“Change Rising” cover revealed

CHANGE RISING PROOF 3 (1) copy

This novel picks up nearly a year after the events of A 38 Day Education.  The story, inspired by events which happened in my days as Editor of campus newspaper, features politics, betrayal, suspense, romance, a little steam, and wall-to-wall intrigue as Jay Ferragamo and the staff of The Scope work to cover the most explosive story hit South Central College in years.  Stay tuned for updates on this novel.

Change Rising will be released by Sarah Book Publishing and is the second novel of the Scope series.  The first work, A 38 Day Educationis available from Solstice Publishing on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.

AJC’s Maureen Downey gets it wrong on campus Greek life

In Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, columnist Maureen Downey discussed the situation involving fraternity sex assault, hazing, and binge drinking scandals plaguing some colleges across the nation.  In this particular piece, the headline asks a simple question “Is it time to end Greek life on campus?”

Those who know me from back in my college days covering Greek shenanigans for my campus newspaper may be shocked to read this, but my answer is “no.”

Downey cites an article in Rolling Stone magazine about issues affecting Greek student life on American campus, and then a New York Times piece about frat members being more likely to commit rape.  Towards the end of the piece, Downey tilted a bit towards the defensive in her closing tone.

“Whenever I write about Greek life, irate posters insist they never saw rapes or binge drinking in their frats so these reports can’t be true and must be exaggerated.”

Before I go into my two cents on this matter, a little bit of disclosure:  while a student at Georgia Southwestern State University in the mid-1990s, I witnessed my fair share of binge drinking and debauchery at frat parties.  As a writer and, later, Editor for our campus newspaper, I was involved in covering and, later, giving the nod to running some not-so-flattering stories about the shenanigans involving two fraternities – naming the frats is unnecessary, it was two decades ago – did little to help my opinion of the Greek campus scene during that period of my life.  As a result, I was branded by many brothers as “anti-Greek.”

Despite that, I believe that Greek organizations serve a purpose, and we have to look at the root of the fraternity culture to see if there is any hope  of correcting it.  From everything read about these incidents, the culture fostering these situations appear to stem from traditions espoused by the local chapter, often enabled by a wink and a nod from the national governing body.   Both fraternities and their sorority partners have earned a reputation for drinking, drugs, sexual promiscuity and other less-than-flattering behavior.

A negative image that sticks around this long take decades to take root, and these students did themselves no favors with their own misguided behavior.  Campus Greek organizations, for better or worse, tend to often behave the way they do because of family legacies, benefactor connections, and a “good ol’ boy” culture.  In short, their campus chapters believe they are above the law.

Nevertheless, they also have existed for decades for a basic reason.  They offer a valuable product for prospective members; a feeling of family and belonging, the opportunity to learn leadership skills, the ability to serve their communities and learn about the hardships of others through charitable endeavors and, perhaps most important of all, establish a support system of contacts which can serve members well down the road in terms of career and life prospects.

Yes, there are bad apples in every bunch and, in the end, some organizations need to take a very long look in their respective mirrors, but to paint all fraternities as rapists, drunks, and entitled party animals misses the greater problem – a distinct lack of oversight at the campus, state and national level.  Even more so, it points to the quality of the family units from which these young men come, and the level of accountability they are held to.

Obama’s immigration speech an opportunity lost to arrogance

President Barack Obama’s Thursday night address to the nation on immigration, and his plan to initiate reform through executive action, set off a firestorm around the nation. Conservatives are crying foul, claiming the President has overstepped his authority and passed a point of no return. There is already cries from the far right to sue the President, commence impeachment hearings, and shut down the government in retaliation. Democrats, however, applauded the move, saying the President finally decided to “go big” on some sort of action after sputtering for months and appearing asleep at the switch

Click here to read more.

The employment picture: why writers and decision makers should be willing to look between the lines

Recent employment numbers show a decline in unemployment but, while numbers don’t lie, they often don’t tell the entire story.  Employers continue to be reluctant to hire, especially those who have been unemployed for more than a year.  This has created a whole new economic market, the “gig economy,” in which those who are unemployed either contract their services on a temporary basis, or go into business for themselves.

Strange as it may seem, this may be a good thing, especially for writers.

When we contrast individuals against corporations, some startling fundamentals emerge.  Among these is the basic element of decision making ability; in a corporation, responsibilities and decision-making authority is often broken up into pieces.  Intended to ensure optimal quality and accountability of those choices, this also has the unintended consequence of creating a “Bubble Culture” in which decision makers tend to be unable to make choices beyond the limits of their office.  Their scope of responsibility also limits the necessary breadth of perspective and, consequently, creates a mentality which unintentionally restricts their to infer into the real ability of a candidate.

