Authors: Don’t Lie in Your Cover Letter

Or, to be a bit more charitable, don’t exaggerate.

Why do I even have to say this? Because of a cover letter I read today, in which an author claimed that their work had been nominated for (among other things) a Nebula Award.

Nebula Award Logo

A simple search turned up no record of that author having ever made the Nebula ballot in any category: novel, novella, novelette, or short story.* (Sure, it’s possible that they had written something under a pseudonym that was nominated, but that would have been an important detail to mention.)

Pro tip: Having someone tell you that they nominated your work for a Nebula does not equate to being a Nebula nominee. That title applies only to work that made the final ballot.

Pro tip the second: The person who’s reading your cover letter probably has a computer and knows how to do a search, so your lie — or your exaggeration — is likely to be discovered. And when it turns out that you weren’t actually on the ballot for that thing you claimed, your credibility and reputation suffer.

You’re better off not including a cover letter at all than to send one that’s so demonstrably bad.

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*Or even script, back when that was a category.

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I Tried to Write a Poem to Express My Gratitude

I tried to write a poem to express my gratitude
But I got lost in lines and beats and rhymes and a dismal attitude
So I threw it out and started over, plunged headlong into the verses,
And turned my gaze on all the ways my blessings far outweigh my curses

That’s the secret, that’s the mystery, that’s the never-ending story
Not to pretend that in the end we find misfortune less than glory
But to count the good more thoroughly and embrace the coming days
With confidence and a constant sense of thankfulness and praise

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues
(Image: “A thankful heart…,” by BK, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, to one and all.

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Let the Light in You Shine (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today is Dabo Swinney’s birthday, so I took a look at one of his many inspirational quotes. Coach Swinney is the second-winningest head football coach in Clemson history, trailing only the legendary Frank Howard, but along with success on the field Coach Swinney has emphasized preparing his players for life beyond football.

Today’s video is a little different from others in the Between the Black and the White series, in that I broadcast it live on Facebook in the morning and only later transferred it over to YouTube. As such, it’s a little poorer quality than my previous videos and doesn’t have the title card and credits and whatnot. Anyway, here it is:

Here’s the quote from Coach Swinney, in case you don’t want to watch the video:

Let the light that shines in you be brighter than the light that shines on you.

I think that’s good advice, even for the vast majority of us who don’t have many opportunities to stand in the spotlight — actual or metaphorical. I’m sorry to say that when I’ve had such opportunities I haven’t thought too much about the light I could bring with me, the light I could let shine though me (or out from me). I hope to do better at that, this week and into the future.

And I trust that you will let your light shine bright as well! Have a great week!

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(Possibly) Related Videos:
Brave Knights and Heroic Courage
We Are All Leaders
Stand Tall in Troubled Times

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I’ve Only Been Saying This for a Freaking Quarter CENTURY

What’s this? Labeling certain students as “gifted” might have a downside?

Through personal conversations with her students, [Stanford education professor Jo] Boaler began to see how being labeled “gifted” or “smart” as children stunted even these bright and successful young people….

It’s hard to feel sorry for Stanford students, many of whom have had amazing opportunities not offered to peers precisely because someone recognized them as smart, but their experiences do call into question the practice of labeling in the first place.

Wow, if only someone had pointed out potential problems with sequestering certain students and labeling them as “gifted” — oh, wait, I did that, in the first edition of Quality Education. Granted, I put the topic in an appendix entitled “The Gifted and Talented Myth,” which in retrospect wasn’t the best place to highlight it, but it was there.

In the new edition, the subject of “gifted and talented” programs takes a more prominent position in four short chapters instead of one lengthy appendix.

Gifted and talented education usually is not limited to letting students with special aptitudes learn at a faster rate. These programs often remove some few students from their original classrooms, place them together with other “gifted” students, and focus more attention on their efforts. The students are told explicitly that they are part of the “gifted and talented” program, and become increasingly aware of differences between themselves and other students. But at what level does a student simply have a better grasp of a subject as opposed to being “gifted”? The differentiation is not always clear.

There’s more, of course, but that’s enough to prove today’s point.

I admit, it’s gratifying to find someone agreeing with something I said a quarter century ago. But it’s also incredibly frustrating, and rather makes me feel like:

Picard facepalm

What a way to start the week.

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P.S. If you want a FREE copy of the introduction to Quality Education, you can get one by signing up for my newsletter (you get two other free gifts, too). I’d also be pleased if you would pick up a copy from Amazon.

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Christian Carelessness

That phrase in the title connotes a lot, doesn’t it? “Christian carelessness” — we experience it every day … and some of us, despite our best intentions, practice it every day.

I ran across the phrase in E. Stephen Burnett’s post, “Christians, Please Stop Warning Against Human Popular Culture Until You Know What It’s For”, in which he addresses “the most well-intended Christian carelessness about” popular culture in whatever form it takes. He writes, for instance,

Why not discuss popular culture—human stories and songs—in terms of human creativity being a gift from God? The way some pastors talk, popular culture is some alien (even if “harmless”) thing unrelated to God. But if God gives this gift (of popular culture-creation), then He, not us [sic], defines the terms of how the gift is best used—to glorify Him, to guard against idolatry, and to make sure we get the most joy out of using the gift in the ways He has prescribed.

Why not explore how Jesus has built the work-rest rhythm into the universe, starting right in Genesis 1? Why not consider how stories and songs are part of being human, whether they’re shared around a campfire or enacted on your tablet screen? Why not allow the possibility that Scripture seems to allow—that we will create cultural works in eternity?

