I Want to Ride My Bicycle…

I read an article the other day in the New York Times called “End of the Road for Lance Armstrong”the preview of a book being published on Monday by Juliet Macur, titled “Cycle of Lies” about the life and times of Lance Armstrong.

While not a cyclist, I have always been fascinated by Armstrong’s story: his early triumphs, his testicular cancer and subsequent charitable contributions, the yellow bracelet, romance with Sheryl Crow, exit stage left from that romance, wins and more wins in the Tour de France, and the “scientific” studies supporting the superhuman nature of his body, leading to those wins.

I wanted to believe.

And it wasn’t just me. Somehow I think we are all wired to look for heroes, or gods, to admire capacities far beyond our own – for athletic feats, making money, piety, or brilliance. Maybe it is a means devised by evolution to keep the human race striving.

But the lengths to which Lance, and apparently most, if not all of his compatriots went, to win, astonished me. Apparently the most successful of the team soigneurs (a combination of physical therapist, masseur, and doper) was John Hendershot. He “conjured up what he called ‘weird concoctions’ of substances like ephedrine, nicotine, highly concentrated caffeine, drugs that widen blood vessels, blood thinners and testosterone, often trying to find creative ways to give a rider an extra physical boost during a race. He’d pour the mix into tiny bottles and hand them to riders at the starting line.”

He would first experiment on himself, and “Hendershot, who had no formal medical or scientific training, knew a concoction was way off when he felt his heart beating so fast and so loud, it sounded like a runaway freight train. That wouldn’t work for riders under extreme physical stress. He wanted ‘amped up,’ but not to the point of a heart attack.”

I presume that Armstrong does have unique attributes and habits that make him a great cyclist, and so whatever concoctions he was imbibing or injecting just added to that. But I also have to wonder if the testicular cancer he developed in 1996 was a result of a disposition toward it, also not shared by others, that was enhanced by all that added testosterone. Not blaming the victim, just wondering.

The second item that struck me was that “Seven years ago, he told his three children from his failed marriage — Luke, Grace and Isabelle — that they would graduate from high school while living in the house by the big oak tree. He owed them that. They had followed him from Texas to France to Spain countless times. At last they could plant some roots. ‘I promise,’ he said. ‘Dad’s not moving again.'”

That house was sold last year, and Armstrong, his new partner and his now five children decamped for Hawaii. It was sold because he lost $75 million in contracts when his doping was revealed, and stands to lose another $150 million if findings are against him in multiple lawsuits.

As a mother of three, a lesson I learned early on is, “Don’t make promises you can’t guantee keeping in the next 24 hours.” My children have long, long memories, and broken promises are never forgotten.

Even after all those successes and millions, “Life’s a bitch, Lance.”

Do Not Go Gently…

Leaving the East Coast for California this week was rare good luck. Phil had planned for months to attend a conference in San Francisco, and I tagged along to spend time up in the hills with the granddaughters. The overlap with their mother’s trip to Australia was serendipitous, and I looked forward to hiking the trails with the girls and alone, when they were in school. We even jetted out of JFK a few short hours before New York’s fourth, or was it fifth or sixth major storm of this season.

California is in bloom, and smells of eucalyptus. Just to be able to smell the air instead of freeze my nose hairs was a treat. I woke early on Thursday, eager to run outdoors without a coat and take some pictures. As I stepped out on the expensive and expansive new deck, the sun topped the hill and blinded me, and I didn’t see the step down, and did a face-plant. My right knee took the hit, with collateral damage to my left elbow. There was not too much swelling, and I convinced myself that it was better to move the leg than let it stiffen up, and so walked the mile down to the school to help out at the Valentine’s Party, then inched the mile back up the hill afterwards. And then it all went “pear-shaped”, as my friends in Oz would say.

In that hour I aged thirty years, and stayed there for the next two days. Walking was bad and painful, as I wrenched half the other muscles in my body, accommodating for the knee. I stumped around using a Louisville Slugger as a cane, desperately afraid of slipping and falling again. Sitting was an experiment in free fall, and standing back up, as much a mental exercise (“You can do it, just concentrate”) as a physical one, hauling myself up on one leg, the bad one dangling, unable to bear any weight.

And I thought of my mother. She is 94 now, and after breaking a thigh bone, walks very tentatively, often using a cane for stability. When necessary, she uses a walker. As I planned my movements around the house; heading to my room, what can I carry there, what can I bring back? When cooking, gather everything in one area of the counter, close to the stove, to minimize movement. Using the toilet-don’t ask! Exiting the pool-call for help!

