America, How I Weep

 

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Courtesy of “Beverly & Pack” via Flickr

 

America, How I Weep

A Poem, by Shari Lopatin

©Shari Lopatin, 2016

 

Oh America,

How I weep for thee!

My once beautiful muse,

My distant refuge.

Your maternal embrace

Protected our grace, and welcomed

My family whole.

 

But now I stand atop your dream,

In cowardice and fear I glean …

We watch with haste,

Such distaste,

And mourn the death of hope

And faith.

 

America, when will you rise?

And crush the hate which I despise?

With this prayer,

I say to thee,

Revive the truth in us … in me.

 

 

Martin Shkreli Looks Like a Sith Lord in this AP Photo

I first saw it on my Facebook feed today from a New York Times article. And I couldn’t help but notice, Martin Shkreli kinda looks like a Sith Lord in this Associated Press photo … doesn’t he?

Shkreli Indictment Portrays Small-Time Fraud - The New York Times.clipular.png

And considering today is the first FULL day that Star Wars is open in theaters, I call this #winning for the AP!

Enough About Donald Trump, What About Burundi?

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Rwandan refugee camp in east Zaire, 1993 (courtesy of CDC)

I get it: Donald Trump is the leading front-runner in the Republican primary who spouts off whatever comes to mind and is a former reality T.V. star.

But amidst the American media’s love affair with Trump, other important world issues are being overlooked. Lately, I’ve been seeing articles pop up about potential genocide in Burundi.

Doesn’t Burundi deserve our attention, too?

According to a Dec. 15 article in the Washington Post, the violence has forced more than 220,000 Burundians to flee their homes.

Reflections of Rwanda

Burundi’s population is split primarily between Hutu (80 percent) and Tutsi (19 percent). For anyone that knows their history, they’ll recall the infamous Rwandan genocide of 1994, where more than 800,000 people were slaughtered (thanks for the actual number, Baltimore Sun).

Remember the movie, “Hotel Rwanda?” Yeah folks, that could happen again.

Yet every time I open my Facebook news feed, all I see is “Trump this” and “Trump that.” Meanwhile, Burundians are screaming for the major world powers to pay attention to their country.

I have a friend who survived the Bosnian genocide that started in 1992 and she can tell you it took years before the world intervened. Meanwhile, she lost close family members and friends.

Time to Switch Our Focus?

Of course we need to watch what Trump says and speak out if we disagree, but should our media be giving the man so much attention, that other world events—like potential genocide—aren’t being reported with the same vigor?

I’m a former journalist and I’m asking you: what the heck happened to my beloved profession?

How Inflammatory Language Brought Us to the Age of Mass Shootings

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SWAT team members approach a building with a gunman inside. Thirteen people were killed and 30 more wounded in an attack by a lone gunman at Fort Hood Nov. 5, 2009 (courtesy Wikipedia).

First Planned Parenthood, then today: San Bernardino, Calif.

Both are medical clinics. Both are supposed to be safe places … kinda like schools (anyone remember Sandy Hook)?

According to CNN, president Barack Obama said, “We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.”

Regardless of what you think of our president politically, you have to admit: HE’S RIGHT.

How Did We Get Here?

I was in high school when Columbine happened on April 20, 1999. The massacre shocked the world because things like that just didn’t happen. Since then, mass shootings have begun increasing in frequency, until today, they’ve become commonplace.

So how did we get here?

Some say we need more gun control. Others say we need better access to mental health care. Personally, I think it’s a combination of both … but everyone seems to be leaving out one very important factor.

This is a sociological problem, not an individual one, which means a sickness has somehow pervaded our society. 

What’s the one thing that’s changed from 1999 until now? SOCIAL MEDIA.

The Age of Propaganda and Inflammatory Language

Now, I’m not blaming social media. In fact, I’ve worked in it for a living.

However, social media gives people, institutions, political parties and special interests an unfiltered platform to broadcast their thoughts and ideas.

You know those Facebook memes that people love to share that instigate endless political debates on comment threads? They’re developed by groups with certain agendas to garner engagement and prompt action by plugging into people’s emotions.

You know what that’s called? PROPAGANDA.

Hitler used it. Stalin used it. Kim Jong-un still uses it. Propaganda is powerful because it plays into people’s emotions and fears. Even the most educated can become susceptible to it.

