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Pay it Forward

11/21/2012

A guest post from fellow Newfoundland author, Charles O’Keefe. Enjoy! -Scott

Note: Thanks to Scott Bartlett for posting this and for helping me promote my book, also please check the end for a prize! :)

If you’ve seen the movie, or read the book, you’ll know what the title means right away (and a hint at my anecdote) but the meaning will become clear regardless. In September I did a book signing (in fact two in the one day) the first at a local Chapters and the other at a Coles in a mall. The first one went fairly well, I sold 3 copies and I went on to the next. The second book signing also was going good, a Twitter follower introduced himself and we had a nice chat about the internet, Twitter and writing in general. It was the first time a Twitter follower had come up to me in person and I was feeling good. Four more copies sold and I had about ten minutes left, I had done some writing, a little reading and played some video games on my iPad.

Before my time was up I noticed a young woman who had been sitting close to the book store entrance, near the escalator. She had been there a good hour or more and did some reading, played with her phone and occasionally looked at me and smiled. I’m a friendly guy so I smiled back and didn’t think much else of it. Then just before I left she came up to me and said, “I noticed you’re selling your book. I’m sorry I don’t have any money on me but I wanted to wish you luck and I wrote this note for you.” I said “Well thank you.” She smiled, waved and left and I was left with the note. I kept it and will share it with you now it said, “Every writer starts off with one word, one phrase, one book. Then builds their success on passion and love for their stories and imagination. Don’t be discouraged at what people say if negative. Write for yourself.”

It touched my heart and I smiled broadly, I wanted to thank her but she was gone. Instead what I can do is pass this note along to anyone who reads this blog and hope that maybe somehow she’ll see it. Simple words of encouragement from a stranger meant more to me than her money, someone who would be nice expecting nothing in return and only wanting to help is worthy of praise. It is comments like that make me want to continue to write, to see the benefit of it. Not everyone (besides my friends, family and wife of course) is apathetic; there are good people out there who care. Maybe she got it from a book or the internet but it doesn’t matter, it’s the thought that counts and it’s one I very much appreciated. I can’t repay her but I’ll pay it forward, I hope another reads this and takes heart. Writing is a worthwhile activity that a chosen few (or many if we’re lucky) enjoy and appreciate, I encourage others and I hope you’ll do the same.

The Prize: You’ve made it this far so here’s your reward. Today (November 21st, 2012) my book “The Newfoundland Vampire” is free on Amazon Kindle. I hope you’ll check it out and if you do read it, I’d love a review. Feel free to get in contact  with me through here. Thanks and have a great day/afternoon/evening!

FIPA: Ignoring long-term in favour of short-term, again‏

10/26/2012

This is a letter to the editor I wrote to a local newspaper, The Telegram.

Anyone who’s been keeping an eye on what Prime Minister Harper has been up to in Ottawa since receiving his majority may have had this realization: he needs to be monitored closely.

The most recent demonstration of this is his intent to pass FIPA, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement, without input from Canadian stakeholders, and without a vote or debate in Parliament.

The FIPA will allow giant Chinese corporations to spend billions buying out Canada’s natural resource companies, and will also allow them to sue Canadian governments at all levels should they do anything that limits the companies’ profits. These legal actions would occur in secret tribunals, outside the Canadian juidicial system.

If passed, the FIPA will be binding for 31 years, and will affect individual Canadians in several ways. For instance, Canadian taxpayers would ultimately be responsible for any damages won by Chinese corporations via the secret litigations. Job creation would also be at risk, since the corporations could challenge Canadian laws that promote it, as well as laws that protect our environment.

The FIPA is set to pass automatically on October 31st. This is not the way to avoid recession.

Scott Bartlett
Paradise

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How Can I Be a Writer When I Have No One to Prove Wrong?

10/22/2012

My formative years as a writer were woefully deficient, and I have no one to blame except everyone I’ve ever met.

John Gurdon, developmental biologist and recent Nobel Prize winner, received feedback on his high school report card indicating that for Gurdon to attempt to become a scientist “would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part and of those who have to teach him.”

In 1895, Albert Einstein’s teacher said of him to Einstein’s father that “It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.”

