Author Interview

Posted by on Jan 8, 2017 in Guest Posts, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Author Interview

Author Interview

This week I am thrilled to be hosted on 2 Me From Him, a blog written by Norma Gail, a Christian blogger and a Bookvana Award winning author. Stop by to discover how my students respond to having a published author as a teacher and whether I think it’s more important to write in order to teach or to entertain. You can also enter a Rafflecopter giveaway to win a print copy of The Healer’s Rune. Please note the giveaway is only open from January 6 until January 12, 2017.

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Slavery in the 21st Century

Posted by on Mar 5, 2016 in Guest Posts, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Slavery in the 21st Century

Slavery in the 21st Century

Slavery in the 21st Century

Author: Will Woods

The Jungle, a novel written by Upton Sinclair, depicted the lives of immigrants in the early twentieth century. These immigrants worked in inhumane conditions at unsanitary workstations in the meatpacking industry in Chicago, Illinois. In the novel these places were fictional, but the truth is that they were real. In modern society they are known as sweatshops. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a sweatshop is “a shop or factory in which employees work for long hours at low wages and under unhealthy conditions.” In China, Europe, and even in our homeland, the United States of America, sweatshops thrive. Sweatshops are not just businesses that provide people with low-income pay- they are the heart of slavery in the twenty-first century.

The victims of sweatshops are people who have lost their civil rights and have become slaves. A slave is “a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person” (Dictionary.com). Just as the slaveholders in the American Civil War did 150 years ago, today’s sweatshop owners basically brainwash their “employees” into thinking that the only way of life is working in these horrific places. Sweatshop workers are also very limited in what they can and cannot do. “Sweatshops may also have policies that severely restrict workers’ freedoms, including limiting bathroom breaks and even conversations with fellow workers. At its worst, violence is used against sweatshop workers” (Encyclopedia.com). Verbal, physical, and sexual abuse are common in these facilities. Workers are not allowed to have thoughts of their own, to speak out of turn, to have bathroom breaks, or to eat and drink. According to an article in Businessweek, there are many cases, especially in Asia, where the bosses beat the workers if they are not working hard or fast enough. In these sweatshops, workers’ rights matter little to their overseers.

Workers in sweatshops are known to be fined on a daily basis. In some sweatshops, workers are fined for arriving late, for forgetting to turn lights on or off, or for taking too long in the bathroom or on breaks. A fine can cost up to two months’ pay. If workers cannot afford to pay fines, they are unable to quit their jobs, and become enslaved by their bosses. ”Workers there face a life of fines and beating,” says Liu Zhang, a former sweatshop worker who quit after several months (Businessweek). This is not new; this idea has been around for many decades. When America was settled, farmers told the people back home that America was a land of riches, with prairies as far as the eye can see. As a result, potential immigrants wanted to come to America, but they could never afford the trip on their own. The landowners told them that the trip would be paid for, but the immigrants would have to work until they paid off the debt incurred on the trip. This gave rise to the term “indentured servant.” These indentured servants had to work for many years before their debts were paid off. Some worked for the rest of their lives, as do many in sweatshops today. If a sweatshop worker gets fined, he is enslaved and is forced to work until the debt is paid off, no matter the length of time it takes. Fining is a very popular way for the sweatshops to enslave workers because it strips them of their civil rights and does not allow them to escape until the debt is paid off.

Sweatshops all over the world are also known to abuse women’s rights. As with men, women are paid wages not fit to support the basic costs of living, and they are subjected to unsafe working conditions. Women are very commonly sexually abused in sweatshops, sometimes for punishment, and other times for the boss’ pleasure. “Scores of young Sri Lankan women guest workers have been sexually abused and repeatedly raped, over the course of years, while sewing clothing for Wal-Mart, Hanes, Target, Macy’s, Lands’ End and other labels at the Classic Factory in Jordan” (Classic Fashion in Jordan). According to feminist.org, 90 percent of sweatshop laborers are women, a majority of them between the ages of 15 and 22 years of age. Along with 70-plus hour shifts per week and unjust pay, these women also have to come home and take care of their kids. This makes them more vulnerable to disease, exhaustion, ill health, and possible unwanted pregnancy from rape. In addition to these abuses, it is not uncommon for women to be forced into indentured servitude. Many women are lured by recruiters who promise wonderful opportunities in far-away lands. These women will often pay thousands of dollars in recruitment and contract “fees”, tying themselves to indentured slavery that can last for many years.