I love that, but I keep coming back in my mind to the idea — and the challenge — of “Christian carelessness” in general.

For people who claim to be Christ’s representatives on Earth (“Christian” means “little Christ,” does it not?), we are often quite careless in how we represent our Lord and Savior, in how we interact with each other and the world around us, in how we think and speak and act. And by “we” I primarily mean “I” am often quite careless.


(Image: “A Careless Word, A Needless Loss.” US World War II propaganda poster, on Wikimedia Commons.)

And beyond that, I come back to another way to think of carelessness: specifically, that of caring less than I should. I am guilty, and I daresay most of us are guilty, of caring less when Christ would have us care more. That’s not to say that we have it in ourselves to solve all the problems we face or to correct all the evils we see in the world, but when we turn away from them or pretend that they don’t exist our “Christian carelessness” condemns us.

Lord, help me — help us — to care more, and to be more careful.

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Tech in Schools: Not a Cure-All

This morning the Mind/Shift website said, “It’s Time For A Deeper Conversation About How Schools Use Technology.”

… recent studies about the effect of technology on achievement have shown uninspiring results, reinvigorating the conversation about how technology is used in classrooms. Educators who have been active in this space for many years have long known that technology can be used to connect students to the broader world, give them tools to create new and interesting learning artifacts, and open up a world of digital resources. But, technology can also be used to replicate the activities and tests that have always been used in the classroom. The tension between what technology could do and what it is often used for in classrooms is at the heart of a debate over whether all the money pumped into technology is worth it.

It’s too bad no one has ever urged caution when it comes to the proliferation of technology in schools, and that it might not be as effective as people think. Oh, wait, someone did:

Education should not make the same mistake a number of industries made in the late 1980s: they turned to expensive and complex machinery to save them, only to find that the devices were not the saviors they thought.

Who said that? I did, back in the early 1990s.

Technology versus Humanity
(Image: “Technology versus Humanity,” by Gerd Leonhard, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Technology is useful, and important because it’s so ubiquitous in our modern world, but no matter how fancy it gets it’s still just an expensive tool. And far more important than the technical tools are the people — i.e., the teachers — who use them.

In case anyone is interested, I cover this in a bit more depth — as well as many other topics — in Quality Education.

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Death Will Kill Millions (But You Already Knew That)

A cheery thought for All Hallows Eve, eh?

Actually, the headline was my reaction to seeing the title of this New Scientist article, “Climate change will kill millions but you knew that already”

“This is the major health threat in the 21st century around the world, and there’s an urgent need for us to address it,” says Hugh Montgomery of University College London, co-chair of the consortium that produced the report, called The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.

But if we work harder to switch to clean energy sources, we’ll likely see huge health improvements, the report says.


(Image: “Death,” by Robert, from Flickr on Wikimedia Commons.)

The whole thing sounds like idealistic wishful thinking that imagines the status quo as something that has always been in place and that should continue to operate indefinitely, when the historical truth is that change — beneficial as well as detrimental — is the way of things. The natural systems in which we live are dynamic, not static, and the pressure we apply to keep one part steady is likely to produce other changes we have not anticipated. And Death waits for us all.

So the greater question, it seems to me is: what are we doing with our lives?

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Fayetteville ComicCon Preview

This weekend I’ll be down in Fayetteville at, as noted above, Fayetteville ComicCon.

I will have a table in “Author’s Alley,” where I’ll try to interest folks in anything and everything: Walking on the Sea of Clouds, of course, plus Distorted Vision, Truths and Lies and Make-Believe, and maybe even Quality Education if that’s more their thing. I’ll also be giving out flyers I made up for the Adventure Sci-Fi 2017 Bundle (which is available through Thursday of this coming week, and if you haven’t checked it out you really should — it’s for a good cause!).

I will also be on two panels:

  • Military in Science Fiction, Saturday at noon
  • Science Fiction vs. Science Fact, Sunday at 11 a.m.

No concerts, no readings, just chatting with folks and trying to interest them in my stories and songs. If you know anyone who’s going, tell them to come find me and say hello!

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Brave Knights and Heroic Courage (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today we look at a quote from C.S. Lewis.

Lewis is well-known as the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — published on this date in 1950, from what I understand — but this quote comes from his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”…

Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.

I think that holds true when writing for anyone, not just writing for children. I much prefer stories with characters who face up to difficulties and do what’s necessary to work through them, even if they might not be “heroic” in the truest sense. And, especially for those of us who don’t have to practice it day by day, stories can remind us that we ourselves are capable of courage, and perhaps instill in us the bravery we need to face our challenges, if not actual enemies.

Have a great week!

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(Possibly) Related Videos:
We Are All Leaders
Stand Tall in Troubled Times
Every Student A Scholar?
The Musashi-Heinlein School

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Monday Quote: Stand Tall In Troubled Times (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today is Leif Erikson Day, so today’s quote is attributed to him.

Erikson — literally the son of Erik the Red — is credited with being the first European to land on the North American continent beyond Greenland. He’s also credited with saying,

We are all leaders, whether we want to be or not. There is always someone we are influencing, either leading them to good, or away from good.

Who are you leading? And are you leading them to good? I hope so, and I wish you success this week as always!

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(Possibly) Related Videos:
Monday Quote: Stand Tall in Troubled Times
Just Doing Our Best
We Are All Unfinished Products

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