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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feedback on Installment #4 (Part 4), the final installment

This is from a gifted 6th grade boy in Northern California. He was really enthusiastic
and read part 4 (a full length novel) in just a few hours.

A wonderful and epic ending to the first novel of what I expect to be a series. The conclusion was fantastic and leaves plenty of room for a sequel. This might be a little to far ahead but I think that you could create a series about Syon. You write with great eloquence and amaze me with you fantastic works. Even if it doesn't get accepted by publishers, I want to thank you for the wonderful read you have given me and the world you have created.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feedback from Gifted School in TX (Novel Installment #1)

This feedback is on Part 1 (Installment #1) of the 4 part serial novel.

Some of these are a bit heart wrenching in a subtle way. But it shows I hit my target right on the mark. Readers identified with the characters. I was also happy to see that among gifted readers, the book has no gender. Among nongifted readers, it is very strongly a boy book. What this means is that among gifted readers, who the character was rather than their gender was the important fact. I deliberately wrote the characters in the book to be toward the center of the gender stereotype spectrum, both male and female.

I asked the kids who their favorite character was and which chapter was their favorite chapter. Those two in combination tell me how they perceived the book.

Boy - 11 years old

The science concepts are not difficult and VERY cool.The whole book is interesting! I like how I can relate to the characters. I’m different just like they are. They are misunderstood and only their parents understand them – I understand that! Keep doing what your doing. It's great.

[I know how you feel too. It's one reason I wrote this book. I wanted more people to know how it feels. And I wanted people who feel differently to know that they are not the only ones. It's a big theme in part 2 (installment #2). "I want to know how it feels to be you" says a character.]

Boy – 11 years old

The science was hard, but started to make sense 1/2 way through. Tova is my favorite character. At first she wasn't sure about what she was doing, but then she got it as she became more experienced. All the chapters were good. Keep the development of the science slower so we can process how their brains work.

[You are reading MS3 (manuscript 3). In MS4 I've put a lot more lovers bickering going back and forth between Stefan and Tova2. And they are there invisibly commenting about what's going on so you get to see into their head a lot more. So instead of the science being jammed into one chapter, it is spread across 3 chapters. However, in exposing more of what goes on their heads, while Stefan's dad is still very close to Stefan, the mom is slightly evil. Hopefully this won't ruin it for you. ]

Boy – 11 years old

Favorite character ELOF2 – b/c I liked his personality. The 2nd part of Chapter 1 was my favorite b/c it talked about the background. Solid work – the beginning is a little hard to understand / confusing b/c it pops right into Stefan and the realm. The realm of mystery makes it interesting.

[You'll be happy to know that by the end of Part 4 you know all there is to know about Elof2. I changed Part 4 before I went out with it to give Elof2 a first class ending.]

Girl - 10 years old

Ty is my favorite character b/c he knows everything. Every chapter was good. Metaphor: Stefan not having any friends is similar to what I've experienced. Sometimes I saw where it starts out as paul25 and has only 2 people yet that same character says that is is Peter25.

[Yes there is a mistake in that version of the manuscript, it should always be Paul25, there is no Peter25. It's amazing how many errors I find every time I read the manuscript, no matter how many times I go through it. I know how you feel. I mostly went through normal schools and wore "the cloak" most of the time. That limited the available number of friends. Other cloaked people were too shy to come out or twisted and cynical from the abuse they had received.]

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Living in a Bubble

This is another one of my random musings. I was sitting here thinking in the wee hours of the morning, just thinking about how in just a few more hours my wife is going to be on a dive boat out in the ocean from the Bahamas. We thought at first, essentially she would be totally out of contact for 5 days. But a quick check of the coverage maps revealed that out in the ocean, there are these tiny islands near where she is diving. They look like sandbars on the map, tiny islands compared even to the Bahamas. And on these tiny little dirt clods, someone has stuck a cellphone tower. So, maybe I will be getting daily reports on the observed sea-life.

I began to remember the stuff from the Tech Bubble days. I remember sitting at the base of a waterfall in Yosemite National Park with my first cell phone. It was about the size and weight of a brick (no kidding, it was that big). I phoned my parents from the base of the waterfall and said, "Hey mom and dad, I'm in the middle of nowhere, hear the waterfall?" It was just amazing to me that you could phone from the middle of a forest. That phone was subsidized by the company I was working for at the time, which allowed a young family to afford it. It was an era of intellectual irreverence where the sky was the limit. I just had to put up this old picture from that era. And yes, I actually did wear these clothes to work. The company wanted my mind, not my social compliance.

In fact, the company found 250 compulsive, obsessive, perfectionist souls, gave them half a billion dollars, wired their cubes with fiber optics when everyone else thought 10 megabit networking was fast, and wired our houses with network connections to the company. We never slept and we worked ourselves into the ground. Some of us didn't fare so well with the governor removed from our engines. It is truly scary when a company profiles their prospective hires and people you may rarely run into become the people you work with everyday. You are surrounded and drowning in your own flaws everywhere you look. It was fantasy money and fantasy goals that drove fantasy expectations. It was the bubble, where seeing your family required precision planning. I used to take my daughter to work some evenings. It was always easier to talk to her if I got her to do my work so I could focus on talking to her. She was better at multitasking. She drove her Montessori teachers at that time, who felt there was a definite sequential way that everything had to work, totally out of their minds when she would lay assignments in 3 different subjects out on the desk and work them simultaneously. They used to complain about it to me. I lived in a bubble. So I responded, huh? The bubble was good for my wife as well because after halfway finishing 5 different degrees, she found one she liked; she finished it and her career took off like a rocket. Yes, her company footed the bill with fantasy money.