In the age of social media and content marketing, propaganda is running rampant in our country. It’s causing the best of us to scream at each other and it’s making our society angry.

As angry individuals, we insult others behind the blanket of “freedom of speech.” We say whatever we want because “we have that right.” We develop a sense of persecution, which leads to an “us versus them” mentality. “Them” always end up less human than “Us.”

How Do We Fix It?

We need to begin using our words responsibly again. I’m a journalist; I’m all about the First Amendment. But with great freedom comes great responsibility. And words can kill.

We also need to hold media outlets, political institutions and special interest pages accountable when using inflammatory language. Don’t watch them. Don’t share their memes. Don’t comment. JUST DON’T ENGAGE.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What are your thoughts on the increasing mass shootings in the U.S.? Do you agree with my conclusion?

Up to 40 Rejections, and Counting

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I’m officially baptized into the world of creative writing. I’ve been rejected by 40 literary agents … and the number keeps climbing.

Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it angering. Definitely. Am I giving up? HELL NO.

Why? Because I’m a writer, dammit. And writers get rejected over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. We’re the foot soldiers of the artistic world.

Of course I sometimes ask myself, “What the heck are you doing, Shari?” Then, however, I read articles such as this one, from Fast Company: “Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s reassuring life advice for struggling artists.

COOL!

Did you know that Mad Men was rejected for seven years—seven freakin’ years—before AMC finally said yes? And before Mr. Weiner even had the success and connections to create Mad Men, he spent nearly his entire first decade of post-college life struggling as a no-name writer in Hollywood, getting told NO over and over and over and over and over and over again?

This man is a veteran, folks. Out of everything he said, I think this was the most important piece of advice:

“You can’t set a clock for yourself. If you do, you are not a writer.” –Matthew Weiner

May we all keep fighting along, and may we all realize that setting a clock is the ultimate defeat. Keep writing, my friends. Keep writing.


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


 

Do You Need a Proofreader or Copyeditor?

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What’s the difference between a proofreader and copyeditor? You’ve heard the terms, but which do you need?

I’ll admit, it can be quite confusing. And depending on your project, you may need both (gasp!).

The Proofreaders

These are the guys with the eagle eyes. The ones who will catch the missed periods or the typos where you meant to say, “and,” but really typed, “ad.”

Proofreaders scan your writing strictly for the purpose of making sure it’s flawless. They look for misspelled words, grammatical mistakes, tense agreement, typos, and so forth.

However, proofreaders do not edit for style or flow, and they will not make suggestions on how you can improve your writing.

The Copyeditors

Copyeditors do exactly as their title implies: edit copy. Proofreading may often be included in copyediting services, but that is not the copyeditor’s main job.

If you hire a copyeditor, he or she will look for structure, flow, style, and ways to improve your actual content. If your project is a whitepaper, the copyeditor may look for ways to simplify text or improve your marketing “hook.” If your project is a novel, the copyeditor may read for story arcs, dialogue, narration and voice.

Which should you hire: proofreader or copyeditor?

If you need someone to edit a 10- or 20-page report, or possibly even some website content, I might recommend hiring a copyeditor.

However, if you’re a self-published author, I suggest you invest in hiring BOTH. Why? The copyeditor will look for ways to improve your story, characters, plot line, narration, flow, voice, story arcs, etc. However, for a manuscript that’s 80,000 words long, you’ll want to hire a second pair of eagle eyes—a proofreader—to ensure your work is flawless before sending it out for the world to read.

Other than that, which type of editor you need really boils down to you:

  • Are you happy with the way your project sounds, but just need someone to scan it for mistakes? Hire a proofreader.
  • Do you need stylistic or structural help? Call a copyeditor.

What have been your experiences working with copyeditors and proofreaders? Do you have anything to add to this blog post?


Hi! I’m Shari Lopatin. I’m a professional writer, editor, journalist, and social media strategist with a decade of experience in media and communications. I live in Phoenix, Ariz. and blog about finding a literary agent, writing tips, social media or tech trends, and sometimes current events. Oh yeah, I also edit novels for self-published authors or writers needing help before querying literary agents. Are we friends yet on Facebook and Twitter?