Me, wondering why no one has tried to crush my ambitions yet

And after one of Elvis Presley’s early performances–before he was famous–the manager of the venue told him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

These three rose to the top of their respective fields, clearly driven by the need to prove wrong those that forecast their failure.

But have I enjoyed similar messages of denouncement to propel me to greater heights?

No! I most certainly have not. Way to drop the ball, friends and family.

Friends have been encouraging, often taking an interest in my writing. My family has as well, recommending only that I have a backup plan (advice I’ve roundly rejected–HA!). The worst anyone’s ever said to me is that perhaps writing would make a good hobby while I pursue a more stable career, in case becoming a professional writer doesn’t happen as quickly as I’d like.

When, years ago, I uploaded my second novel (Royal Flush) to HarperCollins’ Authonomy.com, to compete for votes with thousands of other books, nobody called me an overeager upstart who’d be washed up before he even made anything of himself. Instead they voted for me, and they told their friends to vote for me, and before I knew it I had all these supportive God damn strangers trying their best to help me realize my dreams of being a successful novelist.

My book rose to the 18th frigging spot, and to top it all off, I’d promised to mention anyone who voted for me in the Acknowledgements, should the book ever be published. I self-published it last year, of course, and almost half the thing is names. (Hyperbole.)

And what about when it came time to have a book launch? Was I permitted the opportunity, so important for a writer’s development, to sit on the side of the stage in an empty bar, head in hands, crying big wet writer tears? Not a chance! They packed the place. Here’s the lousy Facebook event I created for it.

I even made it an ‘open source’ book launch, meaning anyone could contribute to or modify the event. So they basically had to put on the launch themselves, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t promote it, perform on stage, decorate, and fill a table full of delicious food. Jesus Christ! Don’t they know artists are supposed to suffer?

Oh, and listen to this one. Last April I competed in the Rio+20 Big Blog Off, held by UNEP and Treehugger.com, to fly to Rio de Janeiro and blog at World Environment Day. The winner was decided via a month-long voting slog, and by now you can probably guess what happened next. The legion of do-gooders took to Twitter and Facebook, sharing the shit out of the blog posts I’d entered into the competition, and rounding up over 3,000 votes to win it and send me to Brazil for a week of blogging, networking, and witnessing historic events.

Get a load of this.

This time provincial and national media got involved, so of course I had to sober up, turn off Leonard Cohen, and emerge from my murky writer den, blinking in the sunlight, to give interviews and other such nonsense.

So thanks again, everyone. My autobiography is going to suck.

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Why I Take Only Cold Showers

10/11/2012

Taking cold showers has become central to my environmentalism.

You might immediately assume this is an effort to avoid reproduction out of concern for overpopulation. But no. It has nothing to do with suppressing my libido.

Intrigued? Read on. Disappointed?

Damn.

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed a recurring theme: acting in ways that benefit the environment also benefits you. The two aren’t mutually exclusive–on the contrary, green lifestyle changes almost always result in being happier, healthier, and wealthier.

So how do cold showers factor into that?

Image credit: ed.ac.uk

For starters, cold showers are better for you than warm showers. Exposing yourself to cold water for brief periods is an example of hormesis, or ‘good stress’. According to the US National Library of Medicine, “low doses of otherwise harmful agents are beneficial at threshold low levels…[activating] multiple conserved protective enzymatic and signaling systems.” In other words, studies indicate that low-level environmental stresses can result in a strengthened immune system, upregulation of mechanisms that repair DNA and proteins, and augmented antioxidant defenses.

This is how vaccines work. The injection contains a weakened version of a pathogen, which gives the immune system the ‘practice’ it would need to defend itself against the real deal. It’s also part of why doctors recommend a daily glass of red wine.

Research also suggests that cold showers may improve circulation, relieve depression, maintain skin and hair health, and also increase testosterone and fertility in males. Hmm, maybe this is about libido!

As for the environmental benefits, these should be obvious. You’re less likely to linger in a cold shower, so you’ll conserve water. Also, cold showers use less energy, since heating the water for a hot shower requires a lot more electricity. Needless to say, cold showers will save you money on your energy bill as well.

Image credit: photoree user Oncle Tom

Showering in cold water evidently has its benefits. But at the beginning of this post, I said it’s central to my environmentalism. I’ll explain:

I’ve been taking cold showers exclusively since July, and they’ve come to represent my commitment to both maintaining my health and fighting for the environment.

