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Writing, History and Global Hunger


In 1947 Americans fed a "silent guest" during the holidays and this led to a CARE package going overseas to feed the hungry. Credits:  CARE

In 1947 Americans fed a “silent guest” during the holidays and this led to a CARE package going overseas to feed the hungry.

Writing is like a bridge to other worlds. It can take you to a land far away. Or it can even take you back in time. All you need is a pen and your imagination.

This combination of writing and history is the best tool I have for taking on one of mankind’s greatest threats: global hunger.

Why study history? Because “I like to” to quote former Harvard Professor Frederick Merk. There are great stories as we uncover the past. It’s inspiring. How well known is it that millions of lives have been saved over the years because both citizens and leaders were committed to fighting hunger. Shouldn’t that be remembered and celebrated?

History can help guide us through the sometimes treacherous waters before us. The famous Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II showed how critical food is for rebuilding a society. Once, a young lieutenant after World War I was told that getting food to the hungry trapped in a valley would be impossible. His response was “yes, we can” and his team got it done. That is the spirit that must remain timeless.

My writing adventure against world hunger started when I was finishing a graduate course at the College of Mount St. Joseph. You know a class is going well when the ideas start coming. Sometimes those ideas divert you from the curriculum, but when it comes to education it’s good to deviate. School is about creative thinking and writing.

I was ready to take on a new topic with my writing. However, I did not know much about global hunger at that time. I knew hunger was a crisis both globally and even locally. Today, there are 870 million people worldwide who suffer from hunger. In America there are just over 50 million people who struggle to get food. But quite often it’s not something we see right in front of us and it’s not often covered in the media. These great distances can mean less action.

Hunger can be a silent crisis too. The effects of malnutrition are very damaging, and even deadly, to a society. The impact can takes months or years to unfold, or to be realized. Hunger though has the potential to claim more lives than a war itself.

To get started, I bought a book about Food for Peace by George McGovern written back in the early 1960’s. From that historical starting block I moved into the present day struggle. I made a great contact with Jennifer Parmelee of the UN World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP is the largest food aid organization in the world. Then I got some ideas.

My first article on hunger was published in my hometown newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, on my birthday. I have written hundreds of articles and books about hunger since that time. I even compiled these articles and interviews into several books.

With each story I try to take that trip to a distant land or time. Sometimes I do both. Just within the last year I have written about school meal programs (which Charity Miles supports) and have received comments from people who benefited from U.S. led school feeding in Germany after World War II.

Sometimes I do my writing in between a Charity Miles workout. I will bring a little notebook and stop somewhere and jot a few things down. Last week I took a break at the College of Mount St. Joseph library and found a historical book about the International Red Cross. I read about how they provided school meals to children in Hungary during the 1956 Revolution.

When it comes to fighting hunger you are looking at a crisis so massive, that it takes involvement from so many corners to mount any kind of offensive. This month I reminded a UN Development goals class at Mount St. Joseph of Helen Keller’s quote, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

A good idea would be if someone could write a paragraph or two about their interests and talents. Afterwards, you would write down how those same parts of your life could be used to help end global hunger. If you use Charity Miles you already have one such idea to write down and develop. The great thing about Charity Miles is that you can fight hunger both at home, by supporting Feeding America, and abroad by helping WFP. On some days I have run or walked for both. You can probably think of many other ways to help these organizations fight hunger. Think of as many as you can. Then you can start turning those ideas into action.

Those words and ideas can lead to many things. I remember a message from an organization called Edesia saying that a newspaper article I wrote led to donations to buy Plumpy’Nut, a life saving food for infants, during the East Africa famine of 2011. You never know what surprises wait around the corner just by writing or diving a bit into the past.

Originally published at Charity Miles.

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Interview with Christine Grote, Author of Dancing in Heaven

When Christine Grote returned to school at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio, she began the journey of an emerging writer. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English 2007 and even started up a literary magazine for the college.

Her writings began to get published by magazines and newspapers, including St. Anthony Messenger , RED Webzine , and the Cincinnati Enquirer . Her journey as a writer would also take her down another path: That of an author.

Christine just wrote and published a memoir about her sister Annie, who passed away in 2009. Dancing in Heaven takes you inside Christine’s family and their life with Annie, who was disabled from birth.

In the following interview, Christine talks about Dancing in Heaven and also the process of publishing this inspirational memoir.

Tell about when the inspiration came to you to write a book about your sister’s life.

I’ve always known I would eventually write a story about Annie. This particular story began as a short story in collage form about Annie’s life for a creative writing class I was taking at the College of Mount St. Joseph in 2005, several years before Annie died. Although my teacher encouraged me to pursue the story by polishing it and seeking publication, I put it away. When Annie died in August of 2009, I felt compelled to tell her story. So I combined my short story with notes, journal entries, and e-mails from Annie’s last days. I filled in with more stories and drafted Dancing in Heaven.

What challenges did you face in the journey from an inspired idea to a ready-to-publish manuscript?

The first challenge was determining what to include and what to cut. I do a lot of revising, and make a fairly big mess of it in the process by at times physically cutting printed pages and taping things back together in a different arrangement. I felt the most challenged by, or least secure in, the final editing as a self-publishing author. No one has your back, so you have all the responsibility of making sure the final product is clean and correct.

What led you to start your own publishing company as opposed to sending your book to a traditional publisher?

Originally I intended to seek traditional publication. I bought books about getting an agent, writing a book proposal, and getting published. I sent out a single query letter to a recommended agent. I never heard anything back. Not even a simple, “I got your query and I’m not interested.” Agents don’t even have time for that much.

Meanwhile I was reading about self-publishing online. I liked the fact that I would keep control of the final product, including the title. I liked the fact that I wouldn’t have to wait what could be four or more years to find an agent. I wanted Annie’s story out there so I could move on with my life. I am not a very patient person. I did not want to have to rely on my query letter in a stack of thousands, making it into the right individual’s hands at the right time. It’s a good story. I wanted to tell it. I took a self-publishing workshop from Writer’s Digest University online and saw that I could do it.

What advice would you give other people inspired to write a book? Would you ever teach a seminar on publishing a book?

I think anyone inspired to write a book, or pursue any other creative outlet, owes it to themselves, not to “try,” but to do it. I read somewhere there are no “aspiring” writers, only writers. We only get one chance at this life, and the years go quickly.

I don’t have any plans to teach a seminar, and don’t really feel qualified to do it. But I am more than happy to answer individuals’ questions or help others in any way I can.

Where can people get a copy or more information about Dancing In Heaven?

You can read a brief summary, a few excerpts, and what others are saying about the book at the Dancing in Heaven page on my blog. Dancing in Heaven is available in print and for the Kindle at Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble online in print (they actually have it discounted 10%) and for the Nook . It is also available in other ebook formats from Smashwords .

I love to hear comments or answer questions from individuals who have read Dancing in Heaven. They can do that on the page at my blog.

View the original article on blogcritics.org

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