Yearly Archives: 2006

My Letter to the Editor: post-Gay Amendment fallout

November 15, 2006

[copied from my old Myspace blog]

So, Virginians have foolishly voted the “Gay Amendment” into its constitution. This is the one that not only says marriage is between one man and one woman, but that no unmarried couples (gay or straight) may have the legal appurtenances of marriage.

The editorial board of my local newspaper in Staunton, the News Leader, came out against the amendment although it still somehow supported the re-election of George Allen to the U.S. Senate. But whatever. The day after the amendment passed, the News Leader‘s house editorial said what the rest of us–at least the educated, open-minded populace of Virginia–was thinking. Basically: I hope you’re happy now, you fucking idiots; we just backtracked to the days of Jim Crow.

Here’s one of the many fece stains that subsequently got printed in the letters to the editor:

Marriage amendment outlaws sin

I am glad the marriage amendment passed. It is a shame, however, that we have to define that which has been from the beginning. Marriage was ordained by God in the Garden of Eden over 6,000 years ago. Marriage cannot be defined by government to mean anything but a union between one man and one woman.

Your argument that we are discriminating against people is absolutely absurd. We are outlawing sin. Homosexuality is sin. It is against nature. It is against what God intended. God intended for one man and one woman to get married and have children. That is how the human race continues to survive. Two men or two women cannot reproduce naturally. If we had to rely on homosexuality, the human race would cease to exist in a generation.

The fact that blacks and other minorities were discriminated against in our history is heartbreaking. I do not agree with what our forefathers did to blacks and other minorities. We should not discriminate against people based on their color or handicap. You cannot change your skin color or handicap. You are born with a certain skin color or handicap. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is a choice. People choose to be homosexual; just as the drunk chooses to be drunk, or the drug addict chooses to be a drug addict. A decision was made to do wrong at some point in that person’s life.

I do not hate homosexuals. I hate homosexuality. When we start equating homosexuality with race, we have started down a slippery slope into moral degradation in this country. We must stand for what is right.

Waynesboro

JOHN FISKE

This particular letter was especially reflective of the hypocrisy around here. It sickened me enough that I sent in my own letter, which was printed in today’s paper. The News Leader cut and pruned some verbiage to make it fit within a couple column inches, but it’s essentially how I wrote it:

Stand up for right: Defeat polytextilism!

The time has come for us to enforce what the Bible unequivocally prohibits by writing it into our highest law. I’m referring to Leviticus 19:19, “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” How dare we flout the law of God by wearing our cotton-polyester and wool-acrylic-polyester blends? Such perversions of nature are against what God intended, for we know that animals cannot produce such materials. Any argument to the contrary is absolutely absurd. People choose to manufacture such monstrosities, just as the drunk chooses to be drunk, or the drug addict chooses to be a drug addict. A decision was made to do wrong. I do not hate clothing manufacturers, I hate polytextilism. Let us not start down a slippery slope into moral degradation. We must stand for what is right.

Staunton

MATTHEW WARNER

It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any response. I think the News Leader editors, at least, got my point.

“A Gift of Candy” — short story from The Sweet Shoppe candy store

October 22, 2006

[copied from my old Myspace blog]

Now, only from The Sweet Shoppe candy store on New Street in Staunton, Virginia, you can receive a free short story, by yours truly, when you visit their store.

A Gift of Candy

The Sweet Shoppe is a great little store specializing in high quality chocolates and other gourmet treats. (They also have excellent literary taste.) Anyone traveling by Staunton from now until Halloween should exit from Interstate 81 and stop by.

Afterwards, you could stroll down to the Bookstack on Beverley Street and pick up Eyes Everywhere. And be sure to check out some of the other things we have to offer while you’re in town.

Marvin Ward Elementary; chance to win a free book

September 26, 2006

[copied from my old Myspace blog]

Can you come up with a caption for this picture?

Last Friday’s visit to Marvin Ward Elementary School in Winston-Salem, NC, was exhausting but rewarding.  After an appearance on closed-circuit “Ward TV” at 8:45 a.m., I delivered four 40-minute lectures to 4th-5th grade “academically gifted” students, 1st graders, and 5th graders again.  Each session had upwards to 60 students.

To the 1st graders, I read Dr. Seuss’s “What Was I Scared Of,” followed by the first few pages of Chris Van Allsburg’s “Jumanji.”  The rest of the sessions were presentations about skills needed to be a writer and about the horror genre in general.  I tried to keep it interesting by inviting the kids to tell story jokes (emphasizing that a love of storytelling is the first requirement of being a writer) and by holding drawings for toy-filled eyeballs and eyeball whoopee cushions (because my latest book is Eyes Everywhere).

I also gave a reading of “Landini the Magnificent,” a short story I wrote about a lion tamer who gets his just desserts.  You can still listen to a recording of me reading this story on the June 3, 2005 podcast from ReallyScary.com.  I had a lot of fun on all the readings–running around the room, walking through the crowd, and screaming out selected lines–and the kids really got into it.

It was while reading my short story, I think, that the observing teachers noticed that a wheelchair-bound student with cerebral palsy seemed to be giggling and having a good time.  This kid, CJ (who wants to be a DJ when he grows up), even contributed to the discussion later on when his favorite movie, Monster House, was mentioned.  He was also one of the students to win a toy-filled eyeball.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but apparently this level of interest and involvement on CJ’s part was unheard-of.  One of the teachers who’d been vainly working one-on-one with him started crying.

I’m not telling this anecdote to toot my own horn (well okay, maybe a little) so much as to say that this was the part of the visit I think I’ll remember the most.  When I later heard all this information about CJ, I was kind of dumbstruck for a few hours–feeling really good that I might have made a brief difference to someone.  It’s a rare moment in a writer’s life that he doesn’t just feel but knows that he’s done something concretely good.