The thing about living in a bubble is that you can't see the walls. You don't realize you are in a bubble. I took my daughter to see NASA (the space center) south of Houston (my parents lived not too far away at the time). We visited their bookstore and one of those strange happenings occurred you never connect to anything else. Two elementary school teachers were talking about a book they had found, saying how great it would be for their 6th grade class. My daughter turns to me and says, "But dad, you read that to me in first grade." I just shrugged. I didn't really connect that with the fact that for some reason, my smiling child was breaking pencils in half occasionally during her Montessori elementary classes. Puzzling. We were still in the bubble.

As the bubble progressed, schools began to crop up based on new ideas. New ways to teach that would really propel kids learning. My daughter went to the new middle school. They used and taught the use of computers extensively. My daughter seemed to figure out a neat web trick to protect images on a website. It took some poor guy at Yahoo a while to realize he was trying to squeeze that bit of tech from a seventh grader. He kind of lost interest when he realized who was at the other end of the connection.

Well hmm. I guess new isn't always better. The bubble popped. And innovation had the life crushed out of it. Meanwhile, my expectations of the new school had the life crushed out of them. What a disaster. A bit of screaming at the science curriculum (by my kid). The school was a disaster. The tech industry was a disaster. Fantasy money disappeared. School improvement money disappeared. And so on. And it was just a downhill slide for California schools.

So now for the punch line. Many of the target readership of my book were born around the time the bubble popped, around the time innovation and unbridled intellectual curiosity were crushed to death in favor of survivalistic strategies in approach to life, education, work. The bubble money is gone. Normal funding is failing. What will be the future for these teen readers? How will we ever rekindle the innovative spark in them? There are no large sums of money to be thrown at it. But there are many of us bubble survivors still around. And we still dream. Which is why I wrote my book. To instill a few dreams. After all, dreams form the basis for innovation.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Writing About (Enhanced) Sensory Perception

In writing The Saeshell Book of Time serial novel, I intended to empathize with the journey a gifted child takes and metaphorize it into a science fiction/fantasy novel. I also intended to pass on a bit of philosophical thinking that can help those children analyze and cope with events they encounter in the world. After having been through three major drafts and having read some literature recently on giftedness, I realize one thing that I probably didn't do well is incorporate a sense of the heightened physical senses that sometimes become part of that journey. Mostly, the novel focuses on the heightened empathy.

I thought a bit about why that happened. Having heightened senses myself, you would think that I would include some of that in the novel. But then I realized there are two problems. The first is that humans really can't convey emotions or observation by our senses in our language. How do people write about sensory information? They use a metaphor that is meant to convey the information. The metaphor is usually a description of a person's reaction or an analogy for something all people experience inside when their senses are stimulated in a particular way. There is only one problem with these two methods of conveyance. What if I am not wired like you are? What if I experience things differently. I'll talk about it more in a minute, but just try and tell someone about being wired differently and see what you get.

If you experience things differently, there is no shared experience that can be conveyed between you and another person via some symbolic metaphor. It just doesn't exist. There is very little way to carry the actual raw data of the experience. I could say, for example, that certain color combinations are practically like a narcotic to me or that certain frequencies of sounds can cause total paralysis of my mind. You write that and people will say huh? That guy is kind of messed up. Which leads to the second aspect of this.

Negative feedback throughout your life, which causes you to suppress your senses and simulate in your mind what other people perceive. Imagine a simple scenario: My wife has a lightly scented pleasant smelling hand creme that she puts on in the next room. Husband's reaction: complaining and running for the nearest fresh air outlet. Wow, that can lead to a pleasant conversation. Or perhaps I'm out browsing the world and discover a tree, where the patterns of the veins in the leaves combined with the colors is extremely fascinating. Hey, dude, IT'S A TREE! Or perhaps in the overload case, where the patterns become so intricate that it produces a kind of pain in my brain, which copes by seeing nothing, frustrating people trying to share it with me. You get the idea.

So as I sit here trying to increase the characterization of the characters in the novel, I realize that due to this mental conditioning in my upbringing, which is refreshed on a daily basis in one way or another, I totally ignore a whole dimension in a character's persona. And I am at a loss for a way or the guts to express it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

If I Could Dream

If I could dream,
I would dream of a land,
Filled with perpetual childhood and fairies,
Where knowledge was a touch screen away,
And dreams materialized into reality.
Energy would be plentiful, and power even me,
And a motherly computer would put me to bed at night,
Filling my mind with imagery.
New friends would be a button push away,
Filled with minds that care,
The machine that would make them would pop them out,
Filled with dreams to share.
We would talk of knowledge and things to explore,
We would stare at the stars at night,
A single thought would send us there,
Admiring new forms of life.
If I could dream, I would fall asleep,
And dream even more,
But if people discovered my secret dreams,
They would know I was a Child of Sophista.