Tag Archives: Twitter

The Things That #NonWritersSay

So tonight on Twitter, I started the #NonWritersSay hashtag because I was talking to some of my writer friends about that common experience we all share: being misunderstood by non-writers.

It’s something I see every day, especially in my tutoring job at Rowan University. I constantly hear students complain that they “hate writing” and how they never think they’ll be good writers. Then they trudge through the effort of writing a 3-4 page essay. When I tell them I wrote a novel and it’s 100,000 words long, they inevitably say things like, “How can you write so much?” or “Was it hard to write?” or “Is it any good?”

I hear the same things from other sources as well. Friends will ask me “Do you sell a lot of copies?” or “How much money does it make?” without realizing those questions are kind of awkward and they make me uncomfortable.

Or non-writers who don’t understand the process of writing and revision will ask me things like “Why does it take you so long?” or “Why do you need to revise so many times?” These are questions that pretty much every writer has to deal with, and sometimes it feels like it’s impossible to answer. You want to shake the person and say, “Because writing is HARD!” Writing is a lot of work. It’s a full time job. And for most of us, it’s a full time job that you have to do while working another full time job to pay the bills. But you keep on doing it, because you have goals.

Most non-writers I know don’t understand the time and effort it takes to plot out a novel, go through several drafts, get it critiqued, get it edited, and get it out there into the world. I know people who write on roleplaying sites as a hobby, churning out a couple of pages a week and never revising them. They casually mention how maybe they’d like to turn their roleplaying characters into a book someday. That’s not to say you can’t do that; my novel, Manifestation, stemmed from characters that started off as part of one of those roleplaying games. But turning them into a book takes a lot of dedication, hard work, sleepless nights, and stress.

Sometimes I feel like people who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, bankers… anything that isn’t an “art” field, don’t really understand. Art is hard, and it leaves you poor. I imagine painters, musicians, and sculptors often feel the same way we writers do. As if they have to pour everything they have into something they’re passionate about, only to accept that it might turn out to be a failure. So many books get written, only to be rejected by publishers. Or they get published (whether traditional or indie) and never become bestsellers. And that’s hard to deal with when you put years of your life into a project.

Which is why I’m glad I know so many other writers on Twitter. I love being able to talk to them about my writing, to share my experiences with them, and to know they go through the same thing. It’s therapeutic. It makes me feel like I’m not alone.

Though of course, there is one very important thing that #WritersShouldSay: “You should be writing!”

So I’m going to try to get off Twitter for a little while and get some work done. These novels aren’t going to write themselves.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

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Pilgrims and Stealth Blocking

Imagine you’re out on social media, socializing. You follow a few hundred or a few thousand people on Twitter. You don’t talk to all of them all the time, but you’ve got some close friends you talk to almost every day, and some other casual friends you like to keep in touch with.

Then, every now and then, you stumble across a random tweet from a total stranger. It contains a clever joke or something related to your interests. Or maybe they’re chatting with friends of yours and you think they could become your friend, too. So you reach out to make that first connection, by clicking the “favorite” button.

Then you receive the message, “Your account is unable to perform this action.”

Confused, you click on the person’s name, and, SURPRISE, they have you blocked!

Welcome to America, the land where we don’t resolve our problems. We run from them.

The first European settlers that founded the colonies that eventually became the United States came over here fleeing religious persecution (they also started wars with the people who already lived here and stole their lands, but that’s another discussion for another blog post). They could have stayed in England and continued fighting for social reform, but instead they decided to flee to a new land. Later, the colonies couldn’t resolve their problems of taxation without representation (among other things), rather than taking the time to resolve those problems, we had a war so we could be left alone to do our own thing. Then, years later, the southern states wanted to continue having slaves (among other things) and couldn’t find a resolution with the northern states and tried to just leave and start their own country.

…noticing a pattern yet?

As a society, we have a foundation based on avoiding our problems. You can see it in almost every issue that springs up in modern society. It’s why a group of senators sent a letter to Iran behind the president’s back, instead of working out their problems with Obama himself. It’s why our divorce rate has been so high for years. It’s why my mother, my sisters, and I haven’t spoken in eight years. We’re a culture of avoiding problems instead of confronting them.

Thus, we invented the “block” button, and we use it liberally.

