Harlots on Hulu

imagesHave you ever felt powerless? Have you struggled to enact change? The fight for freedom and power in a society that treated women as little more than possessions is the reason I love Harlots on Hulu so much. I’m immersed in season 2 and just as engrossed as I was when I began binging. The series focuses on Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) and her daughters, Charlotte and Lucy. Set in 18th century London, Well runs a brothel.

As a period piece, it is well done. As a character study, all the people in and around the Wells’s household are realistic and well drawn. They are not caricatures. They exude humanity and emotion, often fear and helplessness, but also the struggle for freedom, independence, and power.

downloadMost engrossing is how women claim power in their lives and fight for dignity and respect while dealing with appalling circumstances and a society that views them as expendable.  We watch Charlotte and Lucy barter for a better life using their sexuality in hopes of more freedom and to lift themselves out of poverty. All the while, they fight for something much more meaningful. We watch women face triumph and tragedy as they are forced to make decisions about their bodies and their lives based on the coins of rich men. Doesn’t seem that far fetched even today.

Watch it. You’ll love it.

The Turn to Technology

This summer I’ve been writing a lot about technology. It plays a role in Twelve Months of Awkward Moments arriving August 30 and the short story I’ve just completed called “Redemption Lake”. Writing about it in a fictional sense also has me pondering the effects of social media and technology in the classroom.

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Every day I enter the classroom to witness students playing the latest game on their device or texting a friend or family member.  Even when I say “put you phone away,” I see the occasional student glancing secretively toward his or her lap, trying to hide the fact that a cell phone is there and a message is being sent or received.  According to the Pew Research Group1, as of January 2014: 90% of adults in the United States have a cell phone. There is little doubt that technology, especially cell phones, has changed our lives.

I work on the computer every day, whether marketing my books, writing, or teaching online college classes, and I use my cell phone to send messages and stay up to date with email.  Like my students, I also can’t resist the pull of popular Candy Crush and Words with Friends (I feel old because these games have come and gone in their popularity).  My cell phone at my bedside in case of an emergency call from a family member or so I can check Submittable to see if I have any acceptances or rejections.

I read “The Pedestrian” and “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury with my high school students and every time, I began to think about the consequences of technology in our lives. I hope both my new book, Twelve Months of Awkward Moments, and my short story “Redemption Lake” (if it is ever published) will open discussion on how technology has changed society, especially teens.

social mediaDoubtless, cell phones have many benefits in and out of the classroom.  Knowing that my daughter can reach me at any time makes me feel secure.  I can get GPS and directions when driving using MapQuest and Google.  My students look up information, record homework, read books, and even type essays on their phones.

News also comes quickly these days as well, but not always accurately. I live in a town that borders Sandy Hook, Connecticut and remember the day of the school shooting in December of 2012.  In class with students, phones suddenly began to buzz as they started to receive news about the tragedy.  At first it was reported that there were two shooters.  The number of student and teachers involved changed minute to minute.  Many of the students with friends in the nearby community were distraught and panicked.

Getting the news quickly is often advantageous, but when it is not accurate, like in the case of Sandy Hook, it can create a panic. And raise anxiety. It is important to consider how the same cell phone that might create an adverse situation, can also rectify it. Cell phones made it easy for students to connect with parents, helping the school in a time of possible crisis.  But this abundance of bad news and stressful information can also create the feelings of anxiety and stress in the younger generation.

Is there a clear answer whether technology in and out of the classroom is helpful or harmful?  The same Pew Research Fact Sheet1 stated that “67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating.”  Schools have an electronic use policy, which can range from no phones in any class to appropriate usage being decided by the teacher.  Most of the times, teaching cell phone etiquette and responsible use is enough to hold class without disruption, there are other consequences to technology to consider.

Using a phone or computer as a buffer can isolate individuals. How many chances of holding face-to-face conversations are replaced with text messages, Snapchats, and Instagram.  Individuals can miss the opportunity to engage in society, meet new people, and partake in life experiences. In the end, society will have to find the balance, but in a world that often prefers instantaneous gratification and excess, is that possible?

Do you think there is a connection between more technology use and the rise in student anxiety?

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  1. (http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/mobile-technology-fact-sheet/)

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

91xmQ4usVcLTyler Miller in no longer invisible his senior year. After painting the school with graffiti, people know his name. His new physique honed by a summer of hard manual labor attracts the attention too. A lot of the attention comes from the popular Bethany Milbury, who Tyler SHOULD stay away from since Bethany’s brother hates him and Bethany’s dad is his father’s boss. But there’d be no book without a little flirtation and a lot of lust.

Twisted  by Laurie Halse Anderson is a roller coaster ride. At first I thought this book would be like many others I’ve read. Tyler, the main character is an outsider. He meets the popular girl and they like each other, realizing they have more in common than they originally thought. I was so happy when about 1/3 of the way into the story it went in a totally different direction, and I loved the book for that reason.

Tyler’s journey is unique, interesting and a page turner. It also touches on many sensitive subjects such as depression, anxiety and suicide.  I finished most of the book in one night. My only complaint toward the end is that the conflict was wrapped up too quickly and neatly. 

4 stars. A quick, interesting summer read.

 

Firefly Magic: August Book Recommendation

514VgGJL+vLI cannot believe August has arrived and is moving so fast. Stay with me summer. While I might normally suggest a beach read with a hot cowboy on the cover, August’s recommended read changed the way I view marketing and sales.  You have to get a copy of this book if you are a writer. When I first started reading Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing by Lauren Sapala, I thought she had written it personally for me. Yes, I’m a writer. Yes, I’m sensitive. Inside the guide, she address so many of the fears and common misunderstandings that I had about marketing and sales. The writing style is conversational and easy to understand, and the exercises at the end of each chapter help get the reader involved and clarify where he/she stands in the process.

I had an “ah ha” moment while reading “Firefly Magic.” I was at a author reading and signing and there was a book blogger/reviewer moderating. Normally, I never would have gone up and spoke with the reviewer, but I did after reading about finding my tribe and like-minded people in Firefly Magic. He turned out to be extremely friendly and interesting.

Chapter 8 titled “Deep Listening” was one of my favorites. The author wrote, “…people opening their hearts and sharing what makes them blossom and what shuts them down, to me, is more valuable than gold.” As a writer, I get that, and the fact that I can use it to go beyond writing and learn more about marketing and sales is truly helpful.

This book is amazing. If you are a writer, you need a copy whether or not you struggle with marketing and sales. There is so much wisdom written in the pages.