Anyway, there’s a chance Marvin Ward might invite me back next year, budget and time permitting.  In the meantime, I’ve offered to judge a writing contest from their students and to publish the winners on matthewwarner.com.

As part of the police-sponsored Book ‘Em fair coming up in Waynesboro, VA, on October 14, there’s also a possibility I might be talking to some school kids in my area within the next couple weeks.  All good opportunities to promote my books, of course, but more importantly to get people interested in reading.

Just so you don’t think I’m a goody two-shoes, Deena told me after the day was over that I may have unintentionally scandalized the teachers a couple times.  The first time was during my discussion of how horror uses symbolism to comment on the true horrors of the world.  “Take werewolves, for instance,” I told the kids after making sure they knew what werewolves are.  “When you boys get older and have girlfriends, you’ll find that for most of the month, they act one way.  And then for a few days, maybe during the full moon, they’re like somebody completely different.”  (I declined to go into detail.)

Then there was the time during the last session when I suggested that writing was a job they might hold one day, just like they might pursue like any other profession such as being a bartender.  Then I asked the kids if they knew any story jokes (“you know, of the ‘a guy walks into a bar’ variety”).  I honestly didn’t realize at the time that I’d made these two separate references to bars. 

——————-

The Horror Yearbook website will be interviewing me and reviewing Eyes Everywhere in an upcoming issue.  To promote my forthcoming “appearance,” they’re giving away one autographed copy of my book.  To enter, all you have to do is send them an email with your name and location.  Details at this link.

Edit Ink redux

July 25, 2006

[copied from my old Myspace blog]

Eleven years ago, I had the misfortune of spending a few months as an intern in Buffalo, NY, for a manuscript-editing service called Edit Ink.  After I left, the operation was investigated by the NY attorney general for violations of truth-in-advertising laws.  Its owners eventually received civil fines in excess of $5 million for defrauding thousands of prospective writers in a clever bait-and-switch scam.  Fortunately for me, I was too naive at the time to realize what I’d gotten myself into; I was kind of like the low-level employees at Enron who only later discovered that they’d been part of something nefarious.

Anyway, long story long, I detailed my whole relationship with Edit Ink in my March 2006 column at Horror World.  The article proved to be an exhausting exercise in investigative journalism as I interviewed several people–including the NY assistant attorney general.

Since March, I’ve received a lot of interesting feedback.  I’ve heard from a few others who say they were former Edit Ink editors like me and who said I brought back a lot of unpleasant memories.  One lady said that a few years ago she crossed paths with Bill Appel in the years after the Edit Ink debacle, when he was selling home satellite dishes.  And just a few weeks ago–this took the cake–I was contacted by Charles Neighbors, one of the Edit Ink defendants, who ran the Aardvark Literary Agents.  After verifying his identity to my satisfaction, I interviewed him over the phone.  He told me that his role in the Edit Ink scam was highly exaggerated and that he would be taking steps to expunge his record with the State of New York.  Perhaps this fall he’ll pen a rebuttal to my column.  We’ll see.

The games go on, though.  Yesterday, a troll on the Absolute Write Water Cooler message board laid into me.  He claimed to have been involved with Edit Ink as well, but he refused to identify himself.  I concluded that he was lying about his whole involvement and just wanted to take some digs at me.  Here’s where you can read the whole exchange.  For what it’s worth, he may have had a good point concerning my definition of sexual harrassment, but other than that, he proved to be nothing but an ass.  I post the link here so you can judge for yourself.

Sick of the anti-gay ignorance

July 19, 2006

[copied from my old Myspace blog]

The Sunday edition of the local Staunton News Leader published the following letter to the editor from Deena and me.

Anti-gay hysteria feeds on ignorance  

Bravo to Mike Radoiu for his May 28 column, “Politicians push ‘hot-button’ issues to avoid making tough decisions,” in which he wisely observes that recent pushes for anti-gay marriage amendments are nothing more than divisive political ploys for votes from a bigoted voter bloc. Unfortunately, antipathy of homosexuals is rooted in the mistaken belief that sexual orientation is a matter of choice and is therefore some kind of moral concern. It’s perpetuated by homophobic stereotypes that are no less mean-spirited and inaccurate than racial ones.

We know firsthand how wrongheaded these stereotypes are because we have many friends across the country who are gay, lesbian and trans-gendered. All of them are highly educated, contributing members of society. One of them owns a large court-reporting firm. Another owns and operates a news Web site. Another is a best-selling novelist, another owns a bookstore and one teaches high school. Another publishes a magazine, one is the executive director of a Smithsonian-affiliated museum and another works as an advocate for domestic violence victims.

Moreover, all of these people we know are in committed, monogamous, long-term relationships. They are neither sexually depraved nor sexually predatory. They all want to fit in and to be able to go about their businesses and private lives. They especially want to be able to provide for their loved ones. It deeply saddens us that these fine American citizens have been deprived of their civil rights by legislators who insult our intelligence with claims that anti-gay legislation “protects” the institution of heterosexual marriage. How idiotic. A gay couple down the street who gets married in no way makes our own marital union any less special. How can someone else’s marriage gay or not possibly affect how we feel about each other? And objectively, how could someone else’s marriage erode our own marital facility to, for instance, cover each other under our health insurance, purchase property together or ensure each other’s financial security upon our deaths? The rhetoric that justifies this generation’s Jim Crow laws and the underlying fears are completely spurious. We defy anyone to devise a single, rational justification for homophobia that does not rely on the sheer ignorance and intolerance that have been the hallmarks of this debate.

Staunton

MATTHEW & DEENA WARNER

Originally published June 18, 2006