The misery lasted two full days, and today, Saturday, I am merely walking with a limp. I am anticipating a Keyser Söze-like transition (“The Usual Suspects”) over the course of the next day or so, and plan to hit the trails tomorrow or Monday.

This taste of aging was a wakeup call. Instead of the six plus miles my Fitbit records every day, I traversed (ha!) only half a mile yesterday. And of course the less I walk, the worse shape I am in-a vicious feedback loop.

When I was younger, I was known to crash into light poles, as I walked down the street reading a book. Now I realize that I have to be eternally vigilant, so that I don’t go cascading prematurely into the evening before that good night.

But I did snap one shot after the fall…

photo

 

As Carson Shared With Lady Mary…

There is something very meta going on here, as we say in Brooklyn. My daughter Yael and her office husband Matthew sat me down one day(in a figurative sense) and said I should be writing a blog. Matthew thought it should be titled “WWGDGD?”. Guess everyone knows “J” by his first name, but you need all three initials to identify me.

Their idea came from the constant stream of tech, film and book recommendations I make to all and sundry. Obviously, I took the first suggestion, though not the latter, and “I Spy” resulted.

By chance, I had been following a similar, though much more erudite blogger, Jesse Kornbluth, who writes under the title of “Head Butler”. He curates, in the truest sense, books, films, music and various products to improve your life. Thanks to him, I now use Anthelios 50+ Fluide Extreme Moisturizer (love it!), my espresso is beautifully ground by my Capresso Burr Coffee Grinder and my whole family is equipped with the amazing Zojirushi Stainless Steel Vacuum Mugs. They keep your coffee warm for six hours, and have a lip for easy sipping!

I now listen to Arvö Part’s music, and my ringtone for Phil is a Bach cello concerto. I’ve read “The Hare with the Amber Eyes” and “Defending Jacob”. And “The Battle of Algiers” and “Dodsworth”, as well as “A Face in the Crowd” are on my “to see” list. Come on, Netflix, get with the program!
And now my Head Butler has published “HeadButler.com: The 100 Essentials: Books, music and movies for people with more taste than time”, and I am furiously taking notes on new and old books, films music and great stuff.

By the way, despite my obvious fondness for Amazon.com (I consider myself the Amazon Queen), I am not on their payroll.

Now just as Carson and Lady Mary don’t always see eye to eye, Jesse and I have our moments. This week he commented on the allegations against Woody Allen, then recommended a Norwegian film about a teacher wrongly accused of sexual impropriety. Hmmmm. And then the next day he recommended a biography of Frank Sinatra that slams Mia Farrow (and does a number on old a Frank as well). Double hmmmm. So I am suspecting that he might be Team Woody while I am Team Dylan-both in the absence of any data.

He is also a jazz aficionado, while I lean toward classical, country and rock. But differences just add spice to a relationship.

So may I recommend my Head Butler to you?

And if what I Spy might be interesting to friends of yours, please share anytime.

Science: Fact or Fiction?

I was shocked this week to read that a Pew survey  showed that only 60% of Americans believe in evolution! And that belief among Republicans has fallen from 54% in 2009 to only 43% today. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

I taught science for many years, from Grades Seven and Eight, through Biology, Chemistry and Physics in high school, and then Biochemistry and AIDS 101 at university. A mixed grouping, at best.

For my first assignment, I was hired on a Friday, given five textbooks, and began the next Monday teaching Physics, Chemistry, Biology to high school students, as well as pre-biology and pre-chemistry to grades Seven and Eight. I hope my enthusiasm made up for the fact that I was usually only one lesson ahead in my preparations.

A few years later, teaching just high school was a breeze, and I was glad that Biology was not on my roster, as the Bio teacher was often gifted with road kill by her colleagues, and was too polite to explain that she really had no interest in dead animals. The venomous Palestinian viper that someone killed in their garden was coiled, frozen, in the Teacher’s Lounge, and almost brought on cardiac arrest in a hungry English teacher.

But in all these postings, I found my colleagues to be excited by their subject matter and eager to convey it to their students, though there were stories of teachers who drew the short straw (literally and figuratively) being forced to teach the math or science they detested, with predictable results.

But once I completed a Ph.D. and began to teach in college, I noticed that there was a shift. One began as an Assistant Professor, and after five or six years came the opportunity to seek tenure. On paper this was based on Research, Teaching and Community Service. In fact, the true basis was Research, meaning Acquisition of Grant Money. No grants, no tenure. There was even the “joke” that receiving a Teaching Award was the kiss of death for receiving tenure.