I’ve blocked hundreds of people on Twitter. Most of them are random sexist, homophobic trolls that I just don’t want to deal with. But a few are former friends that I got into irreconcilable arguments with. Rather than resolving them, we block each other. I see other friends of mine blocking people all the time for similar reasons.

In a way, we’re making our own “countries” on Twitter. In my Twitter nation, most of the people are liberal, none are homophobic, all support equal rights for all races and genders, and most of us are writers. But sometimes I’ll explore some hashtag or another and find an entire nation of super-conservative Christian fundamentalists complaining about gay marriage, or another nation full of gun-toting militants who want to kick all Muslims out of the country and close our borders. While I block those kinds of people, they thrive together, and if I were to try to argue against their views, they’d swarm at me en masse. It’s hard to convince someone that their views are wrong when they’ve got a few hundred like-minded people agreeing with them.

So we don’t resolve anything. We don’t find a middle ground. We don’t figure out a compromise. We just separate ourselves from each other, form our own independent nations, and plug our ears so we don’t have to hear what the other people are saying.

Maybe one day we’ll form a colony on Mars. And then when we get into arguments about how to terraform the new world, half the colonists will blast off and head to another planet so they don’t need to deal with each other.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

The Not-So-Evils of Technology

Image Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_middlebrow/2006/02/can_you_fear_me_now.html
Image Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_middlebrow/2006/02/can_you_fear_me_now.html

Technology is evil. It rots our brains, makes us less social, and leads to shorter attention spans. People never go out anymore; they spend all of their time on the internet. People don’t talk to each other; they text. People need to unplug and focus more on making genuine human connections.

All of that is a bunch of bull, and here’s why.

Technology, like anything else, is a tool. It’s not evil, it’s not rotting our brains, and it’s not leading to the breakdown of society. In fact, in many ways simple things like texting, Twitter, television, and so on can actually make your life better.

I hear so many people complain about technology, yet like many types of complaints, they never actually think things through. Here’s a few examples:

Spending too much time on Twitter makes you anti-social

This is a bunch of baloney. A lot of the time, it comes from parents who think their children are ignoring the family because they spend so much time online. Yet the simple truth is, kids didn’t want to spend times with their families long before the internet was invented. If kids wanted to sit at home all day spending time with their boring parents and their pain-in-the-ass siblings, they wouldn’t sneak out of the house to hang out with friends, or lock themselves in their rooms playing loud music, or doing any of the millions of other things kids do when they want to be left alone. The difference with a website like Twitter is that it allows you to actually make friends and interact with people in a safe, controlled way. You can pick and choose the people you interact with, block the ones who bother you, and keep up to date on current events or live-tweet community experiences like the season premier of your favorite show. It’s a way for people to have fun and be social, just without having to limit your social group to people who are geographically close to you.

Kids text too much and don’t develop communication skills

People of any age can be shy. Communication is hard, especially for someone who is unpopular, awkward, or has low self-esteem. But a lot of the time it can be easier to get to know someone one text at a time. You can take your time, develop your thoughts, and make sure you aren’t inhibited by your shyness. Plus, texting can actually be more efficient in some ways. It’s much easier to, say, read a book or do some homework while you’re texting someone than while you’re on the phone with them. Being on the phone generally requires your full attention, whereas texts can be sent whenever you have a break in what you’re doing. The asynchronous nature of texting can make it a more powerful form of communication in many ways.

The internet is just for silly cat pictures and porn

Sometimes people go overboard with pictures. It can seem excessive at times, making you wonder why people need to share eight million pictures of their dog, their coffee, and their feet. But on the other hand, pictures can be used to communicate quite a bit. Memes in particular have become a fascinating form of communication. For example, when one of my writer friends is slacking, I’m likely enough to send them an encouraging photo. When they tell a corny joke, I’ll play a rimshot. Or when they’re having a bad day, I might send them a sweet e-card.

And then there’s some things you just can’t say with words.

Internet time should be limited

Because naturally, it’s about quantity over quality. To some people, it doesn’t matter if you’re using the internet for education, social interaction, creative pursuits, and other wholesome activities. They still see it as something you can have “too much of.” But I say, there’s nothing wrong with being on the internet for hours on end if you’re using it the right way. Five hours straight on a silly cat picture Tumblr page? Okay, that’s too much. But if you spent the same length of time reading educational materials, talking to friends, doing research, and playing classical music videos on YouTube, would that be such a bad thing?

