Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest Blogger, Michele Emrath

Please join me in welcoming writer Michele Emrath as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Michele is also a freelance news producer. With much of the nation and the world focusing on Canada and the Winter Olympics, Michele is sharing her thoughts on the event and how it binds people.

The Olympic games have graced the United States several times.  Eight times since 1896, to be exact.  Now I can't speak for anything before Atlanta in 1996, but I don't remember a patriotic fervor surrounding those games.  I don't remember a rush to each city and a stripe of red, white, and blue across every heart.

Not so for Canada.  Not so for England and Russia.  The latter has impressive architectural renderings up on their site.  They are also marking each year until 2014 with a different art theme--cinema, museums, etc.  England is hosting a similar Cultural Olympiad--The World Shakespeare Festival, outdoor arts projects, and Film Nation, to name a few.

If such was the status in the US in '96 or in '02, it was more regional.  Maybe Georgians flocked to Atlanta for ceremony and celebration.  Maybe Salt Lake City citizens crowded into cultural events.  But I did not.  The country as a whole did not.

What makes you rally around an event? What makes you rally around a work?

Do you remember the way the film "Life is Beautiful" crashed into the Academy Awards, with Roberto Benigni jumping from seat to seat and finally onto the stage?  Do you remember how "The DaVinci Code" swept the nation, bringing conservative preachers to their pulpits and readers to their nooks?  These are examples of works of art bringing us together.  Whether through debate or praise, words act as glue.

The Olympics are that glue for many a Canadian citizen right now.  I hope they will be that way for Brazilians in 2016, Russians in 2014, and the British in 2012.  They can also be that glue for the world, and that is the magic of the Olympics.

I could give you a metaphor here--figure skating or synchronized swimming, but instead I'll bring it back to the art that binds us together: writing.  What work do you hold to your heart?  What work makes you feel and rally?  Or, for writers, what makes your MS cohesive?  What is the glue that binds it together?

Thank you, Mason, for letting me guest blog today.  It's an honor to talk to your readers.

Michele, thank you for guest blogging here today. I wish as a nation we did bind together more as they seem to have in Canada. As for the Atlanta Olympics, I think Georgians did turn out for that. I know I did.

For more information on Michele, be sure to check out her blog Southern City Mysteries and her website


  1. Mason - Thanks so much for hosting Michele! Michele, I agree completely that this Olympics is, indeed, binding Canada together, and in a way, the world, too. The same thing, I think, anyway, happened during the Calgary Olympics of 1988.

    You ask an interesting question about what binds us together as readers and writers. I've thought about that a lot, actually. I think it's that that we share a love of the written word and the way so much can be expressed through it.

    As for my manuscript? What's binding it together is the mystery (I write murder mysteries) that's at the center of the story. I think that's the thing that sets mystery novels apart from other genres; there's a mystery (almost always a crime) at the center of the story. For me, that's what ties the work together.

  2. I went to a party last night and blurted out "I am so into these Olympics!" Crickets. Nothing. Dead air. It was really frustrating to me to see something to cohesive as the Olympics go unnoticed by my peers.

    I also see it as a great learning time for my children. My son is fascinated by the skiiers and the logers. "Can I do that someday?" he asks. "Yes, with the proper knowledge and gear," I always answer. Laugh all you want.

    Maybe the apathy is uniquly American. I don't know if I hope not, or hope so.


  3. What a great post, Michele! I agree that the world seems like a much smaller place during the Olympics.

    I think the fact that the writer and reader are sharing an experience together is what makes the magic. If the writer starts talking down to the reader, it kills it.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. Good morning Mason and Michelle,
    Like you, I'm really enjoying the Olympics this winter, too. Watching these athletes and being so aware of the difficult journey that led them to this amazing place, is the glue. Rallying for them to reach for the gold. I think that is the glue in much of our writing, our characters reaching the readers' thoughts and hearts, engaging them in support of the characters' journey.

  5. The 1984 games in LA were a bit more binding, Michele.
    And sadly, the last thing to really bind our nation was 9/11.

    Great post, Michele!

  6. It would be nice to see our country a little more excited. I think we're more Summer Games people.

  7. Great post Michele! I'm one of those crazy Canadians glued to the TV for the next 2 weeks. It's just something about sports that pulls us together. We're nuts about the junior hockey world championships, and most other countries don't even know they're happening! I'm sure at least half our nation cheered and yelled together as Alexandre Bilodeau won our first gold last night. Awesome moment :)

  8. Anything that brings us together is a good thing. I think it's easier if we're involved in some way. Some people choose to be involved in nothing but themselves. They don't know what they miss. Great post.

    And Mason, I have an award for you at my blog.

  9. I think one thing that binds readers together is a common experience - thousands reading the same book, living through those characters, and experiencing their emotions.

    Straight From Hel

  10. Elizabeth- And that makes our job even more important, making that experience a good one, don't you think? Or at least a memorable one.

    Joanne- You're right, our characters are making a journey, just like the Olympic athletes. I hadn't looked at it that way! And we invite the readers to take that journey as well.

    Diane- I have also heard the "Miracle on Ice" of 1980 was pretty binding at a time when the country was bound against the Soviets. And you are right, tragedy glues us together.

    Alex- I suppose. Maybe if they added American Football? (NOT that I think they should! I don't!)

    Jemi- I saw that run, too, and it was amazing. He was amazing. And the joy on his face and the cheers that went up in the crowd was enough to keep me glued to the television. I should also say here that I have actually been to the Olympics--a few soccer games in Atlanta in '96. The sport was impressive, the atmosphere was not.