Classes were often enormous, and the students there under some duress. To go to Med School you had to take Biochemistry, or Organic Chemistry, or Embryology. And year after year of students whining over their grades or threatening lawsuits if they didn’t get an “A” could get old pretty fast. The privilege of teaching small classes and seminars went to the tenured. Science was seen as a proving ground, and elimination of the “unworthy” was expected.

I am trying to fit these observations into the fact of the regrettable ignorance of science amongst the general public. Where is the breakdown? Of course the observation has been made that we feed bright, enthusiastic students into our educational system at one end, and turn out grade-grubbing, semi-literate incurious products at the other end. Why should it be different for science?

It should be different because science and the knowledge of how science works is essential in an informed democracy (though of course literacy is too). More and more we are called upon to make decisions based on an understanding of science. Should Grandma have a feeding tube inserted, now that her brain waves are flat? Should I allow a pipeline (or fracking) on my property? Is my water safe to drink? How much treatment is too much (or too little) treatment for a disease? What is a scientific theory, and how does that relate to facts? And does the cold, cold winter many of us are having refute or bolster claims of climate change?

The “debate” or rout this week, between Bill Nye, the Science Guy and Ken Ham, head of the Creation Museum, on the subject of evolution gave a stark picture of the current state in the U.S. Watch it and weep!

Things I Spied V: Books, Part Deux “The Goldfinch”

Long before “The Goldfinch” was a book, it was a painting, a small one, on wood, of a family pet, signed C. Fabritius, 1654. That same year the painter, aged 32 years, was killed in an explosion of the munitions storage facility of Delft. All of his work, except perhaps a dozen paintings, was also destroyed.

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I read Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” many many years ago, and my lasting impression was of its interminable length. Nevertheless, intrigued by the bird I started her new book,also “The Goldfinch” and was swept away. “Dickensian” has been used to describe this first person tale, which begins as it mirrors Fabritius’s loss.

Theo Dreher, aged 11, reflexively rescues the painting after an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum, where it is on loan from the Netherlands. While he soon realizes that he should return it, it comes to represent the world he has lost, as he bounces to a friend’s family, then to Las Vegas, back to New York and eventually to Amsterdam.

Michiko Kakutani of The NY Times declared the book “Dickensian” and the characters Theo meets: Hobie, Pippa, Boris, Xandra, the Family Barbour, could with minor tweaks, fit into 19th century London. It is long, and somewhat rambling, but Tartt can create suspense in a scene determining whether Theo’s dog will be thrown off a bus as well one in which drug dealers might murder Theo’s friend.

Throughout, the language is rich, the descriptions unique. The olive green water in the canal, Amsterdam at Christmas, “Bells and garlands, Advent stars in the shop windows,ribbons and gilded walnuts.”

As Theo reaches manhood, he is not always admirable, and at times I found him reprehensible. But, as with a recalcitrant relative or friend, I stuck with him because of our shared backstory, and because I cared.

I saw “The Goldfinch” (that’s the painting) again last week at the Frick, where it was on loan with “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” and other Dutch masterworks from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague. I was mesmerized on both visits. Whether or not the publication of the book was planned in synchrony with the exhibit, the crowds for the little bird were as size able as those
for “The Girl”. And apparently more T-shirts, posters and coffee cups of the Bird were sold than of the Girl.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of that, but for a good, long read, preferably by the fireside with some Dutch cocoa, you might want to try “The Goldfinch”. I am so glad I did. It is a book that haunts.

Things I Spied V: Books

As anyone who sees my Goodreads list knows, I am nothing if not eclectic in my reading habits. Murder mysteries abound, as do series based on one character (though I got tired of Kinsey Milhone long before she reached the end of the alphabet). Scandinavian authors are represented in excess of their demographic reality, despite their prevalence of hard-drinking protagonists, and translations, both good and lumpy.

But the two books I have read, and finished, in tandem most recently couldn’t be more different from my usual fare or from one another, and they are two of the best books I have read in a long time. In fact, if you saw me recently, I probably bludgeoned you with my recommendation that you read “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. Regardless of your age, interests, gender or usual preferences in literature, this is a book I recommend.

I will admit that the fuss of late over “The Greatest Generation” had left me somewhat cold. To me, each generation has its greats, and it’s not-so-greats, and they should be celebrated or ignored accordingly. But “Unbroken”, the story of one man, Louie Zamperini, his experiences in World War II, and peripherally, those of his compatriots, sheds a different light on that generation, and has changed my thinking.