All people do online is complain

That’s ridiculous. Who spends all their time online complaining about other people? It’s not like anyone would read an entire blog post that was just a long angry rant…

Tee hee.


mani_promoManifestation is available in paperback format through:

CreateSpace and Amazon

and in ebook format through:

Kindle and Nook

Speedwriting

I have a deadline, a sore back, and a LOT of caffeine.

I’ve been doing a lot of speedwriting this week. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed me tweeting word counts upwards of 5000 words per day. Why am I doing this? Well, I have a project (the details of which I can’t disclose) that’s due at the end of the week, and I’ve been falling behind. So I’m in crunch mode, churning out the words and sculpting the story in what amounts to a mini-NaNoWriMo style for one week (NaNoWriWeek?).

It’s actually very refreshing. As you can see by my writing calendar below, I didn’t make much progress on anything AT ALL during the month of September:

1 sticker = 1000 words OR 1 blog post.
1 sticker = 1000 words OR 1 blog post.

I went whole stretches of days without writing much of anything, aside from a blog post here and there. Then, right at the end, you can see a swarm of stickers representing about 6000 words per day PLUS a couple of blog posts. I even found time to revise a chapter of Contamination, the sequel to Manifestation.

Of course, I DO have a bit of an excuse for the lack of writing and revising this past month. After all, I was working on releasing my debut novel. So I’ve been doing a lot of work, just not a lot of “writing” work.

Hopefully, this surge throughout the week as I race to my deadline (only 25,000 words to go!) will get me prepped for NaNoWriMo. I’m planning to write the sixth book of the Arcana Revived series during November, and I’m projecting a first draft word count of 150,000 words. That’s more than I’ve ever done in a NaNo before, but it’ll get done. Because I’ll be speedwriting the whole time.

Hopefully you’ll join me when NaNoWriMo comes around. Let’s rock the writing world.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Book Addictions

Hello. My name is Jason. And I’m addicted to books.

Yes, I bought all of those. Yes, I also bought several others that I found after I took the picture.
Yes, I bought all of those. Yes, I also bought several others that I found after I took the picture.

Today I went to Barnes & Noble for the first time in a long time. I do most of my book buying online these days, both for the convenience and for the ability to find used and/or out of print books that won’t be found on the bookshelves. Sometimes I search Amazon and find used books for a penny plus shipping, which basically means I pay $4.00 for a $10.00 book. Other times I use it to search inventories from around the country to find books I can’t find locally, such as when I ordered the first 28 or so books in Piers Anthony’s Xanth series, since my local bookstores usually only have a random selection of 5 or 6 of them. But the thing about shopping online is that it doesn’t have quite the same experience as wandering the bookshelves and searching for something that will just jump out at you.

Sometimes, you spot a new book in a long-running series, like Kristen Britain’s Mirror Sight that I didn’t even know was out until I walked past it. Sometimes it’s a classic like Beowulf or Gilgamesh that I had to wonder how I’d gone my whole life without reading yet. Or sometimes I just spot a cover and title so fascinating I can’t help but buy it:

There was no way to resist this.
There was no way to resist this.

Though living in the digital age makes the book buying experience a very different one than it was ten years ago. Such as when I tweeted the picture above, and then next thing I knew the author himself was tweeting me with a promise that I’ll like the book. It goes to show the inter-connectivity we’re experiencing with social media. I can only imagine how excited I’d be in the author’s shoes when I find someone tweeting about my book. I look forward to the day I come across a total stranger talking about my book and we can make a connection like that.

So maybe being a book addict isn’t such a bad thing. You meet interesting people, discover new stories you’d never thought you’d find, and you get to write blog posts about being an addict.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of reading to do before I get buried under a huge stack of hardbacks.

Writing Isn’t A Hobby

I was talking to some friends on Twitter today about a common issue shared by many serious writers, whether they’re just starting out or they’ve already begun making money off their writing. People who aren’t writers don’t seem to understand what writing is to those of us who devote serious time to it. Writing isn’t a hobby. It isn’t something to be done on your “spare time.” It isn’t something that can be rushed. And for a lot of writers, it isn’t something that can be done when you’re not in the write right state of mind.

