"Roundheads and Ramblings"
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Every Author Needs a Dead Mule
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Thank You

A Scholar's Death

Norman Hinton died this past week, and that death has sent amazing ripples through the world of academics and literary scholars. No one, yet has posted his official obituary, and I am certainly unqualified to do so. But I do feel called upon to note a phenomenon occurring on the internet.

Let's start with a short internet biography, which, from the tongue-in-cheek tone of it, was almost certainly written by the man himself: 

Norman Hinton is an Emeritus Professor of English from the University of Illinois-Springfield. He received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Tulsa and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, where his dissertation, on the Troy Story in medieval England, was supervised by Helen C. White. Hinton has taught at Wisconsin, Princeton, St. Louis University, and the above-mentioned University of Illinois-Springfield. He has taught Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and many other pieces of Middle English and Old English literature in a variety of classes as well as a number of classics of medieval literature (e.g. the Nibelungellied, the Song of Roland, the Poem of My Cid, etc.), and History of the English Language. He has also taught Popular Fiction, SF, Mysteries, Modern British Literature, and various other classes as the needs of a small department required. Hinton has published in scholarly journals and given papers at meetings on a wide range of topics, and is very active on the Internet in several discussion groups. He is married and has 5 children, none of whom teaches.

As soon as Norm's daughter Sue posted the announcement of his death, tributes began to show up on Twitter, on Facebook, in private messages that began "Have you heard . . . ."

Some people knew him only on Facebook. They remark on his thoughtful answers to people with questions, as well as his ability to speak a hard truth if he though it was necessary.

Some knew him from Mediev-l, the discussion list I wrote about only a couple of weeks ago. He was an early and frequent participant. Many of his list friends have acknowledged his breadth of knowledge and the generosity with which he shared that knowledge.

Some knew him only from Kalamazoo. I have seen comments from all over the world, from people who remember having an interesting, or helpful, or amusing conversation with the man in person during the Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo.

And some of us knew him from ORB, the Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies.  As I mentioned in that earlier blog, Norm was one of the original Five, who sat down on a Saturday afternoon in Valley II to come up with a plan to create a website to serve the needs of medieval scholars.  Norman Hinton did not "need" such a site, (he was way beyond the rest of us in terms of general knowledge), but he understood its value, and he stood behind me for years, helping to guide my work as I served as ORB's first editor.

I, like so many of the people on the internet this week, stand forever in his debt. My career rose as I stood on this fine man's shoulders.  He was truly one of our giants.

Writers Are as Weird as Meercats.


I found this picture today, attached to an article about the secret lives of writers.  If you'd like to read the original, you can find it here, at Edie Melson's blog, "The Write Conversation."

I've always loved meercats. They do silly things. They imitate one another. They panic easily. They scurry around and forget where they were headed. But they also take care of one another. No meercat colony is ever totally unprotected. There is always someone on guard, keeping watch over the rest of the family.

Does any of that sound familiar? It should, if you are one of those lucky writers who belong to a writers' group. We do silly things. We learn from each other by copying whatever works best for other members of the group. We panic easily --over falling sales figures, a horrible pun or gross grammatical error, a misspelled word, a missing page number, a cover image that looks like a blob in the thumbnail version. We get involved with a story and forget where the plot arc was supposed to be headed. But we also take care of one another. We offer shoulders to be cried upon, reviews to be posted, blurbs to lure readers. We tweet and retweet, feature each other's books on Facebook,and pin each other's book covers on our own Pinterest "Favorite Authors" boards. We read, we critique, and we encourage, and we praise. We're human meercats, and I'm proud.

For my fellow Military Writers Society of America members, I want  you to look at that picture and imagine those meercats in a desert setting, surrounded by rocks and towering cacti, maybe with a signpost that reads "This way to Phoenix." Do you recognize anyone there? I do! We're silly, we share our ideosyncracies, and we have common failings. We're also lucky to have one another. So, as this year comes to a close, here's a "Thank You, Fellow Meercats" for all the help you have been along the way to publication.