Most sweatshops pay workers based on what they produce instead of paying them by the hour, thereby forcing them to work non-stop. According to Global Exchange, the workers at a certain Mexican sweatshop are expected to meet a quota of 1,000 pieces per day. Depending on the product that the factory produces, that could mean producing 1,000 shirts or 1,000 shoes. For the workers to meet this quota, they need to craft more than one piece per minute. The quota is so high that the workers are unable to have a drink or use the bathroom all day. The workers would get fined by their boss if they tried to take a break. The system that most sweatshops use to pay their workers, which forces them to labor all day long, shows that the overseers don’t care about the workers’ well-being, and that they would rather suck the workers clean until there is no money, energy, or spirit left.

Sweatshops were nearly eradicated after World War II due to the unionizing of America’s apparel industries. Employees earned wages above the poverty level, so sweatshops became outdated. Unfortunately, due to a rise of undocumented immigrants and weakening unions, the sweatshops came back (De Jesus). For years people lived happy, comfortable lives because most workers could find jobs for a livable wage. Then sweatshops came back and dragged more and more people down into a living hell. Sweatshops were destroyed because there was no need for them, but now they are back in numbers greater than before.

Sweatshops rob workers of their rights, subjecting them to the greed of the owners. These workers are miserable, their lives wasting away while they are constantly cheated and abused. They are unable to support themselves, let alone their families. Many of them get injured and, in many cases, die on the job because their bosses refuse to pay for safe working conditions, such as guards on machines or face masks. The workers live in filthy, overpopulated dorms provided by their bosses. Workers are sucked in, trapped, and treated like slaves because they are desperate for the money needed to care for their families. These people are in need of rescue. No one deserves to lose his or her life to selfish, inconsiderate slaveholders. It is up to caring citizens like us to put a stop to sweatshops once and for all.


Works Cited

“Sweatshop.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.

“Slave.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, 2016. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.

“Sweatshops.” Encyclopedia.com. N.p., 2009. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.

Roberts, Dexter and Aaron Bernstein. “Inside a Chinese Sweatshop: ‘A Life of Fines and Beating.’” Bloomberg Business, 2005. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.

“Feminists Against Sweatshops.” Feminist Majority Foundation, 2014. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.

“’Free Trade’ and Sweatshops.” Global Exchange, 2011. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.

“Classic Fashion in Jordan ─ Sweatshop Abuse, Sexual Predators.” Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, 2011. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.

De Jesus, Jessica and Tabea Kay. “Ethical Style: There Are Still Sweatshops in America.” Good.is. GOOD, 2016. N.p., n.d. 21 Feb. 2016.

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The Healer’s Rune is Now Available for Pre-Order

Posted by on Dec 28, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Healer’s Rune is Now Available for Pre-Order

The Healer’s Rune is Now Available for Pre-Order

My debut fantasy novel, The Healer’s Rune, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.  The name is wrong in Amazon’s description, but fear not, for it is the right book. Corrections are in process.

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Go Set a Watchman

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman

Initially, I was not going to purchase this book. I feared it was a gimmicky release published in order to capitalize on the popularity of To Kill a Mockingbird. However, as a high school English teacher, I knew people would ask my thoughts about it, so I capitulated and purchased Go Set a Watchman a few days after its release. I have waited so long to review it because I am still putting my thoughts about it in order.

The first thing I noticed about Watchman was the narrator’s style. As I read, I could hear Kim Stanley’s voice from the 1962 movie adaptation of Mockingbird. The tone and style of Watchman are consistent with those of Mockingbird, and I felt I was visiting an old friend.

A very old friend, as it turned out, who didn’t remember events the same way I remembered them…

In Watchman, when Jean Louise remembers the trial of Tom Robinson, there are some details that are wrong. In Mockingbird, Tom’s left arm was lame but entirely present, and Tom was found guilty at the trial. In Watchman, however, Tom’s left arm was missing, and Tom was acquitted.

One thing Harper Lee did with this book that was new at the time she wrote it was to experiment with stream-of-consciousness writing, a technique in which the author presents a character’s thoughts and reactions as a constant flow, replicating the thought processes as realistically as possible. This technique was well implemented many times, but there were a few times when Jean Louise’s thoughts wandered and never came back, leaving me confused.

I would have been able to overlook these things, however, if it were not for the message of the story.