Those of you who are writers probably already know what I’m talking about. We tend to encounter issues with friends, family, and others in our lives who don’t really understand what professional writing is. One of my Twitter friends said this lack of understanding probably stems from the fact that almost everyone grows up learning how to read and write, and oftentimes think they could write a book themselves if they ever felt like it. They don’t understand the difference between someone who hasn’t written anything since college essays versus someone who sits down every day like you’re clocking into a job and works hard at planning, outlining, writing, revising, editing, revising, revising, and revising a novel for two years straight before it’s finished.

Writing is hard. It takes a lot of practice. There will be times when you’re beating your head against the wall trying to come up with the solution to an issue in a chapter you’re working on, only to end up cutting that chapter entirely later on. There will be times when it wakes you up in the middle of the night with the insistent demand that you write now. Many writers I know complain about the constant distractions from their children, siblings, and others who just won’t give them some peace and quiet so they can work. And many of them probably have friends who ask, like one friend of mine did, “Why does it take so long?” and “Why do you need so many drafts?”

When my friend asked me how long it would be until Manifestation was finished, I explained it to him like this: I’m currently on an editing stage where I’m removing language that filters the scene through a character’s senses, and also removing superfluous adverbs, because both of these things weaken the text. Many writers agree with the “kill all the adverbs method of writing, but in case you’re not, here’s an example from Manifestation:

Before editing:

Another scream sounded from nearby, and someone in the crowd shouted, “Oh God!” Gabby saw someone nearby collapse to the ground, beside a man who was clutching his head in pain. The doctor turned to help, running over to the woman on the ground. As the others in the immediate vicinity cleared away, Gabby saw blood covering the woman and spreading across the ground. She looked up at the man standing over her, and saw more blood on his hands. He looked right at her, his face twisted in pain, his eyes lost. He looked down at his feet and the woman lying there, his face blank with shock. He seemed to only belatedly notice the blood on his hands. He stared at them, his hands shaking.

After editing:

Another scream sounded from nearby. Someone in the crowd shouted, “Oh God!” A woman collapsed to the ground, covered in blood. A man stood next to her, clutching his head in pain. The doctor ran over to the woman and knelt next to her, checking her vitals. The rest of the crowd cleared away, giving him room. Gabby stood back, watching the doctor work. Blood spread across the ground around the woman’s body. The man standing nearby lowered his hands. They were covered in blood.

He looked at Gabby. His face twisted in pain and his eyes lost focus. His hair stood out in bloody clumps where he’d been clutching his head. He looked down at the woman lying in a pool of her own blood. His face went pale and he wore a blank expression as he tried to absorb what had happened. He stared at his blood-soaked hands, shaking.

I’m not sure I’m entirely satisfied with that passage yet, but some of the key differences are how I removed the lines “Gabby saw…” and just described what was happening. I also removed the horrible phrase “He only belatedly,” a double-adverb sin that should never have been in the passage at all. “He stared at his blood-soaked hands, shaking.” is a much better line than “He seemed to only belatedly notice the blood on his hands. He stared at them, his hands shaking.”

Going through and making changes like these through a 100,000 word manuscript takes time. As an example of how long it takes, I recently removed 164 adverbial usages of the word “just.” I apparently have this bad habit of saying someone “just” did something. “She just nodded.” “She just didn’t know what to say.” “She just turned and left the room.” These word choices weaken the prose, and each of those sentences are just stronger without the superfluous “just.” But taking out 164 “justs,” if each one takes thirty seconds to find, read, and remove, adds up to almost an hour and a half of editing. And the “justs” are just one of about forty commonly-overused words I’m editing and removing right now. That’s a couple of weeks worth of work right there, just to polish the prose itself. That’s aside from any other work spent rearranging chapters, cutting scenes, and working on plot and characterization.

Writing is hard.

And there are entirely different issues while writing the first draft. A lot of people need to be in the right frame of mind in order to write. Some writers I know like to write with music on. Others need a quiet room. Many of us stare at a blank screen, trying to find inspiration. Though I like to follow Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He says that your Muse won’t show up when you want him to. He’ll get there when he’s damn good and ready. So the only way to proceed is to sit down and work hard, every day. That way, when your Muse is ready to show up, he’ll find you there, hard at work, waiting for his inspiration.

