78 Years Ago Today: The Worst School Disaster in US History

NewLondon“I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of that New London tragedy, nor has any story since that awful day equaled it.” Walter Cronkite

Propane doesn’t smell. It’s odorless in its natural state. But if there is a leak, you smell a nasty odor.

Ever wonder why?

It would have been fortuitous if this had been done as more and more buildings began to use propane and gas for heating. But no one thought of doing it until they realized they had to.

Lessons learned that save lives later, often come at high cost.

The Facts

On March 18, 1937, a gas leak was sparked, causing an explosion that killed approximately 293 students and teachers at the New London School in New London, Texas. It is still the deadliest school disaster in U.S. History.

The six cascade events leading up to seventh, and final:

1.  School board overrode the architect’s plan for heating the school.

2.  The school was built on a slope with a lot of dead space underneath.

3.  School officials canceled the natural gas contract to save $300 a month and tapped directly into an oilfield residue line.

4.  The gas company knew the line was tapped into, but ignored it.

5.  The line connection to the residue line was faulty.

6.  Students had been complaining for days of headaches and burning eyes, but the warning signs were ignored.

7.  A teacher turned on an electric sander = Explosion

For more on this, read the short  New London Schoolhouse Explosion: Lack of Focus

Common Traits of the Successful Author—Craft Tuesday at Write on the River

It’s not normal to sit alone and write 100,000 words. So let’s get that out of the way. You aren’t normal. You aren’t in the bell curve and you aren’t necessarily on the good side of the curve. You’re cursed. You write because you have to. You will have to go to therapy. Sorry. That’s the reality of being a writer.

If you desire to write a novel because you want to have a bestseller and make a bundle of money, my advice is to play the lottery; it will take much less time and your odds will be about the same, if not better, and I can guarantee that the work involved will be much less. The publishing business makes little sense and it’s changing faster than ever before; the “gold rush” of the self-published eBook is long past. However, I do believe that the more you know, the greater your chances of success. The vast majority of writers are flailing away at the craft and the business blindly. Armed with knowledge, you greatly increase your ability to rise above the rest.

This book is focused on the craft of writing. I cover how to be a successful author, selling your book and the business of writing in my companion book Write It Forward. I believe it’s important to have two separate books, because too often writers put the cart before the horse: business before craft. The first thing you must do as a writer is create a great book.

You write for you. You write because you have a story in you that has to come out. This is the core of the art of writing. Pearl Buck said:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create—so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out his creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency, he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

I believe that passion which fuels long-term perseverance to be the single most important factor. I also believe that too much discussion on the topic of creativity can actually stifle the drive in some people. They start thinking that they have to do and think exactly like everyone else in order to succeed and that is not true. That is why I say that there are no absolutes, no hard and fast rules in writing. Follow your path.

I have listened to many writers speak, read many books on writing, and while much of what they say is the same, there is often something that is very different. Usually that different thing is part of their creative expression, the way they approach their writing. However, on a core level, I think most creative people operate in a similar manner.

I see people who do something like #nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) where they try to write a certain number of words each day, every day and I have two views of that: it’s good they are getting words down. But are they the type of writer who works that way? I know writers who don’t write every day, but work in creative bursts. They might not write for a week, then knock out 20,000 words in three days. #nanowrimo doesn’t work for them. Stephen King says he writes 10 pages a day. That’s great for him. Does it work for you?

Additionally, that is what he says. Does he actually do it? Probably, but maybe not. He’s the only one who knows the truth. Most writers feel a subliminal degree of guilt over getting paid to sit at home and create stories. So sometimes we says things to make it more apparent that we ‘work’. Because it’s hard to explain how hard it is to simply be sitting still, doing nothing, while we develop blinding headaches trying to work our way through our plot while remaining true to our characters. So we use things like word count and page count instead, even if they aren’t true.

