Wednesday, February 13, 2013

20 Tweets From the 2013 State of the Union Address

One of President Obama’s rallying cries last night was “They deserve a vote.” 

The President was referring to gun violence; however, he should have used that phrase throughout his speech from start to finish. The American people deserve a vote on everything and anything.

I agree with him that we need smarter government, not necessarily bigger government, but judging from the elected officials in all three branches of government, that ideal is a long ways off. 

And that’s okay. We’ve never had a completely competent government, and we’ve still managed to do some great things. However, even in periods of partisanship and division, the country had a government that at least would put things on the table and vote them up or down. I would much rather put our politicians to the test and figure out what they and their constituents actually believe in, rather than hide behind opinion polls and political maneuvering. If half of Congress wants to say no, let them, that’s democracy. But not putting some kind of bill in front of the American people with a healthy, messy debate just because it might get shot full of holes is an act of cowardice.

Our Founding Fathers didn’t get everything right (just ask any non-white, non-male person, well, ever), so we don't need our laws to be perfect in order to get us back on the right track. Much can be learned from failure, even if that means people suffer. People can put up with plenty of slings and arrows if they know there is a hope that someone is at least trying to bring about marginal change. 

While you ponder all of that and forecast our country’s future, enjoy 20 tweets from last night’s State of the Union address:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

8-Year-Old Author Elizabeth Nicklis on Why She Writes

Earlier this year, I published a blog for my company with five tips on how to be a better writer in 2013. The best piece of advice was for writers to mentor young up-and-comers. There’s no better way to practice and hone your craft than by talking and working with writers who are hungry and ready to learn about producing good content.

My 8-year-old niece Elizabeth Nicklis is a young writer who constantly inspires me to open my MacBook. When she first started expressing a desire to write, I shipped her a box full of composition notebooks, pens, and pencils. It didn’t take her long to fill all those pages up.

Writers with wheels.
On Thanksgiving, she happily put a note in my hand. I told her I was going to save it for the train ride home so I could enjoy it all by myself (and with the usual riffraff on Metro-North). She told me I was her role model and she wanted to be just like me when she grew up. Whenever I have trouble getting started, I glance at the note pinned to my bulletin board and remember Elizabeth is probably writing her hand off somewhere. I usually don’t need much more motivation than that.

After coordinating with her press agent, Elizabeth graciously granted me her first interview. I learned she’s a better writer than I was at her age, and that I don’t need to worry about the next generation of writers. Enjoy her words and look out for her future children’s book collection.

Daniel: At what age did you realize you wanted to be a writer? Why did you start writing?

Elizabeth: I was 6 years old and I was in the first grade. I started because I liked the idea of putting words together to make a story of my choice. I had a notebook and wrote a 10-page book. I took it to school and shared it. They liked my story, but I can’t read it now because it has a lot of misspellings!

Daniel: How many stories have you written? What’s your favorite?

Elizabeth: Too many to count! I’m writing a Boxcar Children book of my own. All the characters in the series are in my book. Their grandfather takes them to a museum and they find a big dinosaur footprint in a stone. I’m working on the rest. My favorite character from The Boxcar Children is Henry. He’s always prepared, always helpful, and he’s smart!

Elizabeth showing me her notebook collection.
Daniel: What’s your favorite thing to write about?

Elizabeth: I like to write realistic stories that might happen to kids. It’s because I’m a kid.

Daniel: What books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite book?

Elizabeth: The Boxcar Children books are my favorite. I also read Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. My favorite is the The Boxcar Children’s The Camp-out Mystery. It’s not by the original author; just someone else writing under her name.

Daniel: What awards have you won from school for writing?

Elizabeth: I won four principal awards for writing. One is first grade, two in second grade, and one in third grade. When I was awarded the third one, I knew I was going to get something because my teacher was smiling at me. Also, she was late to class and the news had been in the newspaper, so no one was surprised.

Daniel: Tell me about some of the stories you’ve been working on.

Elizabeth: I wrote a story about a little girl who has to get glasses. I thought of it because someone in my class had to get glasses. It starts in school and she has trouble seeing the board. She moves her seat next to her best friend in the front of the class, but it’s still tough for her to see the board. She goes home and her mother takes her to the eye doctor. She’s worried that all the kids are going to make fun of her. But a lot of kids like her glasses! Except for one who makes fun of her because the kid is jealous. She ends up having fun and gets a purple velvet case for her glasses. Even the kid who makes fun of her stops after awhile.

Another one is about a girl who is really lazy. She won’t get out of bed in the morning and her mom has to drag her to school. When she gets to school, she gets all the answers to the test wrong. She has a lot of trouble reading and kids make fun of her. It turns out she has dyslexia. Everyone is moving up reading levels, and she’s not going anywhere. Finally, she gets a great teacher in the fifth grade who is really nice and helps her learn how to read perfectly. She becomes the best reader in the class. She meets the teacher later on in life and he asks her what she ended up doing for work. She tells him she’s a teacher!

Destined for the New York Public Library 's archives.
Daniel: What’s your favorite part about being a writer?

Elizabeth: I get to write things that are on my mind and share it with everyone.

Daniel: Do you want to be a writer when you grow up?

Elizabeth: I definitely want to be an author when I grow up. I think I want to write and illustrate children’s books. And not just stories that kids would like. I want to write upbeat stories that kids and adults can enjoy.