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In the past week or so I've read lots of posts at my usual lit sites and blogs that have informed me on all sorts of rumors and bits of news (always welcome on the literary front) and yet also have delved deep into a lot of areas that while certainly worthy of a blog post or two seem to have developed into multiple posts, tons of comments and a lot of time suckage.Are short stories dead (or at least dull?) Is Middle Grade a viable category of children's fiction? Can Alice Sebold write anymore? Is Raymond Carver's widow evil? And what to do with Jessica Seinfeld and Oprah and that darn book?

I read some of this stuff (who could read all of it?) and then in the middle of it I started seeing posts at Reuters and CNN and MSNBC not only for the California wild fires but also from our dear Vice President saying that Iran was an obstacle to peace.

Let's all pause for a moment and wrap our heads around that one - Mr. Cheney referred to someplace else - to someone else - as an obstacle to peace. The irony that such words should come from him makes my head want to spin clear off. I'm not trying to start a political argument here (perish the thought) but to read yet again speeches that are clearly saber rattling - that are meant to terrify and intimidate and come on the heels of our President suggesting the possibility of World War III - well it has made me wonder just what the heck we are all doing here.

What am I doing with my time and this space?

I'm not sure if I get to call this an existential crisis (don't even suggest referring to it as a mid-life crisis), but I did stop and think. Of course the impressive Robert's Snow multi-blogging effort organized by Jules has helped alleviate a lot of this personal angst, but still. I don't want to waste my time or anyone else's. I want to accomplish something.

Truth be told, I've always wanted to change the world.

It's crazy a bit, I know, to think so deeply about the motivations of politicians but spend any time studying history and you just go nuts over the things that our elected officials say. And it does bother me; it bothers me a lot. But I'm not a political writer or columnist, and I know that what I don't know is vast - that I'm just sitting here in the cheap seats making comments but I'm not doing the heavy lifting of getting the facts and figures on every single aspect of international relations and current conflicts in the MIddle East and Central Asia. I'm just somebody trying to understand and trying to find a place for myself in this world I'm living in.

It's so totally NOT a mid life crisis.

The short answer to all of this is that in two weeks the same group that brought the blogosphere wonder that was the Summer Blog Blast Tour will be back for more author interviews with the Winter Blog Blast Tour. It might seem like an odd leap to make: politics to literature, but this is the one place where I can do something; the one way that I can change things just a little bit. I can help some great writers be heard by others; I can help to share some good books with people who don't know they are out there; I can try to sway the national conversation away from destruction to a place of creativity and wonder.

I can make us all care about something that is not war for just a little while.

It's just some author interviews, I know. Just some conversations between people who love books and those who write them. It won't be controversial or intense; it won't seek to solve those lingering questions of genre or age group. But that's not why we all are taking part in it - that's not why so many of us have sat down with authors like Jane Yolen and David Mack and Shannon Hale and Rick Riordan (and on and and on and on). We just want to do something good.

And maybe that's the answer. What I can do everyday is something good.

comments

Thoughtful, pertinent ideas. No, this isn't some midlife thing here either, but lately the landscape of the world has changed and there IS some serious threat-counterthreat going on, and I wonder if what I do with my life is meaningful. The answers I've found have changed my choices, changed what I want to write, changed the way I'm handling money... (btw, have you seen this?)... thanks for being thoughtful and courageous enough to open a dialogue on serious things.

As TadMack said, thanks for opening up a dialog, and making people think. In fact, I started to write a lengthy comment about my thoughts on this, but it became so lengthy that I decided to turn it into a post, which I'll have up sometime today. Thanks!!

PS. I'm in with my thoughts. Thanks for the inspiration.

Micro lending is such a good idea TadMack - it's part of why we are fans of Heifer International around here; you are helping someone help themselves.

I know it is all small steps (in a lot of ways) that can change the world. But I guess the area that I am good at (reading and writing) sometimes seems like the place that needs the least help (we all can't be Samantha Power or David Halberstam but we can read their work). I wish I could get books to every kid in the US that needed them; I wish I could get good teachers to every school; I wish I could rebuild the blasted schools so they didn't look like crap; I wish I wish I wish.

But small steps of positivity are still positive. And Loree Burns did write a great book ("Tracking Trash") and I am interviewing her and hopefully that will mean more people will read her book. It's a first step I know.

Now off to read Jen's post!

And thanks, Colleen, for helping us take our own small steps by organizing things like the WBBT. I'm frequently overwhelmed by the idea that there's absolutely nothing I can do about the state of the world, the state of this country, without extreme self-sacrifice, without completely changing my life from top to bottom or somehow going back in time to make myself a different person. But even doing little things, knowing that I'm with a great group of like-minded people who also want to do their part--that really helps me.

Colleen:

Call me an old hippie, but I actually think books and reading have the potential to change an individual's world. Here's the thing: readers (sometimes) learn to see the world or a situation from another point of view. We experience that world--feel it, taste it, smell it--when we read a book. We crawl into the mind of the protagonist, like him or no. When we watch a tv show or a movie, we don't experience fully another view point. We're merely voyeurs.

So, bringing attention to books and writers can never be a bad thing, in my opinion. What you do IS important.

I will add to the conversation, however, that I also think that Americans don't think enough about the war or about poverty or about racism as much as they should, but that's another issue altogether.

I agree wholeheartedly with you about books Kelly - I'm just wondering if maybe we need to be looking at other books (and I don't mean beyond kid lit but in terms of subject matter) then we do already. I'm not sure what I mean completely and maybe that's why I just dumped it all out here. I'm still working on this, but I appreciate your thoughts and your kind words.

And aquafortis the group does help alot - it makes me feel less like I'm out here alone with these thoughts and questions and at least that I have good friends who will help me when the times get tough (or bumpy or just plain mid-life crazy!).

We all feel this way from time to time. I know a lot of writers who couldn't work for a couple of years after 9/11, because it felt irrelevant.

But art is relevant. It's important. It's part of what makes everything else worth fighting tooth and nail for. By supporting that, we reject the concept that it isn't important and that it can't help change the world.

We all do what we can.

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