Saturday, January 22, 2011

Writers' Circle

Bonnie Shimko reads a humorous passage from one of her books.

No podium or stage. An informal event, people sitting in an intimate circle, including the guest speakers.

Local authors Bonnie Shimko and Kate Messner were the featured speakers for "A Novel Evening For Literacy," held Thursday evening at the Koffee Kat cafe. Sponsored by the Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County, the writers read selections from their respective works and then there was Q&A, an opportunity for audience members to learn more about each writer.

Both Bonnie and Kate have something else in common besides writing for young readers: teaching. Kate educates young minds at a city school while Bonnie is retired from the profession. This means that each writer has a different approach to writing. While Bonnie has more free time -- her children are grown and have moved away -- Kate has to deal with a fixed schedule, her job and her family. She sets aside two hours every evening to write after her children have gone to bed.

Kate mentioned that with her first book she needed some advice and had heard about Bonnie, a published author of a young adult novel ("Letters in the Attic"). When she phoned, Kate explained she didn't know what she was doing. Bonnie replied that she also didn't know what she was doing, either. Joking aside, Bonnie helped Kate navigate through the process of mainstream publishing.

During the Q&A one person asked about dealing with an editor, whether the writer had to agree with everything an editor wanted. While Kate's experience with her editors was positive, Bonnie said that after she enjoyed a good relationship with her first editor but the second one was problematic. It got to the point where she told her agent she wanted to quit the project. But the book was completed with another editor. Both authors agreed that an editor was an important factor in getting a manuscript ready for publication.

The question of fan mail came up. Both Bonnie and Kate received enthusiastic letters from their readers. Kate mentioned that one boy wrote to her saying that he was sorry, he didn't like one of her books ("The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z") because it didn't have enough action. He added that because he didn't like her book didn't necessarily mean it was bad. Kate said that she hung the letter on the wall and looks at it whenever she receives a rejection letter from an editor. And she noted that her next book would have lots of action.

Author Kate Messner holds a chart she is using to track characters in one of her projects. It's a tool to keep track of what each character knows during the story's timeline.

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For more info:

Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County:

Bonnie Shimko:

Kate Messner:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wheeling And Dealing In 1785

In the age of email what's so special about a meatspace letter, words scratched in ink on paper? That depends upon the letter.

"We have accounts that the Spaniards and the Americans have had two or three skirmishes on the Mississippi & that they were assembling on both sides in force ___ But what occasioned the rupture in not known here..."

That statement is from a letter written by Melancton Smith on June 6th 1785. Librarian Kelly Julian Sexton discovered it in the Plattsburgh Public Library Historical Archives while inventorying the collection.

PPL's historical collection started accumulating back in 1890. For decades all sorts of stuff was gathered, books were shelved but manuscripts were just placed in a pile on the floor. Like stuff that collects in your home, if you pile and don't file, you end up with a semi-organized mess.

In the 1980s G. Glyndon Cole, a former librarian at SUNY-Plattsburgh, worked as a volunteer on the collection, putting the items in acid-free boxes. Acidic products like untreated cardboard leach damaging chemicals into historical paper items, ergo, brittle deterioration. He also started sorting out the collection, a considerable task since very little had been done for 90 years. The PPL archives are housed in the Cole Local History Room, so named to acknowledge his efforts. After Mr. Cole died, some work was done but the collection needed much more attention and focus. It wasn't until last year that the library hired a full time archivist.

Enter Kelly Julian Sexton, a former library clerk who finished her Master's Degree in Library Science and was promoted to the position of Reference/Local History Librarian. Now the task of making order of semi-disorder is hers, a mountain of work. Kelly says that no one knows the full extent of what has been donated to the library. She is in the process of accessioning (not to be confused with accessorizing). On occasion she will open up a box and be surprised by a document like the Melancton Smith letter.

Melancton is a notable historical figure. A New York State delegate to the Continental Congress, he was a leading anti-federalist, i.e., he opposed ratifying the Constitution because it gave the national government too much power over the states. In modern vernacular he was a states' rights dude. (Hey, who says history has to be dry and boring?)

