It’s a cruel irony that people in rural Iowa can be malnourished amid forests of cornstalks running to the horizon. Iowa dirt is some of the richest in the nation, even bringing out the poet in agronomists, who describe it as “black gold.” In 2007 Iowa’s fields produced roughly one-sixth of all corn and soybeans grown in the U.S., churning out billions of bushels.
These are the very crops that end up on Christina Dreier’s kitchen table in the form of hot dogs made of corn-raised beef, Mountain Dew sweetened with corn syrup, and chicken nuggets fried in soybean oil. They’re also the foods that the U.S. government supports the most. In 2012 it spent roughly $11 billion to subsidize and insure commodity crops like corn and soy, with Iowa among the states receiving the highest subsidies. The government spends much less to bolster the production of the fruits and vegetables its own nutrition guidelines say should make up half the food on our plates. In 2011 it spent only $1.6 billion to subsidize and insure “specialty crops”—the bureaucratic term for fruits and vegetables.
Those priorities are reflected at the grocery store, where the price of fresh food has risen steadily while the cost of sugary treats like soda has dropped. Since the early 1980s the real cost of fruits and vegetables has increased by 24 percent. Meanwhile the cost of nonalcoholic beverages—primarily sodas, most sweetened with corn syrup—has dropped by 27 percent.
“We’ve created a system that’s geared toward keeping overall food prices low but does little to support healthy, high-quality food,” says global food expert Raj Patel. “The problem can’t be fixed by merely telling people to eat their fruits and vegetables, because at heart this is a problem about wages, about poverty.” —
The New Face of Hunger | Tracie McMillan
This is a well-researched and impressively sensitive profile of hunger, poverty and health in the US. Can’t recommend it enough.
This came from my retreat this weekend with Juliet Grames of Soho, and is therefore somewhat mystery-focused, but I think it probably applies to almost every editor and author:
1. Doesn’t fit my list for international crime fiction.
2. Motive. Why is the protagonist investigating?
3. Beats too Familiar. Story feels clichéd. This book has been written before. (Try unusual pov—character development.)
4. Wandering point of view, in particular depicting the villain (which confuses the reader).
6. Interesting Monsters. (Remember the World Around them.)
7. Small Stuff (Sloppy Forensics, Sloppy Plotting, Sloppy Research)
8. Pacing (Cutting Volume without Cutting Content)
Some writers will tell you that you need a character who wants something. And the plot is about that character getting what they want.
No, this is why so many writers end up writing lousy plots that meander everywhere. Because a character who wants something getting what she wants is a straight line. And it takes about one chapter.
I want to be an astronaut. I study, work hard, get good grades, go through all the training, and then end up on the moon. The end. One sentence, actually.
What makes a character interesting is when the character wants something and doesn’t get it. Over and over and over again. She tries, and fails. Tries again, and fails again. And then gives up. But not really. Because how can a good character ever give up? But secretly is still trying to get what she wants, and failing.
Until one day, the character may get what she wanted at the beginning. Or—and this happens often in fiction—gets something completely different that it turns out she realizes she wanted more.
Because characters change during the course of a story. If the character changes, then how likely is it going to be that what the character wants changes? Very likely. So if she gets what she wants, then she isn’t satisfied and has to get something else, because she’s changed. And then changed again.
Sure, people want fiction to do some things that don’t happen in real life. We want shape in fiction. We want there to be a point to everything, for there to be a purpose to our struggle.
But part of writing fiction is acknowledging that the struggle changes and looks different as we change. And the shape we give our lives is often a fictional one. That is, in telling our stories, we make them have purpose. But we can’t tell a story until the change is done. Or at least until some change is done.
Sometimes, artists ask questions. That doesn’t mean we have the answers. — Me (via barrylyga)
by Raw Art Letterpress
Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read
September 22-28, 2013
First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice. — Octavia E. Butler (via mangaluva)
(Source: maxkirin, via gwendabond)