If I can endure regular cold showers, then I can make myself eat healthy and exercise regularly (which have their own indirect environmental benefits). It’s a rather visceral reminder that I care about my body and want to do things that improve it.

Cold showers also reinforce my convictions surrounding environmental issues. They help me remember that for billions of people, hot showers are a luxury available only to the rich. Hot showers are a product of the industrial age, which is in danger of ending abruptly if we don’t address the enormous problems that face us quickly and decisively.

Let me reiterate: the collapse of global civilization during this century is a very real possibility if we don’t get our shit together.

On that note, I think this also makes a great metaphor for what we need to do as a society. Cold showers are traditionally recommended as a treatment for an overactive libido. And I certainly believe that as a civilization, we need to quell our lust for resources, profit, and unlimited expansion. Because we have reached this planet’s limits.

And there’s nowhere else to expand.

Now how about a laugh? Click here to read the short story that made fun of a contest and won.

I’m A Full-Time Writer Again! (And I’m Taking the Blog in a New Direction.)

10/04/2012

I’m once again taking (at least) a year off to focus on writing full-time. I’ve been saving money to do so for almost a year, and I plan to apply for another NLAC grant in the spring.

A lot of my newfound time will be devoted to promoting Royal Flush, and also self-publishing a new book next summer or fall. As well, I’m in the late stages of editing my third novel, Taking Stock, which I plan to start submitting to literary agents in January. Lastly, I have three short stories I’m going to submit to literary journals.

It’s a long shot, but just maybe I’ll be able to generate enough income to go on writing full-time indefinitely.

I’m pretty frugal, which makes that possibility a little more possible.

As for the blog, I plan to write a post a week, though I may stray from that schedule from time to time. More importantly, I plan for the posts themselves to be less formal. Up till this point, I’ve been trying to write fairly well-researched short essays, and while that’s certainly worked out for me (see: opportunity to blog for the United Nations Environment Programme at World Environment Day in Rio), I believe I may be able to reach more people if I make the posts  less academic, and inject them with more of my personality. This isn’t to say I have this scintillating personality–I do, incidentally–I simply think subjectivity is a blogging strength I haven’t fully been taking advantage of.

On that note, stay tuned for next week’s blog post, in which I’ll explain why taking cold showers is central to my environmentalism.

(Feel free to unsubscribe now, lol.)

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Newfoundland’s Climate Change Campaign: Not About the Politics

09/23/2012

Photo credit: CBC’s Here and Now

On Monday, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador unveiled a new public awareness campaign on climate change called Turn Back the Tide. The launch took place at the Geo Centre. If you haven’t already guessed from the photo, I helped launch the campaign–I presented the new Carbon Calculator, which is tailored specifically to people living in this province.

Climate change is an especially divisive issue, and since Monday the campaign has met with both accolade and criticism. (I haven’t encountered any climate change denial, though, which is a relief.) Obviously I’m pretty firmly behind Turn Back the Tide, so here I’ll respond to the criticism that’s been levelled against it.

I’ll largely position this post as a response to Peter Jackson’s opinion piece in The Telegram, “Keeping it simple–and stupid“, since it outlines most of the counterarguments I’ve come across since Monday.

This Is About Justifying Muskrat Falls

I’m not going to speak directly to the debate over Muskrat Falls–because I think the question of whether this campaign has anything to do with it misses the point.

The fact is, for a government to directly acknowledge climate change is rare and invaluable. Yes, Muskrat Falls appears in the campaign videos–but isn’t it an instantly recognizeable example of renewable energy in our province?

At any rate, I was proud to help launch Turn Back the Tide, no matter what prompted it. The need for action on climate change, especially from governments, is amply clear, and it’s a relief to see our provincial government stepping up.

And this isn’t our first effort in the battle against climate change. Earlier this year, data from Environment Canada made clear the Newfoundland and Labrador government exceeded its goal of reducing emissions to below 1990 levels. We also have clear reduction targets for 2020 and 2050.

Is this good for Newfoundland? Well, other than contributing to the effort to preserve a stable global climate, climate change and energy efficiency initiatives promote economic growth. That’s a link to the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industry Association’s website, but others agree–including the United Nations, and also, reality.