Mel's letter, addressed to “The Honourable Zephaniah Platt, Esq.,” mentions "Land" deals in the areas of Plattsburgh and "Mohawk Country." (That's Platt as in Plattsburgh.) Apparently Zeph was interested in buying land or making money through property deals (Note: Mel liked punctuating with dashes between sentences):

"I received a Letter from Mr. Hugh White, this day, a copy of which I inclose __ I have wrote him an answer, of which you have herein also a Copy ___ My answer is sent by Col. Floyd to whom you see I refer him __ Col. Floyd accompanies the Governor to Fort Schuyler, where a Treaty is to be held with the Indians to purchase Lands __ I believe an opportunity will offer for some handsome speculations to the westward, as the Governor has intimated to me that it is probable a number of claims put in for the Lands, will be adjusted invalid __ "

In his letter he adds:

"I thought it proper to suggest this matter, that you may turn your attention to the object in time __ In any speculations you may make, either that way or on the Lake, I wish to be interested as far as you can take me in."

Reading through the letter one learns that Melancton was trying to arrange business deals. Networking ain't new.

In confiding to the addressee, Melancton mentions that he visited the Governor to talk business but the Guv had "Company" on those occasions. I suspect the Company was probably other wheeler-dealers. Lobbying ain't new.

Kelly points out that there was more involved in these matters than just business. New York State was still generally unsettled in those days and the Constitution wouldn't be ratified for another four years. Some people were trying to win positions in the new government. The push was on to secure land by making treaties with Native Americans and getting people to live on the acquired lands.

Power playing ain't new.

Mel's manuscript gives an intriguing glimpse into the past that in some ways mirrors the present. Like I say, those who aren't entertained by history are doomed to boredom.

The PPL Historical Archives are open to the public but with the understanding that the collection is still a work in progress. Kelly has started to wrestle the mountain and I don't know if she can see the peak. (And please don't bug her about when the archives will be digitized. First things first: a complete inventory -- oops, I mean accessioning.)

For information about the Cole Collection, contact Kelly at 518-563-0921 or email her at . If you prefer the old-fashioned ink-on-paper, grab a quill pen and snail mail her at Plattsburgh Public Library, 19 Oak St., Plattsburgh, NY 12901-2810.

What's Killing The Pigeons?

Three dead pigeons, three different locations around downtown Plattsburgh. I found the first one on Jan. 5th. Each one torn apart, apparently from a feeding animal. What's killing them? And what is ripping them apart? I've seen dead birds before but this clustering of pigeon carcasses is a bit puzzling.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Watercolors Compliment Photographs In PPL Art Show

Artist Peg McCartney with some of her work now on display at the Plattsburgh Public Library.

"Adirondacks by Water Color and Camera," an exhibit of works by two local artists, was unveiled Saturday afternoon, Jan. 15 at the Plattsburgh Public Library.

A reception was held in the Helen Wilcox Ianelli Gallery located in the second floor of the library. Bright watercolor paintings by Peg McCartney provided an interesting contrast to the cool, moody photographs by Mike Ryan. The exhibit will be on display until March.

The gallery is open to the public during regular library hours. Call 518-563-0921 for more information. PPL is located at the corner of Brinkerhoff and Oak streets in downtown Plattsburgh.

Guests discuss an array of photographs by Mike Ryan.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Superhero For Downtown Plattsburgh

On occasion I’ve mentioned the problem with dogshit scattered around downtown Plattsburgh. What can be done about the problem?

Let’s look to Seattle where real life superheroes are on patrol. Citizens dress up and come to the aid of their community. Here’s an image of one Seattle masked man, Phoenix Jones:

Other amateur crime-fighters are Thorn, Buster Doe, Green Reaper, Gemini, No Name, Catastrophe, Thunder 88, and Penelope? (Huh? Penelope?)

So why not have a special superhero patrol downtown Plattsburgh to take care of one of its chronic problems (besides boredom)? This person could be male or female but in this case it would be better to have a distaff volunteer because women are genetically predisposed to the task thanks to the C-gene (the gene that programs them to clean and pick up). With pooper scooper in hand, this brave superheroine would patrol the dangerous dogshit dotted streets and alleyways.

I’ve even wrote a theme song:

* * *

Scooper Girl By Luke T. Bush

Sung to the tune of “Spider-Man” (the 1960s cartoon)

Scooper Girl,
Scooper Girl
Friendly Neighborhood Scooper Girl

Does she scoop
Stuff with flies?
Take a look
No surprise!

Hey there
There goes the Scooper Girl.

* * *

Until then, keeps your eyes not on the skies but on the ground.

---Hat Tip (or should I say cape flap?): Kelly for introducing me to Phoneix Jones.

