Hidden Figures, How a Woman’s Creativity Saved NASA

KatherineJohnsonQuote

Hidden Figures is hands down the best movie I saw in 2016!

It’s the story of how one woman’s creativity saved not only a man’s life, but also the entire NASA program itself.

Katherine Johnson was one of a handful of African-American women who worked at NASA in the ‘50s. She referred to herself and her female colleagues as ‘virtual computers who wore skirts.’

Katherine says that she was pulled from the ‘colored computer pool’ to work on flight research because she always asked a lot of questions, while the rest of the women just did as they were told.

But it was Katherine’s creative use of geometry that made the all white male division “[forget] to return me to the pool.”

In 1962 John Glenn was slated to become the first American to orbit the earth. Right before launch, Katherine’s supervisor discovered that the fancy new IBM computer had turned our conflicting return longitudes and latitudes. When he shared this info with Glenn, Glenn refused to go up until Katherine had verified which of the computer’s numbers for launch and landing were correct.

Once in orbit Glenn’s heat shield started to fail.  Again Glenn and a panicked NASA supervisor turned to Katherine. She reassured them that her ‘return window’ numbers would get Glenn safely back to earth.

If Katherine’s geometry had been wrong, Glenn would’ve been incinerated upon re-entry.  In addition, his death would’ve most likely given Congress the reason they needed to stop funding NASA.

Fortunately for Glenn, Katherine’s numbers were spot on as usual.

Once Glenn survived, NASA had its eye on the moon, but had no idea how to get there. Katherine was told that she’d have to invent math that didn’t exist yet in order to make it happen. She did just that.

Lest you think I’ve given the whole movie away, I haven’t.  The story is powerful because it’s really about race, sexism, and the few folks on both sides that decided that they were going to move beyond their prejudices and make history.

So please read the book Hidden Figures, or go see the movie, or both. You’ll come out of it encouraged, empowered and ready to create something of your own. And who knows? Your creation just might be the thing that takes us to Mars, or saves an endangered species in the ocean, or adds beauty to the wall of a museum.
 
Would love to know what you thought of the movie/book. Please let me know by replying to this letter, or post your comments on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

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#CreativityEmpowers

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Thank God Katherine is better at math than I am!

purplemath


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Using Our Imaginations to Create Social Change

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Creativity Can Encourage and Empower Us All.

The above mantra grew out of my response to recent events.

Truthfully, I’ve known it all along.

I was born wanting to inspire, provoke, and empower myself and others through the arts.

But my family saw a different future for me. They pushed me into politics, wanting me to be the first female President of the U.S. I tried that route for a while, but discovered quickly that I could help a lot more people through my music and writing than I could through policy and politics.

So I hopped on the artistic roller coaster and never looked back. Well, I do look back on occasion when I get a bad review or another rejection, but I never get off the ride.

Though politics didn’t agree with me, my family’s notion that one should support the causes they believe in every way they can, i.e. money or time or both, did resonate. I’ve been volunteering since I was 10 yrs old. In fact I think volunteering is one of my best skills.

Imagine my delight when days after I’d found my mantra I discovered the non-profit Harry Potter Alliance whose values include believing in magic and my personal favorite: Fantasy is not only an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it.

HPA’s mission is to turn fans into heroes by engaging them in fan activism.  The idea is to harness the passion fans have for certain characters like Neville Longbottom, a shy awkward Harry Potter classmate who became a badass when his back was against a wall, and direct them to fight like Neville for causes such as net neutrality and the electoral college vote. The Neville campaign page gives sample scripts of what to say on the phone to congress humans, where to find phone numbers, and info on the cause etc.

Within a day or two of discovering HPA, I started The Patronuses. The Chicago community chapter of HPA.

FYI: A patronus is an silvery white animal spirit that holds a magical concentration of happiness and hope, which protects against the dementors, those that would suck the happiness and hope right out of you.

