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Veteran Suicides

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The Veterans Administration released results of the latest study about veteran suicides.  The combination of the release, comments from other veterans and an article about veteran suicides in VA Hospital parking lots saddened me.

Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults.1 Veterans only made up 8% of the 2016 estimated adult population.2

Since 2001, U.S. adult civilian suicides increased 23%, while Veteran suicides increased 32% in the same period.1

This article claimed veterans killed themselves in VA parking lots when they didn’t get assistance. I found two suicides in news articles for the past year in line with the theory.

Lack of treatment isn’t the only thing that contributes to veteran suicides, but it does contribute. A veterans’ group I’m a member of contains less than 7,000 veterans. At least one member weekly writes about frustrations from denied claims or inadequate treatment. In the period of a week, one veteran reached out to the group for support through a rough patch of PTSD. Another veteran spoke about how the lack of treatment by the VA for a shoulder injury caused her to consider suicide. I tried to register my main condition from serving in the Gulf War. The operator wouldn’t set me up with an appointment for review. He told me he couldn’t set up the appointment “in good conscience.” From the veteran side of things, the VA reform hasn’t trickled down yet.

I don’t know what I can do to better support other veterans. I am supportive of the people I know. It just doesn’t feel like that is enough. I don’t have a lot of answers at this point, only questions. One thing I do know. In the service, people who have a similar experience to you surround you. When you separate and return to your hometown, it’s hard to find people to talk to who might understand. There are a lot of disparate non-profit organizations across the country, but when someone is deep in crisis, they need help immediately. They don’t have a couple of weeks to research and determine things like which organization services their need, which organization is real, which organization is a scam. They certainly do not have years to fight a losing battle with the VA system.

Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 Press 1
https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

1https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2801
2https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/
2https://www.va.gov/vetdata/veteran_population.asp

http://www.disabledveterans.org/2017/03/10/parking-lot-suicides-veterans-found-dead-in-va-parking-lots/

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/7/paul-shuping-navy-veteran-commits-suicide-in-va-pa/

4th Street Fantasy 2017

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Two friends recommended 4th Street Fantasy as a good place to discuss writing and connect with other writers. They both described it as a weekend long conversation. I attended with hopeful expectations.

To stay in the hotel or not?

Living locally, I had the option of not staying at the hotel and saving money. The website suggested staying at the hotel because of the conversations that go late into the night. This fit with the theme of a weekend long conversation.

Food

Shortly after checking in, I nipped to the Cub Foods across the street to stock up on fruit and coffee supplies. Much of the food I brought returned with me. Groups of people went out for every meal. Breakfast consisted of quick food from places like Bruegger’s Bagels. Attendees took lunch and dinner at local restaurants. Meal ambassadors ensured first timers like myself dined with a group of people. Anne Totusek kept the ConSuite well stocked with fruit, cheeses, crackers and other food.

Arriving

Without prior Thursday night arrangements with other writers, I looked forward to the open gaming listed on the website. However, I couldn’t find the gaming. I was a bit disappointed, but I re-purposed the time to go the grocery store and revise.

Writers’ Seminar

Holly Black and Ben Dobyns described other types of media and opened dialogs about how to convert Swordspoint to a game, a graphic novel, television, film, and new media. Holly, Ben, and the participants had lively, interesting discussions. Holly’s animated speech extolling the virtues of love for furthering plots was the highlight of the seminar.

The room was excessively cold because twenty of us attended the seminar in a room meant to hold over one hundred people.

Panels

Every panel I attended had a nugget of information I didn’t know I needed until I heard it. The panels had a bonus of being highly entertaining. Panelists mentioned several relevant books for those wanting to delve deeper into the topics.

Lessons and Laughs

  • “The best way to learn to write a novel is to write a novel.” – Elizabeth Bear
  • Being a visual writer means I may have scaffolding to clean up and that my first drafts could lack detail.
  • Don’t mess with knife girl or her collective.
  • “The beginning teaches you what the book is about. The middle deceives you about that.” – Holly Black
  • “Chekhov was just one guy.”
  • Life-threatening situations don’t hold readers attention as much as personal struggles do.

Conversations and Extras

Every lunch and dinner continued the discussion from the previous panel and started new discussions. Saturday the attendees from Viable Paradise 19 adopted me for meals and conversation. They talked up Viable Paradise and strongly suggested I should apply when 22 opens. They also warned that not everyone gets accepted the first year they apply for it.