Zamperini was a troubled kid, and found himself as a runner, eventually reaching Olympic success just before the war. He was a bombardier in a B-24 aircraft, and the sheer statistics of deaths in training, not to mention combat, in these ill-made planes are staggering. Yet the men flew them, day after day, mission after mission. They had no choice.

Zamperini’s plane was downed, and he and others spent weeks on a raft floating in the Pacific without food or water. Their rescue led to greater, and greater and greater difficulties, until it is hard to imagine anyone surviving the experience. But clearly some did, to tell this tale.

An interesting sidelight is Hillenbrand’s parallel story of the families of some of her protagonists, back home in the States, knowing nothing for months or even years of the fates of the missing.

At the end of the book she touches on the experiences of the men who survived and returned home, as well as on the fates of some of their captors. We understand something now of the post-traumatic stress that members of the military may experience, and there are some medical and non-medical interventions, but back then they and their families were on their own, and the results were often not pretty.

My father was a sailor in the Pacific Theater, and the war was the seminal experience of his life. He had a collection of funny, and sometimes exciting stories he told. There was the time he received a medal as a member of the “Guinea Pig” unit, seeking out mines after the war and, unfortunately, finding one. He was able to turn the ship  and prevent it crashing into the harbor after it lost its power in the explosion. Then there was the seaplane taking him back home that was so overloaded it couldn’t get out of the water, and had to keep trying as the men tossed out more and more of their baggage…but nothing of what he saw in China or Japan when he reached there. Or what he felt about it all.

My mother is more voluble. She is still angry that he volunteered, when he had a safe job in the defense industry, and left her to cope with two small children.

So I hope you will check out “Unbroken” and get a better appreciation of that Greatest Generation.

And next week, a book as different as chalk from cheese, “The Goldfinch”.

Teen Angel, Are You Listenin’?

It all started with that stunning final episode of “Breaking Bad” (mild spoiler alert). As Marty Robbins’ 1959 “El Paso” was revived as the soundtrack for Walt’s career (Mexican girl=methamphetamine), the tune bored its way into my ear canal and brain, an ear worm on constant repeat. A few days later it was replaced by “Teen Angel”(“I pulled you out and we were safe, but you went running back”), also from 1959, and then “Tell Laura I Love Her”(1960, “Tell Laura not to cry, my love for her will never die”).

Memories were triggered, of “Endless Sleep” (1958) which seems to have started it all, “Running Bear”(where was political correctness when you needed it?), and “Last Kiss”, though gratefully, none became aurally embedded. But it started me wondering, what was it about the late Fifties/early Sixties that inspired these lugubrious laments?

Was it The Bomb? I still remember filing to the dank school basement where we would sit cross-legged in orderly rows on the newspaper we kept handy in our desks, then bow our heads to our knees, hands over our necks, perhaps praying, more likely giggling. Memory fails, appalled.

The Communist Menace? While later they were called out as Commies, Joan Baez (1960) and other folkies brought back some of the equally tragic early English ballads, “The Trees They Do Grow High” and “Barbara Allen”.

The Teen Tragedy trend has lasted sporadically up until the present day, with Katy Perry’s “One That Got Away” but peaked around 1963. There were two seminal events in my life in that period, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the American debut of the Beatles, the first in November 1963, the latter in February 1964, both filtered through the monochrome eye of our TV.

“She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)” was the antithesis of those ballads of woe, and it might be argued that the meteoric rise of the Merseyside Four and their music helped to sweep away the sadness. It is strange to realize that the Beatles only performed in concert until 1966, yet their music became the soundtrack of our lives. In 2002 I was visiting a University in Moldova (smallest, poorest country in Europe, look it up). Our hosts spoke Romanian and Russian, our group spoke neither. At dinner, as the vodka flowed, they began to serenade us, and requested a song in return. We were stymied, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” didn’t quite fit the bill. But then one of our group started in with “Michelle, Ma Belle.” Our Comrades joined in with that, and all of the other Beatles songs we could muster. There was just something about “La la la la la la la, hey Jude” that melted any remaining ice, and helped mask our inability to match them, shot for vodka shot.

My brother Richard has served as an invaluable resource for this piece. While I couldn’t wait to escape the Fifties, he has immersed himself in its music and cultural icons, and even had a Fifties-themed wedding! He has offered to sing any and all of the Fifties pop songs referenced here if you phone with a request. Just contact me and I’ll pass on his number. After all, the Fifties were a time of innocence.