We are barely a few weeks old, but already have a mission statement:
The Patronuses fuse the powers of imagination and fan activism together to support and/or create campaigns designed to bring positive change in areas such as diversity, acceptance and education.

I’m overjoyed to finally marry my two loves, imagination and activism, in such a direct way!

We are already discussing our first campaign, which will probably revolve around partnering with Comic Education Outreach to use comics and graphic novels to teach the skill of acceptance perhaps using Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, as our role model/fandom base. (Tho HPA grew out of Harry Potter fandom, any fandom is welcome. There are already campaigns using The Hunger Games, some Marvel Cinematic Characters, as well as Potter campaigns.)

As our journey unfolds I’ll continue to fill you in, hoping one or more of our campaigns strikes your fancy and you’ll join us. You can help as much as you want. The key is to have fun and be of service at the same time.

There is no limit to what we can do if we do it together.

To be kept in the loop, please email us at acceptopatronus@gmail.com so we can add you to our Patronuses list. Feel free to include a cause or two you would like to support and/or a character or two that you feel would be a good symbol/role model for a cause. You can also leave your suggestions by replying to this letter, or posting on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

My very own amethyst wand

annypurplewwand


Posted in Creativity, EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Empowerment, Imagination, Thinking Outside The Box by with 2 comments.

HOW TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH IN SPACE & WRITE A POEM ABOUT IT

saturn

Saturn prances around
Like he’s the only game in town
 
His rings on display
Make girls swoon in his wake
 
Ladies beware
This boy is full of hot air
 
So just walk on by
This peacock’s not worth your time
–Anny Rusk
 
There’s a new poetry book out about space and aliens called Watcher of the Skies. (Published by the small British company The Emma Press.) It’s for kids aged 8-108.
 
Inside its pages poets muse about all aspects of space such as how astronauts brush their teeth (You don’t want morning breath if an alien drops by for tea.), how planets talk, and how to make a cosmic cupcake. (Recipe included.)
 
At the back of the book editor Rachel Piercey encourages readers to write their own space poems using prompts and examples from the anthology. My poem was inspired by the How Planets Talk prompt.
 
Example: “Write your own cosmic recipe for another kind of food, for example Star Stew or Moon Muffins. Try to include some relevant ingredients – so if it’s Star Stew, you might have hydrogen, helium and mouldy old light.
Where will you serve your food, on what, and to whom? Let your imagination run riot!”
 
Please, please write a space poem and share it with me by leaving it in a comment below, or post it on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 
 
Creativity Can Encourage & Empower Us All!
 
FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Of course the cool astronauts brush their teeth with purple toothpaste!

purpletoothpaste


Posted in Creativity, Imagination, Inspired Creativity, Uncategorized, World Building-Fictional Lands by with no comments yet.

Using Creativity to Encourage Grrl Power

a-mighty-girl-logo

All of the stories I’m working on have one thing in common: they feature strong female protagonists. My aim is to empower girls, and the guys around them (Think #HeForShe ) of all ages through my writing.

My first finished project is my fictional, science-based graphic novel story for tweens, Hidden Heroes. Think the movie Inside Out starring Estrogen as a superhero, and Samantha, the girl Estrogen has to turn into a woman. Think a story, not a textbook, on the beginning stages of female puberty.

Facts I had to learn about graphic novels before I could attempt to write one:

–GNs are comics, but usually much longer, and don’t have tons of issues. They can be a series though—think Zita Spacrgirl, a trilogy, or Hereville, trilogy.

–Graphic novel text is written for the illustrator, NOT the reader.

–The text is written in script form. From Hidden Heroes:

PAGE 1
SPLASH PAGE: (This means only one panel for the whole page.)
Estrogen and Antibody come around the bend in a vein, cruising on the blood stream. Estrogen is in an inner tube. Antibody is swimming. Estrogen is wearing a one-piece bathing suit. Antibody resembles a friendly Mammalian sea creature. (This is the panel description that the illustrator needs, but won’t end up in the published book. BTW: Things like captions and dialogue do end up in book.)