 

Yea, I’ve been taking a blogging break

If you’ve been expecting new posts from me, sorry to disappoint, y’all.

But I promise, I’m not sitting around at night picking my nose (although, that does sound appealing … in a lazy, non-conformist kind of rebellion sorta way).

Naw. I just decided that, for the time being, blogging is going to take a backseat to REAL novel-writing. Because between Zumba, my NEW JOB (you may now congratulate me by kissing my toes), trying to eat like a dignified human being, and feeding the two minions which live under my roof (a.k.a. my cats) … I only have so much free time in the day.

And really, that time gets split between my family and my writing. And rather than writing my blogs, I’m writing my novel.

So I hope you understand. I’m not sure if I’ll be gone for a month, or a year. I may publish an occasional post to keep my funny gene stimulated. But if you stay subscribed via email, I promise to let you know when I finish my first novel! If you even care …

In the meantime, thank you ALL for the wonderful awesomeness you have bestowed upon me these past couple of years. From gold-pooping bacteria and chicken nuggets in a frozen bag of veggies, to my Jewish cat who’s mastered the art of guilt … we’ve had a blast!

 

My FIRST Published (Creative) Story! ‘A Call from Paris’

eFiction cover

 

[ Read “A Call from Paris” now!]

As of June this year, I am no longer some used, discarded toilet paper in the creative writing world. That’s right …

I’M PUBLISHED!

I know I’ve been published as a journalist before, but never as a creative writer. As an author. I kinda feel like Moses right now, after he descended from Mount Sinai, beaming with holy rays of light from his ears.

Of course, minus the white beard (or am I merely thinking of Charlton Heston?).

Anyway, I digress …

I was published in the June 2013 edition of an e-publication called, “eFiction.”

And my story is proudly entitled, “A Call from Paris.”

And yes! I made it possible for you to read! I printed just my story, then scanned it into a document.

Read ‘A Call from Paris’ Here!!

But be forewarned, my snarky, snide attitude does not carry over into this story. My creative works tend to be a little more serious.

I also urge you to consider purchasing the FULL June 2013 eFiction edition, which can be read on your Kindle or Nook. You can buy it here. It’s only $3.99, and you’ll read works from the other amazing authors who were also published with me. Plus, if you buy, we get royalties. 🙂 And who doesn’t want to support their fellow writers?

So please read my story, if you’re so inclined to make me feel welcomed into the world of publishing, share it with your friends, and then comment below and tell me your thoughts! You’re my first readers, so your thoughts mean a lot to me.

What do the monsoons have against me?

Seriously, I want to know. Because a few days ago, it reached 120 DEGREES here in the deserts of Phoenix, Ariz.

No rain yet, just apocalyptic dust storms. Not even a little tease of lightning. C’mon, monsoons!

Oh yeah … and there’s a black widow living in my garage.

I think God is taking out His frustration on me for not updating Rogue Writer in nearly a month (sorry, y’all). Or if not Him, then the monsoons are holding some preconceived, spiteful grudge. Who knows …  it could be the water I left running in my front yard for TWO DAYS (by accident) last week.

But on another, more serious note …

Whilst talking about monsoons and a hellish drought, I can’t help but also mention the 19 incredibly brave firefighters who died this past week, here in Arizona. Did you hear about them?

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They were the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew, fighting that aggressive wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz. It burned nearly half the town, about 200 homes. The Granite Mountain Hotshots were all from Prescott, Ariz: my old stomping ground.

See, I got my start working for The Daily Courier newspaper up there, as a lead education reporter. I also backed up on crime, courts, and the fire department. When I heard what happened, my heart sank, and I felt sick.

Most of these men were in their twenties, a few in their thirties, and one or two in their forties. I want to take a moment to recognize them, thank them for their brave service, and send my deepest condolences to their families.

Prescott firefighters

Support the Surviving Families

Here is a Facebook post, taken directly from the “In Memory of Prescott Firefighters Lost 6/30/2013” Facebook page:

The United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association, together with the Prescott Fire Fighters Charities, have established a 501(c)3 relief fund at any Chase bank. Ask for the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association Account set up to benefit fire fighters killed in the Yarnell fire.

Every penny of your tax deductible contribution will go directly to the families.

Additionally, donations can be made through the 100 Club or the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

May you RIP, Hotshots.