Annaka Kalton shared her mead Saturday night. I shared my mead Friday night.

Fish! ended up being stressful because I tried to do it in the middle of a work day. I rushed to get there, arrived late and left early.

Notes to Self for Next Year

  • Bring a sweater.
  • Arrange to share mead on the same night if more than one brewer is present.
  • Bring sampler shot glasses for the mead sharing.
  • Make sure to record all of the books from panels.
  • Fully commit to Fish! or don’t go to it.
  • Only bring food for Thursday night and Friday morning.
  • Bring cash in case someone wants to split a tab.
  • Don’t forget the extra coffee for the room.

Not Enough Coffee in Hotels?

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The two cups of complimentary hotel coffee often falls short of my caffeine needs at writing or gaming conventions.Violent battles for the limited coffee resource can ensue if I share a room with another coffee drinker.

To reduce this issue, I buy single serve coffee filters and a bag coffee grounds. I stay well caffeinated at conventions now, perhaps to the dismay of people staying with me.

The picture below shows what the grounds look like compared to the pods.

img_3764

Record It, Don’t Just Read It

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I often hear the advice to read my stories aloud. Taking that advice two steps further, I record the story and listen to the recording,  a technique I discovered accidentally when recording a speech to memorize it.

I turned to Google looking for tricks to help me with the daunting task of memorizing a speech twenty minutes in length. There I found a technique of recording the speech and breaking up the recording into chunks roughly a minute in length. The subsequent step was to commit the chunks to memory sequentially.

While recording the speech, I found myself stumbling in places where the sentence construction was not correct. I read the whole speech through once making corrections on the paper. The next recording included those corrections.

When listening to the speech to break it up, I noticed paragraphs that didn’t make sense. It struck me that I caught different types of errors in listening to the speech than I had when reading it for the recording.

After a nervous, but successful speech, I realized this technique contained potential to improve my writing as well.

Try recording and listening to your work to see how both acts illuminate different problems.

The first step is to select a recording method. I used two free pieces of software:  Audacity for Windows and GarageBand for Macs. I also tried a USB flash drive recorder but found the poor sound quality distracting.

Steps in the process:

  1. Read the story aloud completely through making corrections to the draft
  2. Record the corrected version
  3. Listen to the recording
  4. Make corrections to the draft
  5. Repeat if desired

Edits: At 4th Street Fantasy 2017, a couple of other authors said they couldn’t listen to a recording they created because they didn’t like the sound of their voice.

An episode of Writing Excuses also talked about using text to speech for novels because reading a full length novel can be cumbersome.

If you don’t like the sound of your voice, or your work is too long, listening to text to speech conversions could fulfill the same purpose as listening to self-recorded stories.

Share Facebook Photo Albums

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Facebook makes it extremely easy to share individual photos, but sharing entire photo albums isn’t as intuitive.

Be on a Desktop or Laptop

I tried a couple of phones and tablets and only found the full sharing functionality on the computer version of Facebook.

Create a Public Link

  1. Open the album
  2. Click the gear in the top right-hand of the album
    AlbumGear
  3. Click Get Link
    AlbumGetLink

Following the steps above creates a direct link to your photo album that anyone can open. The link displays as text. It doesn’t generate a preview like sharing a photo album in Facebook normally does.

Share on Facebook

The first step is to make the album public. If you don’t do this step, only your friends will see the album.

What’s the problem with this? Most of the time we want to share photo albums to groups. Not everyone in the group will be your friend.  The group members who are not your friend receive a message stating they are unable to view the content.

Bear in mind; this means everyone on the internet that can find the album can view it. The album will also display for everyone on your Facebook profile page. If either of these scenarios does not appeal to you, consider using a public link or posting individual photos directly to a location instead of sharing photos or albums.

Steps to make an album public

  1. Open the album
  2. The privacy setting drop-down is underneath the album title.
  3. Select Public

AlbumPermissions

The share button for the album is at the bottom of the album underneath all of the photos. Any share buttons above the album relate to the whole page, not the album specifically.

AlbumButton

“Share on your own Timeline” appears in the upper left-hand corner of the sharing dialog box.

AlbumShare

The following drop-down options appear after the sharing dialog opens on a desktop or laptop.

AlbumShareFull

After clicking one of the options, another dialog opens allowing you to select places of that option type you have permission to share.

The dialog completed this way enables you to share Facebook albums.