Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Celebrating Banned Books Week

This week is Banned Books week. And even though I have already made my post on #SpeakLoudly, I did want to touch on what this week means to me as an aspiring writer. I must warn you this will be a bit random - my internet has been out for a week and my wife and I are watching the season premier of 30Rock. (Oh how I love it!)

@wawoodworth on twitter asked what is the most important lesson you want people to take away from banned books week.

My answer was that only the evil and the ignorant need fear ideas.

But here is my secret: I want to have one of my books banned.

And not for some high brow, intellectual reason. I want the cash; and there is no cash cow like a banned book. Just think about it, your book gets banned and then all of the librarians, professors, and the other assorted intelligentsia of the United States go and buy it. They read it and find that it well within their sensibilities and advise all of the people within their sphere of influence to buy it. Then all of of the wacko conservatives get it from the library (because they would never buy such filth [um romance novels anyone?*]) and so libraries have to but more copies. Finally someone starts a twitter campaign to support your book that has been so cruelly banned and eventually it get talked about to the point that the masses being to hear about it regularly and are forced by simple curiosity to buy it and see what the controversy is all about.

With all that said, I do support everyone's right to be able to read what they want. You can choose to restrict what you and your family reads but please do not try to restrict my right to choose for myself and my family.

And go and read a banned book you just might like it.

*I do not think romance novels are filth, but a lot of super conservative people who would ban books think that romance novels are filth. However, studies have shown that conservative women are the most likely to read and buy romance novels...hmm makes you think huh.

Monday, September 20, 2010


It is a very interesting time to be an aspiring writer in southwest Missouri.

As you may have heard there has been a rash of book banning at schools in the towns of Republic and Stockton MO.

The various social networks have exploded with condemnation towards the schools, the school boards, and the people who are challenging the books.

So what is my opinion?

I love censorship. Don't stop reading yet, I do have a point to make.

Censorship is an important part of a functioning society. Consider what would happen if publishers did not censor the manuscripts that they received. We would be buried in terrible books and publishers would go out of business.

On the legal side, if you could advocated the violent death of the president of the United States the police would be so busy responding to threats that crime and anarchy would be the order of the day. Censorship has a purpose, and when it is appropriately applied by rational people it can be a valuable tool to maintain a healthy society.

However, I believe that censorship has very little place in the vast majority of American life, and perhaps the least appropriate place for censorship is in education.

The point of education is to expose people to a variety of ideas and teach them how to learn how to think for themselves. When you remove books from the marketplace of ideas that people are exposed to you limit the potential of those students to succeed in our society.

In the case in Stockton MO, a book that advocated doing whatever you can to try to succeed in life was banned because it accurately reflected the thoughts and actions of most teenage boys. In Stockton not only was the book removed from the classroom, it was removed from the school library. This is an example of censorship gone wrong, and I think that it is am egregious violation of the spirit of the first amendment.

The more recent case in Republic MO is even more troubling. A Missouri State professor has challenged three books in the school district. Slaughterhouse Five and Speak are part of the school curriculum, and Twenty Boy Summer is part of the school library collection.

Currently Slaughterhouse Five has been removed from the curriculum. Speak is being reviewed but is still being taught.

Here are the questions on this issue:
Does Mr. Scroggins have a right to challenge these books?

Yes. Mr. Scroggins is a tax payer in the Republic school district and even though his children attend private school he does have a right to challenge the books.

Does the school board have to remove a challenged book?

No. A school board is not required by law to remove a challenged book.

So what is the problem? By exercising his right to challenge the books in a school curriculum he is trampling the rights of the parents and students of the district. I could understand his attempt at proactive parenting if he was merely trying to protect his kids, however his kids are not enrolled in the public school district. That means that he is trying to push his beliefs off on everyone else. I could accept his argument if he was fighting to give the kids in a district a choice in the curriculum. (Having been previously trapped in a curriculum I was not ready for I would have benefited from having an alternative.) But instead he is fighting to remove choice from the curriculum.

Books and ideas are meant to be consumed as part of the marketplace of ideas and the public discourse. If you want to shelter your children from engaging in the culture around them that is your right, but do not tell me what my children can and cannot be exposed to.

The worst part of this challenge is that the books in question are so valuable. Slaughterhouse Five is an anti-war novel. Speak is a novel about about how to learn to survive after rape and how to speak out. Twenty Boy Summer is about how to deal with loss and grief and the negative consequences of rash emotional decisions.

Each of these authors have had the bravery to write about terrible things to try to help teenagers cope with very real problems.

Perhaps worst of all is that he cloaks his attacks in the mantle of Christianity. What he is doing is the farthest thing from what true Christians would do. Christianity teaches that people should not judge others and that people should live life free from fear. Christianity teaches compassion and understanding, which these three books represent to many teenagers who read them. Do not lump the rest of us Christians in with Mr. Scroggins, he does not speak for me.

Thank you Ms. Anderson for writing a book that deals with such a terrible issue. Thank you for having the courage to support those girls who needed someone, anyone to help them.

Thank you Ms. Ockler for writing a book that helps teens deal with loss and grief. Thank you for taking the time to show them the consequences of destructive decisions so that they can hopefully avoid making the same mistakes.

Thank you Mr. Vonnegut for taking a stand.

And to Mr. Scroggins, remember it is your right to shelter yourself and your children, but please do not repress the rights of others due to a moral repugnance to certain aspects of everyday life. I fear that the "evils" that you chase away may leave a space in which true evil can flourish.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


My wonderful critique partner Abby interviewed me on her blog. Check it out and follow her:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Perhaps My Favorite Writing Quote Ever

"Writers don't make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don't work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel guilty about throwing the schmuck's book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man's stupid words. And for this, as I said before, we are paid a dollar."

Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Follow Abby!

You might remember the great Abby Minard who did a guest post for me a couple of months ago. Well she has now started her own blog which like her writing is much better than my own. But her launching a blog and her dicipline to updated it several times a week has inspired and motivated me to make this blog a once a week blog and to reopen my sports blog. So you can catch me here once a week and you can catch my sports blog at everyday.

But if you want a great read you need to go to that is where the good stuff is.

See you next week!