The Messaging Is Too Simplistic

Jackson suggests in his article that the campaign’s messaging is too simplistic. But I think he’s evaluating it from the perspective of someone who is very knowledgable about climate change. He says the climate information being presented by the actors in the videos makes it seem like “they barely follow the news”.

But the truth is that a lot of people don’t know much about climate change. Or, what they have heard is conflicting–it’s a controversial subject, and simply following the news doesn’t necessarily mean you accept that it’s being caused by humans, or that we need to act immediately.

It takes time to gain a full appreciation f0r this issue’s urgency–and the Turn Back the Tide TV ads/online videos aren’t meant as a comprehensive introduction to climate change. They’re focused on getting viewers to the campaign’s website, where users are invited to get as involved as they’d like to, or have time to. They can just skim around a bit, and learn a few things, or they can calculate their carbon footprint, use the Interactive house tool to learn ways to reduce energy use in the home, and click the provided links to get further involved.

That’s how campaigns for any type of activism are best constructed in the digital age. In this interview, fiction writer and technology activist Cory Doctorow says “the secret is you have to be able to build a group united around doing something, that has a spectrum of activities, and a spectrum of engagement levels–that starts with something small but meaningful, a one-click engagement, and goes up to making it your whole life, and allows you to easily move up and down levels of engagement.” People are busier than they’ve ever been, and the amount of time available to contribute varies from person to person.

Photo credit: John Kerstholt

Individual Action Isn’t Enough

Here I’ll diverge from my rebuttal of Jackon’s article, though I will mention that he calls the suggestions given in the videos (like minding the thermostat and limiting driving time) “common sense tips”. While that may be true, they often aren’t observed, and repetition is a good way to tackle that.

In any case, this point, which I’ve encountered on Twitter and listening to VOCM’s Open Line, is valid–individual action isn’t enough to reverse global warming. Corporations and governments are responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions.

But that doesn’t mean we should call off all public awareness campaigns. On the contrary–they’re more important than ever.

We need individuals in the public to rally together and pressure governments to put in a concerted effort–because governments the world over have so far disappointed in their lack of climate action (see Rio+20, and the various climate change conferences). We also need the individuals that make up corporations and governments to work from within these institutions to bring about the sustainable changes the world so desperately needs. TurnBackTheTide.ca offers ample materials for businesses.

But to convince individuals to take action, we actually need to invest time convincing them to take action.

The Government Is Trying to Scapegoat the Public

Not much needs to be said here, I think–this point is refuted fairly easily by pointing out that everywhere in the messaging for this campaign, the words ‘we’ and ‘us’ are used. Nowhere does the campaign point the finger at the public and say “You screwed up; you need to change.”

Like I alluded to above, this is a campaign that calls for individuals to act together, and acknowledges that individuals make up our province–in both the private and public sectors.

Royal Flush Blog Tour Week #4

09/04/2012

This concludes the Royal Flush blog tour. A big thanks to all the participating blogs, and also to their readers, who read, commented, and shared the posts. I had a great time, and it certainly helped get the word out about my book!

My next big promotional effort will involve recording the first part of the book as an audiobook and giving it away for free. So stay tuned for that!

As always, buy my book!

And without further ado, here is the final line-up. I think this blend of awesome stops was a fantastic way to end the tour.

A review by Brett Minor, who initially told me he wasn’t enjoying the book. I told him to write the review anyway, and he kept reading, and ended up loving it! Hello happy ending.

http://transformednonconformist.blogspot.ca/2012/08/my-1st-book-review-royal-flush.html

An interview covering a wide range of topics, including how the main character, the King, would fare in a triathlon.

http://www.tri-ingtobeathletic.com/2012/08/q-with-royal-flush-author-scott-bartlett.html

A guest post in which I attempt to settle the question of whether there’s a formula for novel-writing.

http://thewritepractice.com/the-formula-to-write-a-novel/

A guest post detailing 5 important lessons I learned from writing 3 novels (particularly proud of this one).

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/09/01/5-lessons-writing-novels/

A NSFW illustrated excerpt from Royal Flush, in which the King is forced to dress in drag!

http://www.shamefulpromotions.com/2012/09/royal-flush.html

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