happening is creating a far greater change than if inventors had simply built a better printing press for established, traditional publishing companies.

E-readers and companies like Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble, have given writers (not just publishers) the ability to publish electronically and distribute that work easily, efficiently, and cheaply – all without the need for traditional agents or publishing houses. For the first time in history, writers have become empowered, in charge of their own careers.

Will a lot of rubbish be published? I imagine so, but doesn’t that already happen in print publishing? How often have you paid good money for a print book by an author everyone raves about, only to toss it aside? There will be bad writing in e-publishing, but I believe good writers will also emerge, outshining the bad. Professional writers will create stories that today’s editors and agents, many barely out of college, now reject simply because “it won’t sell” or “it doesn’t rock my boat.”

Writers will win, and so will readers as stories of all lengths, all genres, all topics, become available. And traditional publishing?   Change, my friends, is constant.  Plunge in, move with it, and join the dance.  ♥

Doodles & Googles & Wordles, oh my!

Technology has created an ever-changing language that only a committed techie can hope to master.  Along with new terms, new tools and techniques for using computers in daily life continually burst forth from creative minds.  One has to be committed to even try to keep up.  And yet, it’s worth trying.

On Friday I attended a technology workshop sponsored by the PAEOPThe purpose of the program was to demonstrate a variety of free links, and how to use them.  Our presenter was Laura Mikowycek, a woman with an amazing grasp on Internet programs and their value in a school or office setting.

Doodle is a great tool to help schedule a meeting for a group of people. The person scheduling selects a series of dates and times, emails them to the participants, and they each select their preferred dates and times.  Doodle is a democratic tool; the most votes win.

We learned about Google Docs. It allows a group of people to share a document via the Internet and work on it collaboratively.  Sharing a completed document is easy in Dropbox.  A free account at Dropbox gives the user up to 2GB of storage.  The creator can then email address/es and “share” the documents.  My writer’s mind immediately speculated on how either Google Docs or Dropbox could be used by critique groups, as well for online RWA Chapter meetings.

With a background in graphic design, she showed how to create readable and interesting Power Point slides, and a few tools to help. One of them, Wordle, transforms a string of words into a work of art.  It can make a small statement about a workshop or a website. It’s also a whole lot of fun! 🙂  We were also reminded of the importance of hand-outs at a meeting and encouraged to use shortened URLs, created with bit.ly or tinyurl.com.

There are many excellent, free sites on the Internet.  On Friday I learned about a dozen or so.  Most were totally new to me.  Of those, I’ve chosen those I think will be most helpful, or interesting, to you.

Sharing knowledge is one of the beautiful things about technology. It has allowed us to do so on a scale never before imagined.  So, the next time you read or hear about a really helpful website, click the link to FaceBook, Twitter, or whatever social media you prefer.  Or simply email to a friend.  Tell the world about it.   ♥