Monday, September 28, 2009

Be Quick, Win Book

Reading Girl Mary by Petru Popescu set me pondering the books I've read in the last few years about significant women in religions. I thought it must be rather difficult to write about them, especially in light of the current tensions among different groups. Would I dare to fictionalize one, or not, because of fear of retaliation?

I asked Popescu that question, and he indicated he had no trepidations at all, but he did offer to tell us about writing this book. He has advice for approaching historical figures as novel subjects. He said to write with "passion" and that: "When you write about the mystical, you believe in it. That is the rule of thumb and the best advice I can give to writers who attempt to write about religion and its formidably puzzling characters and events."

I have copies of Girl Mary to send to the first five people who comment (US addresses only, please) on the post at A Writer's Edge.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Writers Change the Future

If you could have a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of people in the future, would you do it? I'm not setting up a sci-fi plot or harping on global warming (though it applies).

I refer to the opportunity for TV writers, producers, sponsors and supporters to help change factors underlying the most prevalent public health dangers: obesity, heart disease, diabetes, addictions and mental illnesses. According to the ground-breaking Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, these health issues are highly associated with childhood trauma like:

# Recurrent physical abuse
# Recurrent emotional abuse
# Contact sexual abuse
# An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
# An incarcerated household member
# Someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
# Mother is treated violently
# One or no parents
# Emotional or physical neglect

I saw the valid and shocking statistical results from this well-designed research. The more traumas a person experiences before the age of 18, the greater the probability that he or she will develop one or more of the health problems listed above. Not just "twice as likely", but in the hundreds, even thousands of times greater chances.

After presenting this compelling material, I asked Dr. Vincent J. Felitti, author of the work, about solutions for the resulting health issues beyond psychotherapy and psychoactive drugs. He shrugged and said, "I don't have any." What he does have is a vision for a preventative scenario: soap operas.

"When you go into the homes of these [damaged] people, what do you find? Always, a television. And what do they all watch? Not CNN, but soap operas." He explained that many people need positive modeling to become better parents. We must start this change where it would be most effective. People at risk do engage with television, and watch programs like the soaps, looking to the characters for clues as to how to act, Felitti said.

I've seen this idea play out in the 40 years I've been hooked on "Days of Our Lives", my surrogate family. Last spring, the series featured characters "greening" their homes and businesses (global warming), and everyone carried water bottles and worked out at the gym. Writers could weave in mentoring on the ACE Study factors through the intricate plot lines. I'm thinking that for all her heaving and weeping about being such a good mother, Sami hardly ever has her children around. She neglects them. Maybe Sami could actually learn to be a good mother.

Other TV programs people watch in droves are the so-called reality ones, which suggest another opportunity to begin a parenting revolution. If people are going to suckle at the teat of the great boob tube, let's give them nourishment for the future. It is a challenge that taxes writers' creativity and program investors' far-sightedness and dedication to values easily mouthed and more difficult to actualize.