Watchman is told from the perspective of an adult Jean Louise who has moved from New York but travels home once a year to visit for two weeks. When she arrives this time, she discovers that Atticus is involved in a communal group that opposes some recent Supreme Court decisions regarding segregation and the equality of blacks. While the exact issue was never addressed, because of the novel’s timeframe I received the impression that it was somehow tied into the desegregation of schools and equal rights. Jean Louise discovers that Atticus is involved in a community council opposed to these ideals and, while it is made clear that he is not against equal rights, Atticus does advocate a mindset that was very common to the cultural setting of the plot: one that views the agrarian South as a superior civilization in which the black man, while free, was not advanced enough to responsibly assume equal rights.

As with To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman is a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story in which the adult Jean Louise reaches a new level of maturity. However, Watchman addresses the disillusionment all adults experience when they realize the parents they idolize are mere humans, just like the rest of us. As in Mockingbird, the catalyst for maturity is the discovery of an ugly cultural mindset. However, while Scout’s new maturity is displayed in her ability to transcend the communal prejudices of Maycomb, in Watchman the development of Jean Louise is portrayed by her acceptance of them. While she doesn’t agree with Atticus, she does consent that he is right on some level.

For this reason, I cannot advocate this book.

It is bad enough that the editor let the book go to print with such glaring discrepancies as those mentioned above. These issues could have easily been addressed, especially since the original author is still alive. But the fact that Jean Louise, as a normative character, accepts the view that Maycomb puts forth entirely ruins the book. When I closed the back cover, I felt as if I was closing the door on a meeting with an old friend I just realized I never really knew.

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Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 in Book Reviews, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Last summer, at the AP Lit. Conference in Austin, the teacher sitting next to me was reading this book.  I have been searching for it ever since, and finally had my local mom-and-pop bookstore order it for me.  It was so worth the trouble!

This contemporary novel falls under the genre of magical realism.  It is a tightly structured, well told story about a computer programmer fan of fantasy fiction, people who love books, Google, and the quest for immortality.  I can’t tell you anything else, or it will give everything away, but I can add this:  the cover glows in the dark!  That’s not just a marketing gimmick, either, but an excellent visual of one of the story’s major components. But wait… I’ve said too much.

This story was one of those that I’m still thinking about after I’ve put it down.  It satisfied my longing for a story I could fall into and love, which is hard to do lately. I highly recommend this book.

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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Life in General, My Writing Journey, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Goals


“Keep a diary, but don’t just list all the things you did during the day. Pick one incident and write it as a brief vignette. Give it color, include quotes and dialogue, shape it like a story with a beginning, middle and an end—as if it were a short story or an episode in a novel. It’s great practice. Do this while figuring out what you want to write a book about. The book may even emerge from within this running diary” (John Berendt at Writer’s Write <www.writerswrite.co.za>).

I’ve tried writing every day many times, but each time I stop for two reasons: because my writing time is VERY limited, so I want to make very word count, and because these attempts consistently felt like the daily list mentioned above. However, I firmly believe that writing is like mining—you have to dig through a lot of dirt to find anything of value. I need a way to practice writing without consequence in order to mine the nuggets worthy of public notice, so I’m resolving to try again with practice on the level of the above quote. (Thank you John Berendt.)

With that in mind, I sat down to write about today and realized that I had no vignette, brief or otherwise. May 14, 2015 was just like every other day of walking half-asleep through my usual routine. I had no way of differentiating this day from most others.

Ruminating about how to approach this deficit of significance let me to thinking about writing scenes. Conventional wisdom states that each scene has to have a goal. If it doesn’t, how will you know what should happen or when the scene is over? If I’m going to write my day as a vignette, then shouldn’t I identify my goal first?

This question flowed into an examination of how I spent my day, which boiled down to proctoring finals for my high school literature classes. During the other 179 days of the school year, however, I am teaching. In order to plan what to teach, I have to begin by considering my objectives, or goals: What do I want students to learn or master in each particular lesson, and how will I know if my goal was achieved? My thoughts circled back on themselves at this point (a frustratingly common occurrence) to ask again what my goal for the day was.

That’s when I realized that I’ve lived each day mostly goal-less. I have overarching life-goals, of course: to live a peaceful life; to have a happy marriage; to be a good mom, a good writer, a good teacher. But what does that look like on a daily basis? If I don’t have small, micro-goals to achieve each day, then how do I know when I’ve attained my life-goals?

Henry David Thoreau wrote that he wished to live deliberately “and not, when [he] came to die, discover that [he] had not lived” (Walden: Or, Life in the Woods). This has been one of my driving desires since my high school years, but how will I know if I’ve achieved it. I’m beginning to think the answer lies in setting small goals.

What about you? Do you think that setting and keeping track of daily goals is important? Why or why not? If you do, what goals do you aspire to on a regular basis?

Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/98943100@N00/3082163605″>e1</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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