Caption: Inside Samanthaland, Estrogen and Antibody are riding the blood slide around Ovarian Island.
Estrogen: Wheeeeee!
Antibody: Owamp!

–A typical graphic novel as 4-7 panels per page.
This is an example page from Zita Spacegirl (6 panels):

zita-page

–Because a picture tells a 1000 words, your words can’t repeat what’s going on in the panel illustration, but rather, need to show what’s not going on…think dialogue, sound effects etc.

–GNs ask readers to engage with its story on two levels: Language and pictures. This means kids are using two parts of their brains to comprehend what they are reading. Schools are noticing a significant increase in test scores when kids can study complex topics, like the Constitution, using a graphic novel instead of a regular textbook. (Check out my buds at: The Comics Education Offensive to learn more about it!)

This is the advantage of doing a science-based story as a graphic novel…accessibility and deeper comprehension.

If you haven’t read a graphic novel yet, try one out. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

Some suggestions of fictional graphic novels with strong female characters for tweens:
Zita Spacegirl
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
Princeless
Lumberjanes
Find these and other suggestions at the A Mighty Girl site.

A list of posts on  graphic novels for older girls, aka women, can be found in this Huff Post page.

Which graphic novels have you enjoyed and why? Send me your answer by replying to this letter, or post it on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Batgirl costume

purplebatgirlcostume

 


Posted in Creativity, EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Empowerment, Girls, Inspired Creativity, Uncategorized by with no comments yet.

Do You Know How To Use Fear? I’m Still Learning.

“But you must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good {love} and evil {fear} will follow on that act. {Power} must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
The Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin
 
Sometimes I want to give my reptilian brain, the oldest part of our brains, a lobotomy. With no lions or tigers to face down, it feels useless. So it injects fear into all sorts of situations where it doesn’t belong, and makes them ten times worse.
 
If there’s one skill I wish I’d learned as a kid, it’s how to use fear properly. Being scared when confronted by a bear while hiking in the woods is appropriate. Suing a stranger because you’re scared of being broke, or getting your colleague fired because you’re scared they’ll take your job is not ok. Yet it happens everyday.

grizzly-bear

What if we were taught from birth to slow down? What if the golden rule required us to question our actions, to identify whether we were motivated by fear (evil) or love (good), and to act only if the answer was love?
 
For the wizards in Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea, it’s not enough to learn how to control your magic; you must learn how and when to use it as well. This is because abusing magic upsets the natural order of things. When that order, known as The Equilibrium, is disturbed, bad things happen.

wizard-of-eaethsea

Despite being trained to do otherwise, Ged, a powerful young wizard hero, lets his pride and hate unleash a shadow creature that destroys everything that stands between it and killing him.
 
Ged flees from the shadow until he discovers he must face it in order to stop it. Along the way he learns to use magic appropriately, even if it serves others’ needs instead of his own.
 
Books like The Wizard of Earthsea remind us that it’s important to disengage our autopilot, so that we act, rather than react.
 
Have you read other stories that address using fear properly?  If so, please share them with me by commenting upon this letter, or post on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A glow-in-the-dark purple magic wand! Oh, I want one!!

purple-magic-wand


Posted in EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Empowerment, Inspired Creativity, Self-Acceptance, World Building-Fictional Lands by with no comments yet.

Is It Good Luck, Bad Luck or Both?

endings-are-beginnings

Every time a boyfriend would break up with me I’d think, this is it. There’s no one else out there for me. I’ll be alone forever.
 
I’d be sad and lonely for a time, only to wake up one morning and realize I was grateful that he’d broken up with me. That we weren’t a good fit—he’d just figured it out before I had.
 
I mourned the loss of my music career for two years. But finally letting go of being a pop star allowed me to embrace the writer in me. To acknowledge that my home was in the children’s literary world, not in clubs or on the road.
 