(Of course, my Muse is a woman with long dark hair, captivating eyes, and a toga. But to each their own.)

So next time someone tells you to write in your spare time, ask them what they do for a living and then ask them if they could just squeeze that into their “spare time.” If they don’t want their career treated like a hobby, they shouldn’t act that way about yours.

How Writers End Up On NSA Watchlists

Writers tend to research some strange things. Nuclear physics, brain tumor symptoms, the history of ancient Mesopotamia, how long bodies take to rot in the tropics . . . these topics are either the product of a deranged mind or the research material for a pretty interesting novel. Probably a little of both.

A lot of writers I know on Twitter tend to joke around about how we’re all going to end up on NSA watch lists because of our search histories. Well, I decided to delve into my own Google search history and use it as an example of the kinds of strange things we writers get up to, and how it might look to some government agent perusing my history while searching for terrorists.

I'm going to do us both a favor and not show you any of the search results from my more intimate personal activities (i.e. the porn I watch).
I’m going to do us both a favor and not show you any of the search results from my more intimate personal activities (i.e. the porn I watch).

You can access your personal Google search history if you have a Google account (I have one through my Gmail, and if you have a YouTube account that is also linked to Google). Just visit https://history.google.com/history/ and after entering your account ID and password, you’ll see a listing of all the search terms you’ve googled, going back who knows how far.

As you can see on the screenshot above, the history shows not only what search terms you used (“rowan health and wellness”), but also what site you ended up visiting (Student Health Services @ Rowan University). That means the NSA can tell not just what you’re looking for, but which sites you picked out from the list.

So let’s see what kind of trouble I’ve been getting into:

This already looks pretty bad, and I skipped over the more illicit stuff.
This already looks pretty bad, and I skipped over the more illicit stuff.

Irony, ponies, and stalkers. One might almost think that I’ve been stalking a girl who likes to ride horses and I’m planning a clandestine encounter out on the ranch. Either that or I was getting into etymological debates on Twitter.

I may be the only person in the world who will search for Schlock Mercenary, Galaxy Quest, and Mesopotamian and Sumerian language in the same day.
I may be the only person in the world who will search for Schlock Mercenary, Galaxy Quest, and Mesopotamian and Sumerian language in the same day.

Someone might wonder what I’m doing searching for the “Mesopotamian word for slave.” I can assure you, this isn’t some kinky fetish thing (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Actually, “Enkidu” ended up becoming the name of a new character in my current novel. The name basically means “Creation of the Deity of Crafts.” I found it fitting, considering my character Tock Zipporah is a golem-crafter.

Now things are getting a bit disturbing.
Now things are getting a bit disturbing.

And of course, in addition to researching ponies and Mesopotamian slave names, I did extensive research into decay rates of human bodies. As you can see, I spent quite a bit of time visiting multiple websites on this topic. It’s almost as if I’m planning to enslave someone and I want to know how long it’ll take the body to decay when I finish killing her. But that seems unlikely . . . maybe if we go a bit further back, there’ll be something in my search history that will shed some light on this and explain what I’ve really been up to.

I offer no explanation or apology for my search for a Russ troll with red hair wearing a Cubs jersey.
I offer no explanation or apology for my search for a Russ troll with red hair wearing a Cubs jersey.

Well, this certainly looks a bit more incriminating. Nuclear weapon yield, fallout radius, types of nuclear weapons. Either I’m part of a terrorist cell or I’m writing a novel where someone set off a nuke and I needed to research the death count of both the initial blast and the later radiation poisoning. Which might explain the research into human decomposition if I’m trying to find out how long the bodies of people that died of radiation poisoning would last out in the tropical heat before being reduced to bone and ash.

My Geek is showing.
My Geek is showing.

I have no explanation or excuse for this part. I’m just a Star Trek Geek.

Ignore the way the searches for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" are in juxtaposition to searches about book sex if you want to keep your sanity.
Ignore the way the searches for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” are in juxtaposition to searches about book sex if you want to keep your sanity.

Okay, this one looks like it would raise some eyebrows. “Books Having Sex”? “Slut shaming”? “Sex is evil”? Wow, either I’m a conservative Christian fundamentalist writing a sermon about the evils of sex in literature, or I was doing research for a recent blog post about sex and infidelity among the characters in romance novels. Either way, this could be seen as a bit disturbing.

