Friday, April 9, 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes

This was one of those months when I began to fret as my day to blog drew near. I couldn’t think of anything to say—except, “I don’t have anything to say,” which I actually spent some time trying to develop into an interesting theme. (Advice for writers—it didn’t work for me!) Then I woke up two days ago realizing that the previous day's events gave me all the material I’d need.

1. I read about Discovery’s successful launch. I already had known this would be the last nighttime takeoff, starting a countdown of only three more launches before the Shuttle system is dismantled and perhaps the astronaut program as well. I thought about how ironic it was that this last nighttime takeoff was also historic because it was the first time so many (4) women were in orbit together. As someone who has written about space travel in several books, I’m deeply saddened. Humans going to Mars or even the Moon—not the best use of our national money right now. But the space program gives us so much more. It once produced what’s now called “the Sputnik Moment,” an event that excited educators and kids about science and it can give us one again. Furthermore the research that got in space has spun off whole industries from medical imaging and cordless tools to TV satellite dishes—and high tech research, manufacturing and implementation is what’s going to save this country’s job base and economy. Don’t get me started…

2. I attended a meeting in my Boston neighborhood where residents talked with library trustees about the proposed closing of up to eight of our city’s 26 local branches. Boston, like everywhere else, has huge shortfalls and the library is in trouble. I wanted to make sure a critical mass attended and was delighted to be part of a crowd at least 500 strong. I didn’t try to speak, others said it all. The branch library is our diverse community's melting pot. Libraries are the resource of a civilized society. And in hard economic times, they are needed more than ever. Book circulation is up in Boston by 31 percent. Seventy-seven million Americans nationwide use the library for their Internet access, including their all-important job searches. Keeping libraries open is a moral imperative for real democracy.

3. Then I went to a friend’s for dinner. Another guest, in charge of the computer system for one of our hospitals mentioned he had just signed up again for home delivery of the Boston Globe after reading it on line for years. "I just like the feel of it," he said, "the tradition of turning its pages while drinking my coffee."

Seems like a mishmash of experiences, doesn’t it? Information usually does until you work it through to make sense of it. Here are the reminders for nonfiction writers that popped up in my day:
*Trust your subconscious, it’s busy working and will come through for you.
*Re. the space program and the day in general: some of the best ideas sneak in while you’re looking for something else. Never be so focused that you don’t notice.
*The paper v. e-version of the newspaper? Luddites must realize that the world and its technology are changing and that has value. Techies should savor the unique pleasure of traditional forms.
*Libraries: We need them. They established our course as readers and writers as kids; we use them to do our research now. And they need us as authors, patrons, and champions. They not only buy our books; they also introduce generations of kids to our ideas. We owe them. Big time.

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