The bottom line is that we want to label everything that happens to us as good or bad. But in reality, ‘Good’ things can have unintended ‘bad’ consequences and vice versa. The Ugly One, by Leanne Statland Ellis, explores this notion.

theulgyone-r

When we meet Micay, she needs us to know that a horrible scar runs down the side of her face. She does her best to hide her disfigurement, but still suffers taunts from the boys in her village. An apprentice to a shaman, she fears that most of her people are too disgusted by her hideousness to allow her to heal them.
 
A series of unpredictable and fascinating events transform Micay’s attitude towards her scar. Resentment morphs into gratitude.
 
The Ugly One reminds us that it’s our perception of things that determines their value to us, and perceptions can change.
 
“Learning to live in such a way that nothing is experienced as either an advantage or a disadvantage is the source of enormous empowerment and liberation.”

Do you have a story about an event in your life that seemed like a curse, but then changed into a blessing? Tell me your story by replying to this letter, or posting it on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Fun Peru Facts (The Ugly One is set in Peru)

Print


Posted in Empowerment, Self-Acceptance by with no comments yet.

What Do You Expect?

when-i-let-go

In my case letting go of myself meant releasing my huge aspirations. Aspirations that I thought were my way in…into connection, into being loved. They were my lifelines. How would I survive without them?

But once I saw what my aspirations had become, I knew I had to let them go. They’d morphed into paralyzing expectations that seemed to move me further from my dream rather than closer to it. And in addition, they prevented me from enjoying the journey.

Letting go also means I have to float in the present, and allow the future to unfold on its own. To accept that I might not become a best-selling author who starts a foundation to serve kids’ needs. That I may give on a smaller scale like George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) rather than on a J. K. Rowling scale. And that that’s okay.

I’m still struggling with this, but I can acknowledge that there’s a certain freedom and relief in casting off expectations in all areas, not just my career.

Lack of expectation makes room for acceptance, for amazing surprises to happen, and removes the possibility of resentment. For we all fall short of our own, as well as others’, expectations at times.

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Deenie, the heroine of Judy Blume’s book by the same name, knows all about failing to meet another’s expectations. The popular girl in school, whose mother expects her to become a model, falls from grace when she’s forced to wear a body brace due to her severe scoliosis. Freed from the expectations of her classmates as well as her mother, Deenie eventually discovers who she can become.

I loved the book when I read it as a kid. Perhaps it’s time to read it again.

Have you let go of a dream, or expectation recently? How has it changed your life? Where/how did you find the courage to let go? Please share your stories in the comments section below, or on my Facebook page.

FYI: PLEASE SHARE THIS POST WITH ANYONE YOU THINK WOULD ENJOY IT.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Floating in the purple present

floating-in-purple-sea

 

 

 

 


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Listening To My Internal GPS

One day while working in the State Department I had a vision. I say vision because I was wide awake.

An old woman in a gorgeous canopy bed just appeared.  She was sobbing. When I approached her, she pleaded with me to not let fear, or anything else stop me from pursuing my goals. That I would succeed if only I jumped in with both feet. When I asked why she cared, she told me she was giving me a second chance to rewrite my past. (Turns out she was me.) The experience gave me the courage to go to LA and pursue acting and music.

At the time it seemed like what I needed to hear.

But now I think my older self was misguided.

unaimed arrow

Maybe using our internal GPS is the best way to approach life goals. You have destinations in mind, and are open to getting re-routed along the way. In addition, if the weather at a certain spot makes it impossible to get there, you change your destination altogether.

Flexibility allows you to swerve around the potholes, while softening the blow if you have to drive over them.

If I have a chance to go back to my younger self again, this is the advice I’d share.

As I embark upon a new journey to published writerland, I’m asking myself to stay open to detours, or new destinations, along the way.

For a good example of flexibility in action, check out The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz.

NightFAiry

Born a night fairy, Flory’s life takes a drastic turn when she loses her wings. Forced to live on the ground, Flory must learn new skills in order to survive. These include fighting off predators using a thorn sword, and finding food on foot. Ultimately, she decides to change her very nature into that of a day fairy.

