After focusing on writing fiction during the past three years, I have a decision to make.

I’m a bit upset with the fiction writing experiment because teachers failed to show and tea cupto tell me how to “pitch.” I’m not talking baseball. I’m talking about how to sell a book once you have invested blood, sweat and tears creating and giving birth to the wonderful fictional art that a writer creates.

I become downright discouraged when I read about the success of other fiction writers, including Danielle Steel, who reportedly has sold more than 650 million copies of her books, including her latest novel, “Magic.” Heck, I would consider it magical if I were to sell a couple of dozen copies.

This summer I attempted to peddle books through e-mail and Facebook promotions and by attending a couple of fairs where I sat behind a table displaying copies of my books for hours while mostly twiddling my thumbs. I did, however, meet some fabulous people who are writers and who patiently “pitch” the books they write for sale.

As I debated whether to abandon writing books for publication, I received a newsletter written by a writer I greatly admire, someone I consider a successful non-fiction author. Continue reading WRITING FICTION SOJOURN MAY NOT BE MY CUP OF TEA


OuthouseWe should model our educational system based on my fifth-grade experience if we expect our children to be prepared for a future that challenges as well as rewards those who follow in our footsteps.

A warning: We won’t need many administrators nor support staff. And parents should not expect schools to coddle their kids.

First, we mix students in various grade levels and expect the “big kids” to help teach the “little kids.” Worked for me. In the one-room school that I attended the teacher had a lot to do keeping track of lesson plans, grading papers and other “stuff.” So all 12 students pitched in, even the school bully.

I remember helping the younger kids learn how to read, to write and to spell. I spent much of my class time listening to the seventh and eighth graders while they discussed math, history and science. Once in awhile I would volunteer to answer a question.

First-graders as well as eighth-graders learned how to chop wood for the school stove, to wash the windows and to sweep the floor before going home at night.

And I learned that you pick the best athlete to pitch during a competitive softball game even if she is “only a girl” and that first-graders play in the outfield. Continue reading SCHOOL REFORM BASED ON MY 5TH GRADE EXPERIENCE


Our number was two longs and a short.

The phone not only rang in our farm home but in every home in the community when someone turned the handle. If too many people took down the receiver and eaves-PHONE Walldropped, the signal grew too weak to hear. This, of course, led the ringer or ringee to request that some folks hang up so the communication could be completed.

The wall phone was powered by a battery that fit in the box, and as I recall the battery could not be re-charged. So, we limited calls because batteries were expensive.

That would change years later when electricity arrived in our farm community in the Ozark Hills of southwestern Missouri.

I thought about how the telephone system has grown in this country while reading C.J. Box’s latest work of fiction, “Off the Grid,” in which all electrical communications, including phone calls, e-mails, texts and social media posts — are collected and are available for governmental scrutiny. This issue is not as fictional as we might wish given the growing public interest in identifying potential terrorists in this country and around the world.

Meanwhile, I watched an educational program on PBS and noticed that elementary students were looking at hand-held instruments rather than books. This led me to wonder how I would handle teaching a university class in which students were focused on social media gadgets while I attempted to lecture?

Then I realized that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was behind the times when he suggested that a college education be made free. It already is headed in that Continue reading TWO LONGS AND A SHORT KEPT US ON OUR TOES


This week I read an encouraging report about a topic dear to my heart as a journalist: a weekly newspaper that has served a remote area in north-central Washington state for more than a century.

181a130In his column, “No Bad Days,” Don Nelson wrote about the challenges and the joys of publishing the Methow Valley News during the past five years that he has been the editor, publisher, reporter, photographer, janitor, etc.

I suspect he chose that column name with tongue in cheek because anyone who has been associated with a weekly newspaper knows that keeping the business financially afloat has become more challenging with the emergence of social media.

Donald Ray Nelson was a graduate student in the press law class that I taught during the 1972 spring term at the University of Oregon. He posted the top grade in a class of 150 students while completing course work for a Master of Arts degree.

We later worked together on the news side at the daily newspaper in Eugene before he departed Continue reading ‘NO BAD DAYS’ IN WEEKLY PUBLICATION OF THE NEWS