I wonder what my mom would think if she saw this search history...
I wonder what my mom would think if she saw this search history…

And lastly, we have research into Mumbai, India, malnourishment, the Indian military, and ethnic cleansing and religious violence in India’s history. When you add this together with the research into nuclear weapons and body decomposition, I must seem like a deranged individual. But I can assure you, there’s a rational explanation for all of this.

All of these searches (well, most of them) make a lot of sense if you know anything about my current WIP. Most of it takes place in a fictional foreign land on a made-up planet. I’m modeling certain details of the culture after India because it matches the ethnic backgrounds of two of my characters, Vijay and Indra Pavari. Due to the onset of global disaster, the people in this country are suffering malnourishment and living in a state of anarchy. Because the disaster shut down the government and most law enforcement and other services, there’s no one to enforce order and people are getting desperate. This has led to ancient feuds between different religious groups being sparked again, leading to violence throughout the country. There was even a nuclear attack in a neighboring country because the violence and chaos has spread worldwide. People in some regions are dying and there’s not even anyone to clear the bodies out of the streets, leaving them to bake in the tropical sun.

During all of this, Indra is developing romantic feelings for a certain someone, but the attraction bears the burden of certain religious taboos about sexuality. Which has a lot to do with all my recent research into romance novels and topics related to love and sex. I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about developing a romance in a novel, expressing emotions in a realistic fashion, and dealing with negativity from people who don’t approve of your relationship.

See? I told you there was a rational explanation for all of this. Now, here’s hoping the NSA cancels the warrant.

Do you have any unusual things in your Google search history? Or should I be afraid to ask?

Reflections on my Interview with Alexander Pierce

As I mentioned earlier, tonight I had an online interview via Twitter with a friend of mine, Alexander Pierce. He was gracious enough to spend some time talking to me about his views on sports and sports culture.

Since the interview was logged on Twitter, you can read the conversation starting here and under the hashtag #HRSI.

Alexander and I chatted online in a casual back-and-forth of tweets, which was part of the purpose of the online format. My goal was to keep things casual and try to keep us on equal grounds as much as possible. Along those lines, I avoided having any direct list of pre-planned questions, and mostly tried to ask him for more information about the specific subjects he brought up. It was interesting to see that he made some comments that were similar to my earlier twitter poll on sports culture, and to the in-person interview I conducted last week. For example, the subjects of sports as religion, as local and national identity, and as a highly emotional activity all came up during this interview.

The interview started off, not surprisingly, with some ice-breaking by talking about sports. When I first asked Alexander how he was doing, it ended up being the first thing that came up in natural conversation.

Alexander_Interview_1The conversation quickly moved into a discussion about the specifics of hockey as a staple of Canadian culture. Alexander explained a few things about how and why hockey is such a popular sport for Canadians.

Alexander_Interview_2Alexander_Interview_3Alexander_Interview_4Alexander_Interview_5We also discussed a bit about how sports can be a way for families to bond. This is a subject that has come up frequently in my research, how families use sports as a way to relate to each other and as a way to have something to talk about. It was similar to what one of my in-person interviewees, Brian, said about sports bars. He explained that sports is something you can talk to anyone about without causing anger or offense (as opposed to taboo topics like politics and religion). It seems that a similar principle is in place when people talk to their family about sports.

Alexander_Interview_6Alexander_Interview_7Alexander_Interview_8One thing that came up during this interview that hadn’t been touched on much in the others is the dark side that can come from sports fanaticism, including parental pressure and sports-related violence.

Alexander_Interview_9Looking over everything we discussed, I see some interesting connections between these various points. The conversation moved from discussions of national identity, to family bonding, to aggression and competition. Which makes me question just how strong those connections are. Are aggression and competition such an integral part of our family and national identity? When considering everything from sibling rivalry to economic competition to long years of war against other countries, it certainly seems that the answer is “Yes.”

This also makes an interesting parallel to what I’ve learned about the relationship between sports culture and Native American culture. If sports culture is so deeply tied together with aggression, violence, and competition, it doesn’t seem surprising that it would lead to conflict with other cultures. A conflict that seems similar to the long history of conflict and aggression that has been directed at Native Americans for centuries.