Basic translation:  when a manager lives in a bubble, they can’t see potentially great candidates because outside of that particular worldview and inability to look beneath the surface and read between the lines.

Individuals, on the other hand, are able to be more nimble in who they hire or, more importantly, which jobs they choose to undertake.  Writers, in particular, are able to choose a wide array of jobs and contracts offered while a firm specializing in public relations or technical writing can’t cross-function effectively due to the business culture.  The problem here lies in that writer often being pigeonholed for not having an organizational-based position, but more often than not having the skills and drive to be able to provide valuable service to a company which chooses to take a chance.

When an employer is large and bureaucratic, this sort of mentality is even more entrenched.  Many of the world’s largest employers are so compartmentalized that divisions and offices rarely talk to each other, and this only fosters the “Bubble Culture” of corporate cubicles in which decision makers are so constricted to employment requirements so specific to a job, otherwise outstanding candidates are frequently cast aside for missing what is considered a “key” piece of the puzzle.

In other words, candidates must be “near perfect” to get a shot, and it is often the most imperfect candidates who make the best-qualified employees.

Where this becomes an issue is in the quality of the candidate themselves.  Even though younger or more educated candidates are considered desirable in many workplaces due to the perception of being “untarnished” by poor choices or experience, it is those who are “perfect” who often find it difficult to deal with setback, while an applicant who has been knocked down and beat up show the sort of resiliency necessary to excel in today’s rugged economy.  This is especially true of writers.

Long story short, the “gig economy” is not as bad a thing as everything sees it, but it also requires writers and decision makers to open their eyes to the possibility of what could be, rather than the default line of “that’s what it is.”

Some holiday cynicism and hope in one convenient two pack!

candy-canes

I found out, at the time of this post, I have been blogging on WordPress for a year!  Amazing, and I thank you all for your support over this past year!

This is the second year I will be in Georgia for the holiday season and, admittedly, it is difficult.   The pain of being away from my parents, my siblings and family friends who we spent fifteen years of holidays prior is not going to go away overnight.  If anything, the fond memories we hold made this relocation to Georgia all the more difficult.  Still, there is the potential for some magic this Christmas season.

I’m not going to digress into some sappy diatribe about how wonderful the holidays are and how we are all better people during this time of year because, honestly, we aren’t.  There’s plenty of inhumanity and violence to belie the whole “peace on earth” mantra which has been stuffed down the world’s throat for millennia.  Nope, no “Miracle on 34th Street” silliness from me.

Here’s the funny part – as much as the cynicism coursing through my veins is nearly acidic this time of year, I still feel as though humanity has hope.

There are people out there who genuinely wish to help the world.  Yes, there are those who truly wish to make things better and try to improve others lots in life.  At the end of the day, there are so many who need help, and it just seem like there are so few who really care.  A rock into the pond, as it is said so often, creates the ripple and, with those ripples, comes a potential for something amazing to happen.

There are those who are volunteering their time to help the needy.  Others are ringing bells to raise money for charity, and others are ringing phones to get people involved.  Toy and food drives, fundraisers for homeless shelters, and church clothing closets and food pantries brim with assistance this time of year.  A cynic would like at it and say “it’s not enough to do it during a certain time of year,” but maybe, just maybe, we need to consider the time of year the holidays are in.

This is when the world is, quite literally, cold.  When Mother Nature takes a siesta and Old Man Winter arrives on his Ice Machine to chill things out.  During these times, we are more likely to be grouchy, sick and tired because we are working overtime to make everyone happy.  We rarely take time to step back, look around, and see what we really have.  So many of us fail to understand what it is the holidays are all about.

Holidays are about one thing, especially during the Winter – bringing warmth on some of the coldest nights.  Reassuring those in need, tending to those who are homeless and hungry and grateful for a clean, dry pair of socks the way a vapid teenager is grateful for a new cellphone.  As difficult as it may be to believe, the holidays are no accident.  They occur when we need them the absolute most, the time when we are cold, tired and feeling as though we can’t go another step.

The magic of the holidays is actually more simple than any carol, tale, or legend; it’s the magic we get when we can step back, look around, and appreciate not so much all that we have, but all that we are and, more importantly, all that we could be.

After all, the words “could be” breed hope, and isn’t that what this season all about?