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  • Kathy Weinberg's story, "Knocked Down" had significant impact on me. All her stories are well-wrought, and this one reminded me that Cowbird is a good art home for me, and not to be confused with anything else. I had recently accepted another friends invitation to jump into a Facebook group page for Cowbirders. I often think of questions as I pore over as many stories as I can, looking for real brilliance. I understand that my last sentence acknowledges that I don't find every story brilliant, but I don't think I must, or that it matters what I think.

    A Facebook page, on the other hand, seemed like a more reasonable place to bring up questions about "cowbirding" that seem patently inappropriate among the "stories'. Earlier, I "suggested" that Cowbird is not Twitter, and a "tweet" is not a story. My suggestion disappeared without comment, and as soon as I discovered it, I followed suit. I didn't mean, by the suggestion, that I would censor anyone's Cowbird submission, or that I think anyone should. I wouldn't, and I don't. I do, however, self-censor all the time. I call it "editing". Others help with it, for which I'm usually grateful, or at least accepting, because sometimes they "feel" better than I do about it. Bring it, I say.

    I won't be in the Facebook group, or any other group that performs unilateral censorship on my posts. I won't use a forum like Cowbird to suggest what or how others should write. But thanks to Kathy Weinberg's story, I won't make the far-worse error of mistaking a Cowbird for a Facebook, even in a tweetstorm. After all, I don't have to read anything or anyone whose contribution doesn't interest me, and that's not intended as a critical comment about anyone or their writing. It's just the way I feel about writing and who gets to be read.

    These are times that make me angry on a level that New Age psychobabble isn't prepared to face, because it is such a puny defense against the palpable damage suffered by victims of bullying. In the face of brutality, including that by children against other children, the trite and trivial are insensitive, even harmful. Ignoring it is the worst kind of censorship, and becomes a default sanction of misbehavior. If I consider the difference between fiction and autobiography and go on to find juxtaposed in a storytelling environment the genres of true romance, for the sake of example, and incest, the gravity of one alongside the starry eyes of the other produces a shock difficult to process.

    If everything here was fiction, that would make the shock easier to take, if that's what anyone's preference might be. In autobiography, if only for the reason that everyone has experienced the bubble and froth of true romance, the appearance of incest at the party might be unwelcome to some, and for a lot of reasons. Such stories are cold and flat if they are truthful, and the ability to tell that kind of truth should be the goal of any writer. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man is unforgettable in this way, because it forced me to walk a mile in another man's, a black man's shoes, and the perspective that comes from that piece of fiction makes writing the most painful scenes from autobiography less intimidating.

    Good writing requires a lot of practice, and great writing is filled with a lot of experience. I don't think it hurts to remind younger writers that some experiences they would never permit themselves to write about today will still be fresh in their memory after many years, even decades have passed. For those experiences, the meaning of life takes that long to mature and emerge. The other "stories", the ones that seem salient today, they are garden variety, boring even to the writer of them. They happen to everyone alike, and if, with the passage of time, they are forgotten, what is really lost?

    note: A false alarm prompted this; I was "Zucked", but it's really about Kathy's story, a far more important one than this. I rejoined Cowbirders, had my say, that's the end of it. Onward!
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