Monday, May 19, 2014

I can't believe I wrote that

Recently, I read through my first published short story. I couldn't believe the number of small mistakes such as filter words and word echoes in that story. Looking at it now, I think it's lucky someone decided to publish it. Last night I was making some more touches to my recently-finished novel. Once again, I spotted several word choices that I know now not to do.

At one point, I thought there would be a time when my writing would become fully developed.  It seems no matter how much effort I put into a piece, however, I could always write it better if I came back to it later. Now, I'm thinking that moment I 'arrive' as a writer will never come, and that's actually a good thing.

Would you really want to reach a point where your writing, or any other endeavor for that matter, stops improving?  Athletes don't stop training the moment they win the gold medal. Most business men do not stop earning money after they reach their first million.

One advantage of writing is your words are permanent. You can see exactly what you wrote a year ago, twenty years ago, or even in your first story.  It gives you a great yardstick for measuring your progress year to year.  Hopefully, that progress will never stop.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The most important battle on American soil you probably never heard of.

A hastily-raised militia of some 10,000 men marches from northern West Virginia to southern West Virginia with the objective of seizing the coal mines there. A defending force of some 3,000 men is cobbled together and takes a defensive position on a mountain in front of the objective. For several days, the attacking force tries to find a way around the defenders and sustains 50-100 men killed. The defenders lose some 30 men. The commander of the attacking force calls off the attack.  The militia disperses and the men go back to their homes.

Sounds like a Civil War battle, right? Let me provide some additional details. The defenders set up machine guns to cover their defensive position and use aircraft to monitor the attackers. They even drop a few bombs on the attacking force as it approaches.

So now you're thinking there were no aircraft or machine guns during the Civil War. You're right. This battle occurred in 1921.  Hey, wait, you say.  There were no wars on American territory in 1921.  You're right again. There was no declared war. This event is known as the Battle of Blair Mountain.

It started during the movement to unionize the coal mines of West Virginia. The mines in the northern counties of West Virginia were unionized. The miners here were better paid and had better working conditions than the ones in the non-union mines of the southern part of the state. The mine operators in the southern counties were determined to keep their mines non-union.

The events leading up to this battle included several instances of deadly violence between mining company "detectives", essentially hired thugs, and law enforcement officials of county governments sympathetic to the union. The last straw may have been when "detectives" murdered two unarmed union-supporting law officers while they were headed to a legal proceeding.

Miners assembled, gathering their guns, and marched south. The mine operators put together a force of lawmen and company detectives, determined to stop the miners. They set up positions on Blair Mountain.

The miners were never able to get past Blair Mountain. The President decided things had gotten out of hand and sent in the army to restore order. It appeared the mine operators had won the battle.

They may have lost the war, however. The battle brought national attention to the plight of the coal miners in non-unionized areas. Public opinion, which tended to be against unions, began to change. Eleven years later, the election of FDR gave unions allies in the Federal government. Conditions for miners and workers in general improved.

What does this have to do with writing? Probably nothing, but I think it's an important event in American history that few people know about.