When I discuss how to write a novel, I talk a lot about the craft of novel writing. The art is woven into the craft with deeper insights and when you take craft and twist it by breaking rules. But the first rule of rule breaking is to know the rule. Thus we must learn craft before we look to art.

Craft is the intellectual aspect of writing. The art is the emotional aspect. A great writer engages both the reader’s thoughts and emotions, thus being both a good craftsmen and a good artist.

One of the paradoxes of writing, and something to keep in mind when going through this: I am going to present techniques, ideas and formats that are the accepted way of doing things; yet the accepted way makes you the same as everyone else who can read a writing book and follow instructions, and your work has to stand out from everyone else’s. So how do you do that? How do you do things the right way yet be different?

Everything mentioned is a template; do not allow anything to stifle your creativity. Remember the paradox. The best analogy I can come up with is that if you were a painter I am telling you about the paint and the canvas and lighting and perspective, but ultimately you are the one who has to decide what you are going to paint and how to paint it.

Thumb_Nail_Novel_WriterAnother thing is to understand the techniques and methods, and then use your brilliance to figure out a way to change the technique or method to overcome problems and roadblocks. To be original—an artist—with something that’s already been done. Also to mix techniques and methods in innovative ways.

I call my book on writing a Writers’ Toolkit because if you pick up a hammer when you need a saw, that doesn’t invalidate the hammer as a tool. It means you made a mistake as a craftsman.

What “tools” do you rely on for your process as a writer?

98 Years Ago today, the last Czar abdicated!

TheLastCzarThe Last Czar: Leadership Failure

Quote: “I am not prepared to be a Czar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling.” Nicholas II, last Czar of Russia.

We still feel the effects of this catastrophe a century later. Few events have changed the course of modern history more than the Russian Revolution and the man most responsible for it was Nicholas II, the last Czar.

THE FACTS

Nicholas II became Czar of Russia in 1896. He led his country into 2 disastrous wars, both of which were lost. He also presided at a time of great social unrest as the traditional serf system was breaking down during the technological revolution. He eventually abdicated in the face of unrelenting pressure, throwing Russia into an intense civil war between the Whites and the Reds, which led to his execution (along with that of his family) and the rise of the communist Soviet Union.

The Timeline:

19 May 1868: Nicholas II is born

20 Oct 1894: Alexander III dies and Nicholas II becomes Ruler

14 November 1894: Nicholas II marries Alexandra

14 May 1896: Nicholas II is crowned Czar of Russia; over 1,000 die in a stampede at the celebration festival for the people; that evening Nicholas attends the French ambassador’s gala

8 February 1904: The Russo-Japanese war begins with a sneak attack by the Japanese on the Russian Fleet at Port Arthur

15 October 1904: The Russian Baltic Fleet begins a journey halfway around the world to reinforce the remains of their Far East fleet

27-28 May 1905: The Russian fleet is defeated at the Battle of Tsushima

9 January 1905: Bloody Sunday starts the Russian Revolution

27 June 1905: The Potemkin mutiny

5 September 1905: Treaty of Portsmouth ends the Russo-Japanese War; Russia lost the war

17 October 1905: The October Manifesto promises civil liberties and a parliament

15 July 1914: World War I begins

5 September 1915: Nicholas II assumes command of the Russian Army

17 December 1916: Rasputin is murdered

23-27 February 1917: The February Revolution begins

15 March 1917: Czar Nicholas II abdicates

17 July 1918: Nicholas II and his family are executed

For more read the short Anatomy of Catastrophe.  The Last Czar: Leadership Failure.

And for special announcements, super-secret giveaways, about every two months, sign up for my newsletter to the left!

Nothing but good times ahead.

Unlike the Czar.

Putting Things in Perspective

1590.914047509.customI didn’t know Lisa Bonchek Adams personally.  I followed her tweets, which is a strange 21st century thing.

She passed away this past week from breast cancer and I think it’s worth going to this web site, reading the post, and also I recommend making a donation.  I’ll let the post speak for itself.

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