Ultimately Flory succeeds because she accepts her new situation, rather than trying to get back to her old life.

Though the book is targeted for younger readers, aged 6-9, I think all of us could learn a thing or two from Flory.

Have you changed course lately? Tell me about it–what you’ve discovered, where you’re headed etc. by replying to this letter, or post your stories on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

purple arrow


Posted in Empowerment, Self-Acceptance, Uncategorized by with no comments yet.

Mother Nature Lets Loose

Do you think Mother Nature feels our pain? I do.

No one can deny it’s been a tumultuous year so far.

Last Sunday night Mother Nature let her own frustration loose. (Her fury arrived between conventions, which I take to mean she’s not telling which way she’s voting.) 🙂 We had heavy rain, hail, and winds gusting up to 50 mph.

She blew down man made stuff like this stoplight, amazingly it still worked, and her own creations-think trees big and small.

fallenStoplight

I wondered whether she was trying to tell us something. Be kind to each other and me or else? Perhaps she was just venting. Spitting the negative energy she’d absorbed from us back out. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could just ask her?

In the fantasy/mystery tale Gaia Girls Enter The Earth, 10-yr-old Elizabeth gets to do just that. She meets Gaia, the spirit of the earth, who resides in the body of a cute otter. Gaia explains how everything is connected, and thus why hurting the environment damages us all.

Elizabeth also has powers. She can control soil, and the trees and creatures that live in it. (Wish I could’ve controlled the wind the other day. Watching trees fly around was scary.) This comes in handy when she wants to save her family farm from being swallowed up by a corporate farming outfit.

Since I haven’t met Gaia yet, I can only guess that she wants what I want… to be treated with loving kindness and respect.

Maybe if we continue to change our ways we’ll see more of these:
doubleRainbow

Shot from my deck a few weeks ago.

If you have any cool storm or rainbow pics, please share them with me here on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Chicago storm captured by David Mayhew.

DavidMayhew stormPic


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Failing Saved Me

“You don’t know what you are.”
From The Iron Trail by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

Iron Trial

Finding my realm hasn’t been easy.

For one thing, I was born into the wrong tribe. Folks who told me that singing and acting were fine as hobbies, but in order to survive, I had to get a real job. BTW, the ‘real job’ was first female President of the United States. (Oh I wish I were kidding about this.)

In addition, my family’s insistence that I’d never make it as a pop star or actress fueled my already strong stubbornness. There was no doubt in my mind that they were wrong. (I’d even planned my Grammy speech. In it I told parents to support their kids’ dreams, instead of imposing their own dreams upon their children.)

So I moved to LA, expecting success to come in short order.

Anny Live

Singing Gonna Get Mine, a ditty I wrote about capital punishment. Just your typical pop song fare. 🙂

I was so busy fighting to make my dream a reality that I refused to see the red flags all around me.

My band told me to stop telling stories on stage, stop trying to provoke conversations or take listeners on an emotional journey and “just sing.”  I never felt comfortable with any of the industry types I met, and don’t get me started on the hideousness of acting auditions.

Sure, I’d traded flat land for mountains, and pines for palm trees, but instead of swimming with birds of a different feather, now I was swimming with sharks. (Great Kevin Spacey flick about the movie biz by the way.)

Ironically, it was failure that allowed me to really see myself for the first time. (Purple swan that I am.) To realize that I had to pick up my bed and leave again.  So I did.

It took a ‘dark night of the soul’ that lasted two years before I accepted that I was a writer. Then a few more years before I found my realm: kidlit.

I’m still stunned at how much I enjoy myself at industry events, or see myself in my fellow writers! Shocked at the encouragement I get to tell intelligent stories with a message. No one wants me to be younger, or dumber. I can just be me!

I learned the hard way that intention works as long as it’s not accompanied by rigid expectation, that you can point your ship towards the shore, but you have to be flexible about how you get there.

Sometimes failing is the best thing that can happen to you.

What has failure taught you? Please share your stories with me by replying to this post, or comment on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

Purple-Swan


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