A Day Fit For Neither Man Nor Beast

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shovel Up Or Shut Up

At this link you can read a Cheers & Cheers column (1/3/10) written by the Press-Republican that includes this statement:

"JEERS to landlords who don't keep their sidewalks and driveways shoveled. We don't know that this is a widespread problem, but one person who gets around in a wheelchair indicated it is for a few, anyway. City law says property owners must clear sidewalks after snow has fallen. More importantly, so does common courtesy."

Really. Check out the photo below. Notice how one private property owner has shoveled up to the PR property where -- Surprise! -- the sidewalk adjacent to it isn't shoveled. The snow is so packed down that it appears to have remained uncleared for some time. And even if the sidewalk had been cleaned but a passing snowplow messed it up, if a private owner can go out and reshovel, so can the PR.

The photo was taken Saturday night, 1/8/10. Guess what the sidewalk was like the next night? No change.

Check out this link from last year when the same situation occurred with the Press-Republican. You'll see in the photos how the building owner next to the PR cleared his sidewalk but the PR -- hey, they don't call that hypocrisy, do they?

You can find the same situation over on Miller Street. The flower shop on the corner of Miller and Cornelia has shoveled but look up the street at the sidewalk in front of the MLD building lot:

Beyond MLD where the Post Office sits -- a bare sidewalk thanks to the attentive efforts of local USPS employees.

Remember: Plattsburgh City will supposedly will fine you if you don't shovel the sidewalks along your property. Notice in the next image that a center path up the front steps to City Hall has been cleared but as for the public sidewalk that wraps around that building -- packed, slippery snow, as seen in the second image.

Sidewalk adjacent to City Hall, on the Trinity Park side: unshoveled. But up the street from there, Trinity Church has a bare sidewalk. Thanks, TC staff.

And thanks to everyone else who does engage in "common courtesy." As for the PR and Plattsburgh City: a sincere "Screw you!"

My Fiction Website

A site for sharing my fiction projects -- no fancy lay out, just a page to access my short works. Two works so far, a short story and a work in progress.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Which Doctor Do You Prefer?

Should public funds be provided to an organization that discriminates against a minority? Tax dollars are raised for the public good, meaning that all members of a community should be treated equally.

In this case the minority are people without health insurance. And the organization apparently engaging in the discrimination is the CVPH Medical Center in Plattsburgh, NY.

As mentioned in a previous post, someone went to the CVPH emergency room after being brutally beaten. The ER surgeon on duty at that time, according to the victim and his mother, refused to provide any real treatment because the victim didn't have medical insurance.

CVPH is supposed to a non-profit organization that serves the public. Here are excerpts from a statement about its status and mission that can be found online:

"Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital Medical Center (CVPH) is a non-profit, JCAHO accredited, regional center providing care to 170,000 residents throughout the tri-county region of northeast New York State...

"The vision of CVPH is to be recognized as a leader in providing exceptional quality care and improving the health and wellness of North Country residents. Patient Services is a corner stone of this vision."

Of course, that all depends if you can pay CVPH for its services. If not, you don't get "exceptional quality care," you get the minimum treatment and are shown the door.

I never was aware that a non-profit was so concerned about profit. OK, no organization can run in the red, losing money at every turn. But that doesn't seem to be the situation with CVPH, according to a Press-Republican article ("CVPH admissions up, profit down") dated Jan. 28, 2010. Here is the lede from that article:

"CVPH Medical Center saw an increase in admissions for the 2009 calendar year while earning just over $4 million in profit, a slight drop from 2008."

That's not $4 million in losses -- that $4 million in the plus column.

And as the article notes, there is also the CVPH Foundation that raises money. Do you want to contribute to a "charitable" organization that discriminates against the poor?

Besides the generosity of donors, CVPH receives public money -- your tax dollars -- to help cover its operating and renovation costs. For example, in an article that appeared in the Press-Republican on Sept. 7, 2010 ("CVPH receives grant to expand ER") it states that the hospital was going to receive $3.5 million in state funds to construct new treatment areas.

State funds. Grant money. AKA your tax dollars.

If CVPH wants to discriminate against someone without health insurance, if it wants to act like a greedy for-profit organization, it shouldn't be supported with public money. Let it sink or swim like any private company catering to an elite customer base. Cut off the taxpayer support. There is no reason that its ER should be refusing "exceptional quality care" to an injured person after the state kicks in $3.5 million for its expansion.

Does CVPH remember something called the Hippocratic Oath? Maybe it should reread it, especially this line:

"I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm."

A person's ability to pay shouldn't be a choice between Doctor Kildare or Doctor Doom.