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When the Whistle Blows
Lately I’ve been feeling like a hamster on a little spinning wheel. Why? The Internet. The emails come without pause, like the tide. I answer one and three more pop up. As of four days ago I had almost 800 unanswered emails in my Inbox. And that doesn’t even count all of the others that I’ve squirreled away in other files, so I won’t see them constantly piling up. What began as a great way to stay connected has lately become nothing but a headache. A very big one. That’s right, I have an I-graine.

Recently, I took a deep breath and realized that there was no end in sight to this constant barrage of emails. I’m an author. The publishing industry communicates via email. It’s how I talk to my editor. It’s how I talk to my agent. It’s how teachers and librarians contact me to invite me to do school and Skype visits. It’s how I relate to other authors and find out about all the events that go on in my world – from writing conferences to book festivals. It’s all on the web.

And because it’s all there, I’ve found it’s where I spend the vast majority of my day. I turn it on as soon as I wake up, I check it before and after breakfast, during my daily tasks, before and after lunch, before and after dinner and often late into the night – not because I am addicted – but because if I do not constantly stem that tide of emails it becomes absolutely unmanageable. I receive over 100 a day. If I get behind, I never catch up. Thus, the 800 emails languishing in my Inbox.

Perhaps you can feel my pain: I am constantly running – mentally, emotionally and physically – to keep up with all these electronic tugs for my attention. I am constantly being called upon to respond, respond, respond. And I haven’t even mentioned the time and energy it takes to keep up with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog and the many other writing sites that I frequent. It’s like I have a computer screen glued between my eyes. I swear I think it’s on the verge of becoming part of my anatomy.

Realizing all this last week, I began to despair. I longed for a break, but saw nothing remotely resembling one in my future. The treadmill just keeps on turning. So I have decided to jump off. Not forever. Just for a while. As part of my Lenten observance this year, starting tomorrow and going all the way until Easter – I am “fasting” from the Internet. Including email.

That’s right. I am unplugging completely. It has taken quite a bit of preparation. In the past four days I have scrambled to take care of all of those 800 emails. And I actually have done it. So beginning tomorrow and going all the way until April 4th, if you email me, you will be greeted with a polite note saying that your email will be deleted, destroyed, pounded into submission, made magically invisible and caused to disappear!

I will be free!

Oh, don’t feel so bad. It’s not that I don’t want to be in contact with you. I do want contact. Really! I just don’t want the contact to be electronic anymore. At least for a while. My intent is not to cut off communication with my friends, family and colleagues. Actually, I am hoping that this little experiment of mine will enhance my relationships in all those spheres. So along with my note saying that your email will be deleted, I’ll also be giving out my contact information so that anyone who wants to can reach me.

Honestly, I have no idea how this whole thing will go. Maybe I’ll lose book sales and get fewer school visits as a result. Maybe I’ll become a has-been, forgotten in the dusty recesses of cyber space. On the other hand, maybe I'm on my way to becoming a mystic, a prophet, or just a little more relaxed. In any case, it will be an adventure. And as I go along I’ll be journaling about my experiences – whether I have withdrawal symptoms, what I miss, what I lose, what I gain. I am hoping that I’ll have more free time; more down time; more time to actually write (being a writer and all). Who knows, maybe I’ll even write a “How To” book about taking a break from the Internet.

Note to Publishers: if you are interested in a book proposal about my experiences over the next 40 days I’d love to hear from you! But be sure to CALL me. Because your email is going to be deleted.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment! )
(Anonymous)
Feb. 17th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
I admire you
for doing this!!
(Anonymous)
Feb. 20th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC)
I Graine
Great Idea! I support you 100%

Sincerely, Beth M from Wisconsin
(Anonymous)
Mar. 2nd, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
I don't know, all I can think is, what about those very necessary tasks that would take three minutes on a computer, but 5 minutes by phone. Mathmatically it doesn't make sense if one of the goals is to free up time.
liakeyes
May. 17th, 2010 05:54 am (UTC)
Easter's been and gone... so can we have an update? How has it been for you?
(Anonymous)
Aug. 19th, 2010 08:26 am (UTC)
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Really the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a fine example of it.




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(Anonymous)
Oct. 21st, 2010 12:41 pm (UTC)
You rock!
Good luck Fran!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 27th, 2010 02:46 pm (UTC)
Rowlesburg
Hi Fran,
Read your book. It was very nostalgic. Grew up in Rowlesburg,knew your Dad and Mom. They were older than me but everyone knew everyone. We moved from there in 1959 but I still think of it as home. Your uncle Rick Baumgardner was my best friend. We fished, swam, played ball, and did almost everything together. Even after I graduated from College he rented a room from my mom and dad in Fairmont. I knew your uncles, Mike and Bill. We spent many days at Bill's playing table tennis with Pat and Roger. I also knew your uncle that lived in Virginia, Bob Kaylor (sp). Rick Baumgardner and I would travel to Leesburg in the summers and enjoy the swimming pool while Bob played golf. Also I must tell you that Harry Heath who was married to your Aunt Betty visits the little town in Ohio (Malvern) where we now live, and I often meet him at the local American Legion where we enjoy sharing stories about Rowlesburg. And in closing let me tell you that your book brought back so many fond memories of the past that I had not thought about in years. I congratulate you on a marvelous reconstruction of how it was back when. Tell you mom and dad I said hello and continue your great gift of writing.
Sincerely,
Butch Mankins (nmankins@neo.rr.com)
(Anonymous)
Jan. 15th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
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Stella Michel
Apr. 23rd, 2013 06:34 pm (UTC)
You're a writer and you should write more.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment! )

When the Whistle Blows is Available for Pre-Order at Amazon!

"An unassuming masterpiece." --Kirkus, starred review

"This is nostalgia done right." -- School Library Journal, starred review

“When the Whistle Blows is reminiscent of classic tales by Jack London, William Golding and Robert Louis Stevenson, yet carries the remarkable, fresh voice of its author. Fran Cannon Slayton should be extremely proud of this, her debut novel.”
—Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank and Identical and National Book Award finalist

"[When the Whistle Blows] is a growing up novel that includes scenes reminiscent of Richard Peck's Long Way from Chicago and has a classical mannerism that will steam its way on to state award lists all over the country. . . This novel is fresh, smart, witty, warm, well-written, funny. . . an amazing novel."
—Diane Chen, American Library Association board member and School Library Journal blogger

“With wit and warmth Fran Cannon Slayton recounts a steam-driven coming of age story in the last of the real railroad days.”
—Richard Peck, author of A Year Down Yonder

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