    Carol- It is definitely individual choice, you are right. The same goes for a book. We choose to pick up a light read or a Salmon Rushdie. But if it the book does its job, we can't help but get involved. And I feel that way about the Olympics as well. I think Canada as a host has done its job. In my opinion, the US did not.

    Helen- Definitely. But I also enjoy learning something new in a book. I love reading historical fiction for the education. The same with foreign authors and new genres.

  11. Michele, I want to thank you for guest blogging here today. It amazes me some of the things that does bring people together while other things that you think would, don't. Very insightful post. Thanks again.

  12. Anytime! Mason won't tell you this, but I was actually a poor guest blogger. I got this to her really late, and honestly it was because I spent all yesterday afternoon watching the Olympics! (Though I'd love to tell you I was off doing romantic Valentine's Day things with my hubby, alas, it was the TV that had me hooked.) This has been fun, and I'll check in again later for more comments.


  13. Canada does come together for the Olympics; for those magical days when it doesn't matter what province the athlete is from, what matters is they're wearing a maple leaf.

    When we won our first gold medal yesterday this country went wild.

    Wait till the hockey starts. When the Salt Lake City Olympics were on, and we were hoping and praying for a gold in hockey there was an ad which ran up here which always struck me as a summation of how Canada view the Olympics. It said "If we cheer loud enough, maybe they will hear us in Salt Lake".

  14. What a timely post. I have been watching some of the Olympics and found it sad that we don't take as much pride in hosting that other countries do.

  15. Cheers for Chels here in Masy's place :))
    Serbia has just ten athletes at this year's Olympics since we are not into winter sports that much, we prefer basketball, tennis, water polo, soccer ...
    My heart goes to athletes of Georgia who lost their member a day before the games have opened.

  16. The athletes put in years of training and sacrifice to compete. However, only three will medal. They know that, but do it for the love of the sport and to satisfy their hearts. We as writers, do something similar, laboring over manuscripts--many of which will never be published, still, like the athletes, we do if for the love of writing and to satisfy our hearts.

    Best Wishes Galen.
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  17. As for the Flanagan family here in Colorado, we have been actively involved in watching the Olympics. We even went to a friend's house for the opening ceremonies. Those who haven't been watching are missing out on a lot. (The men's short track race when Apollo got a silver--all I can say is OMG!)

    As for what binds writers together? It is the love of the written word. The joy we find in the language when we write it and read it.

    Go USA!

  18. Elspeth, I love the ad. That does say a lot for the country and the people. If only we came together and stayed.

    C.C., I also wish we took more pride in being a country and showing a unified front.

    Dez, it is tragic that an athlete was killed when this is suppose to be such a happy time. I thought it was nice that everyone stood for the Georgia team when they entered at the opening.

    Galen, I had never thought of athletes training like that or writers for that matter. But it is so true. You have to follow your heart no matter what you do.

    Kerrie, I think the Olympics especially help to bring people together that can't attend. The Olympic parties families and friends are having will make lasting memories for everyone involved. Not just the medals the athletes win, but the fun people having celebrating the Olympics.

  19. I remember that Australia (or at least Sydney) experienced a wonderful cultural euphoria during the 2000 summer Olympics. Events (especially swimming, which Aussies excel at) were projected on big screens everywhere in town. The suburb where I live has an old town hall and greek-style mini-ampitheatre where locals perform, recite poetry, etc., and the steps were always crowded with people watching the games. Aboriginal art and both versions of the Australian flag flew from poles next to the white flag with the Olympic rings. It really livened up people and brought them together. Aussies won a lot of gold that year too--must have been all those cheering supporters and soaring spirits.

  20. Hey, Michele!

    As an Atlantan, I remember counting down to the Olympics years out... seeing sweatshirts advertising the event and things being built for it. I live near where they held one major event (I'm not going to say where just because this in the internet) and they completely changed everything about it. That was also the year our airport was completely redone.

    Fourteen years later, the Olympics' mark is still here. From a regional standpoint, it was insane. But of course, I can't speak from a national one. I can say SLC wasn't that big of a deal to me. So it makes sense if Atlanta wasn't a big deal to anyone else but us. Despite it's location, I didn't go to any events. In fact, my family got cabin fever from trying not to go out because of the traffic and stuff. So I understand the paradox you described. It is interesting, isn't it?

    I think one key element is passion. Something written authentically, full of passion, can definitely polarize people. It will either bring them together or tear them apart, but ultimately, it gets everyone reading.

  21. I have loved the Olympics, both winter and summer, since I was a kid. I fondly remember the elegant ice skaters from the Soviet Union, the brilliant gymnasts from eastern Europe, the U.S. Dream Team, and much more. I'm even a fan of curling, and I love the snowboard events. I cheer for anyone who's clearly a great athlete. Who knew last night I'd be cheering for the Chinese teams in pairs skating? Beautiful!

    Yes, I feel the same way about books...I read anything and everything and cheer for those authors who've kept me engrossed for 300-400 pages. Love 'em!

  22. Lorel- I am so happy to hear the pride Australians took (and still take) in hosting. I remember learning a lot about Australian Aboriginal art at those Olympics--and must have forgotten until you just reminded me!

    Kristen- I think you are sort of making my point. You are an Atlantan. I lived in nearby Tennessee at the time and still barely noticed. With some hedging for the fact that I was in high school, but taken back for the fact that I actually went to the games, I don't think the US came together the way other countries do. Are we too big? Too diverse? Too apathetic? I don't know.

    Patricia- You write with the passion others speak of. Passion. It binds the athletes together. It keeps us glued to the TV. It keeps us turning pages (and writing them, hopefully). Passion.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.