These comparisons between different types of violence certainly opened my eyes to some ideas about the causes of these conflicts. A culture that is used to such violence (and even cheers it on) seems unlikely to be willing to engage in peaceful negotiations with someone they perceive as threatening their identity. And since sports fans associate their team name with their identity, they may therefore show aggressive behavior towards someone who threatens that identity by demanding the name be changed. Furthermore, the same competitive ideals may lead sports fans to a “win or lose” mindset that detracts from the possibility of compromise or collaboration on a mutually beneficial solution.

As for the interview itself, I definitely found Twitter to be an effective medium. It allowed for a casual conversation that was easy to transcribe. It left me with some questions about how this aggression may be affecting the people it’s directed against, beyond the emotional damage it can cause, as discussed in my interview with Reverend John Norwood.

Hopefully from here I’ll be able to tie some of these concepts in with the academic research I’m doing on the subject. For example, I’ve read several journal articles discussing the specific causes of sports fan aggression and the volatile behavior it can cause. I should be able to make some good connections between that research and the concepts that came up in this interview.

 

Pre-Online-Interview Prep, Sports Culture

I’ll be continuing with the posts about my Ethnographic Hockey field research soon, but in the mean time I’m also making preparations for some interviews in order to learn firsthand from some people on various sides of the ongoing debate about racist sports mascots. I’ll be conducting a total of four interviews over the course of the next month, with the hope of learning a lot about various views. You can already read about the in-person interview I conducted with an avid sports fan, and the telephone interview I conducted with a representative of the Nanticoke tribe in the Deleware Valley.

The next interview will be conducted online. The purpose of this post is to lay out some of the specifics of the upcoming interview. I’ll be discussing the purpose of the interview and the background behind it. Then, after the interview is complete, I’ll be writing a follow-up post talking about how it went compared to these expectations.

This online interview will be conducted via Twitter. I chose Twitter because it’s the online medium I am most active in, and I’ve had some success in the past getting good feedback from people on there. I also find it to be a very effective back-and-forth medium. Despite what people say about the 140 character limit, I find Twitter extremely useful for holding extended conversations. My goal with this interview is to hold a chat (perhaps an hour long) and let the conversation flow where it will. The book PostModern Interviewing suggests that such an active back-and-forth style of interviewing will help construct the communicative reality that myself and the interviewee are operating under, and the interviewee will be “a productive source of knowledge” (p. 74). What this basically means is that the interview itself will be “producing knowledge.”

My goal, therefore, essentially translates into not just a “question and answer” session where I’ll be trying to gain information from the interviewee. Instead, my hope is that our ongoing conversation will open new ideas in both of our minds, prompting us to consider topics we previously hadn’t thought of. I may also raise some of the points others mentioned in my previous interviews in order to ask the new interviewee’s perspective on them.

I’ll also be keeping the interview dialogue open to allow the interviewee to speak from various different points of view. Another important point in PostModern Interviewing is that the standpoint of the interviewee can shift, between, say, them speaking from their point of view as a sports fan, to speaking from their point of view as a male, to speaking from their point of view as an American, and so on. I want to keep the interview as open as possible to allow for the possibility that various different standpoints will come up, and I’ll make note of those when considering the responses.

As for the more concrete details: The first interview I’m conducting will be with Alexander Pierce. I’ve known Alexander on Twitter for some time, and he was eager to share his views when I first started discussing my research into sports. He is a self-professed sports fan who frequently tweets about his team affiliation and other related topics. When I went to Twitter asking for volunteers to discuss sports culture, he heartily volunteered.

The interview will be conducted over Twitter, and if you’d like to follow it, I plan to tweet under the hashtag #HRSI for “Hockey Research Sports Interview” so that the tweets will be easily searchable for later compilation. Also, using a hashtag is a good way to make sure the Twitter 140 character limit won’t be a real issue; any time we go over and need to continue on another tweet, it’ll simply show as a series of tweets on the hashtag. This should also make it easy to follow the interview by searching the hashtag and reading from the bottom up, making for a natural transcription process that will aid later review. I also plan to take screenshots of the tweets, since I will likely be directly quoting some of them later on (possibly using Storify as a medium).

In addition to “sports culture” as a general topic, I hope to discuss things like the controversy over Native American themed mascots, fan/team self-identification, and how sports is related to national and cultural identity (for example, Alexander’s team is the “Toronto Maple Leafs” and the maple leaf is also the symbol on the Canadian flag, so there is a possible connection there).

The interview will be conducted later tonight, April 1st, at around 9:00 PM (assuming Alexander doesn’t tell me it was just an April Fool’s joke!), and will take place entirely on Twitter. Follow me @CantrellJason or check the hashtag #HRSI to see it.

Interview Schedule

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m working on a series of interviews to learn more about the topics of sports culture and Native American culture. Some of these interviews will be conducted in person, and some will be online. I’ve also scheduled a guided tour with an expert in anthropology, and I have leads out for a second such guide (who I am waiting for a response from).

This post is a schedule of the interviews (most of which are already set dates, except for the one last one I’m awaiting a response from, and one that was delayed and needs to be rescheduled). There should be blog posts coming with each of these interviews, most likely either the same day or the day after the interview takes place.

In-Person Interviews:

1. My first in-person interview was conducted today, since the person I was interviewing was available right away. I was able to get the chance to speak with him before I had even heard back from several of my other leads. The person I interviewed was a man named George, who is a bartender at Chili’s in Cherry Hill, NJ, and also an avid sports fan. I’ve already posted my pre-interview thoughts, and the interview results should be posted by tomorrow. We met in-person at Chili’s during the afternoon and engaged in a fascinating and insightful discussion about the role sports play in people’s lives.

2. My second in-person interview is scheduled for this Thursday, March 27th, at 2:00 pm. I’ll be speaking with a man named Brian, who I was introduced to through a friend of mine. Brian is a major sports fan with a great deal of knowledge about sports history, statistics, and so on. We’ll be meeting in a Starbucks in Cherry Hill, NJ, a location chosen simply because it should be a quiet environment that will be conducive to a good conversation. Posts related to that interview should go up on Thursday.

Online Interviews

1. My first online interview will be with Alexander Pierce, a friend from Twitter. He volunteered to help due to his strong interest in sports. Due to both of our busy schedules this past weekend, we haven’t yet set a time for the interview, but a post will go live on the blog as soon as the date is set. The interview will be conducted on Twitter, so it will be viewable live to anyone interested in following along (or participating!).

2. My second online interview will be with Jacqueline Keeler, an online activist who has been working to spread awareness of several issues related to Native American struggles. She has her own blog on which she posts a variety of articles discussing recent news and explaining movements like the #NotYourMascot Twitter hashtag. She can also be seen regularly tweeting on the #NotYourTigerLily hashtag, which is in protest of the upcoming Peter Pan movie remake that cast Non-Native actress Rooney Mara in the role of the character Tiger Lily. This has drawn recent debate based both on the exclusion of Native American actors and actresses from the production and on the stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans seen in many films, such as the original Disney version of Peter Pan. I’ll be discussing these issues with Ms. Keeler  in order to learn about her unique voice and perspective (date and time still being decided upon).

Guides

1. This Wednesday, March 26th, I have an appointment with Maria Rosado, Professor of Anthropology at Rowan University. I contacted her regarding the Rowan University Museum of Anthropology, which I took interest in following my previous experiences at the Penn Museum’s Native American Voices exhibit. My experiences at the museum were interesting, but I was lacking in an expert guide to explain what I was seeing in more detail. Professor Rosado has agreed to give me a tour of Rowan’s museum and explain the significance of the artifacts they have on display. My hope is that learning to see these cultural artifacts “through an expert’s eyes” will give me a better perspective on the issues I’m researching. A blog post regarding my experiences should go up Wednesday night.

2. I also have contacts out with other experts in the field of cultural anthropology, and will be scheduling another guided experience as soon as I hear back with final confirmation from them.

Telephone

Finally, I have a telephone interview scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, March 25th, with Reverend John Norwood of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribe, headquartered in Bridgeton, NJ. In my discussions with him, I hope to gain some insight into the tribe’s perspectives and learn how these issues have impacted them. A blog post regarding the telephone interview should go up on Tuesday.

That should cover it. I may post an update later if I get responses from some of the others I contacted regarding interviews, though I’m uncertain at this time if there will be any more than those listed here.