An End and an Beginning

Some years you just can’t wait to see end, and 2013 was one of them.

The lists of “Best” and “Worst” are all over the media, but I have little patience for them right now. On the other hand, I have been mulling over a personal issue, one that has concerned me for much of my life.

I remember often being told by adults as I became a teenager and college student, “Enjoy yourself, these are the best years of your life.” The sentiment usually provoked anxiety rather than joy “If these are the best years, what will the worst years be like?” For much of my childhood and young adulthood, I was a fish out of water.

Bored by the lessons in elementary school, I was often given ancient, discontinued textbooks to read once I had finished class assignments. I suppose they provided me with a broader education, if an outdated one. While my intellectual prowess was assured, socially I often felt like the ugly duckling, and the teasing culture in my family didn’t do much to provide support. Having good old Uncle Charlie compliment you that “Your acne looks a lot better today” added to the mix.

High school was somewhat more interesting, both intellectually and socially, and I attended a school far from home, taking a train, then a bus ride to get there and back each day, broadening my geographical horizons. “The City” twenty-five miles south, suddenly became a destination, and Uncle Charlie a gateway to museums, music, art and theater.

College and finding a career were another improvement, but the “best years of my life?” I hoped not.

And so it has continued. I have been happy to note each decade or so that I didn’t feel that those “best years” had yet occurred. Is it because my life has been so boring or depressing? No, just the opposite! My life has been full of joys, and challenges, and experiences, and wonderful family and friends. It’s just gotten better and better the longer I’ve lived, so I’ve never been willing to look back and freeze any set of years in amber and call them my “best”.

I think George Carlin (though it might originally have been Sean Morey)summed up my attitude much more effectively that I ever could:

I want to live my next life backwards:
You start out dead and get that out of the way.
Then you wake up in a nursing home
feeling better every day.
Then you get kicked out for being too healthy.
Enjoy your retirement and collect your pension.
Then when you start work,
you get a gold watch on your first day.

You work 40 years
until you’re too young to work.
You get ready for High School: drink alcohol, party, and you’re generally promiscuous.

Then you go to primary school,
you become a kid,
you play,
and you have no responsibilities.
Then you become a baby, and then…

You spend your last 9 months
floating peacefully in luxury, in spa-like conditions
– central heating, room service on tap,
and then…
You finish off as an orgasm.

Not sure how that will play out this time around, but I am optimistic, as always. Happy New Year!

Metaphorically Speaking

A friend and fellow AIDS activist from my Philadelphia days has just learned that she has lung cancer. Symptomless, she had an X-ray done for a swimming rotator cuff injury, and an alert technician spotted the tangerine-sized mass where none should be. She is starting down the road to treatment, and, as all those with cancer (and AIDS) do, receives encouragement to “fight this disease.” Susan Sontag wrote a prescient piece on this in the seventies (“Illness As Metaphor”) and then a companion piece (“AIDS and Its Metaphors”) in the eighties, and I wonder if, following her own diagnosis, she received the “Fight, fight, fight” message.

What really offends me is when a memorial piece or obituary notes that “s/he lost her/his battle with cancer.” Now I know that we also use the metaphor for “fighting a cold” or “fighting off the flu”, but why is that? The question has bothered me since my own involvement in AIDS research and education in the nineties. I made a futile attempt then in my public speaking to change the terms of engagement. I would try to talk of a ship that we were all sailing on (Noah’s Ark?). Not sure now where I was going with that, but that ship never got out of the harbor.

Does it make us feel that fighting these diseases gives us more power over them? What would the alternative be? Lying back and taking your medicine, like what? Showing up for your radiation appointment on time, rather than late? Smiling through the nausea?

Somewhere implicit in all this is the desire not to be a victim. So very often the societal judgment immediately shifts to questions: “Did you smoke, drink, have unprotected sex, not wear a seatbelt?” I see these queries as an evocation of magical thinking, charms to ward off the evil eye, or the toxic breath, or the curse of the illness. If I don’t smoke, drink too much, mostly wear protection, usually buckle up, I will be spared.

And I won’t even begin to address the proffered advice: a vegan diet, this herb, that healer. It is well meant, usually, but again creates a victim- one who ate meat, or didn’t use the proper nostrums or enchantments.

I had a brush with this at a college reunion, maybe twenty years out. Most of us were starting to pork out somewhat, and then Sharon arrived, as stunning and slim as she had been lo those many years ago. At lunch, she refused the meal served, and from her bag produced a variety of containers with a melange of “healthy” foods. She then revealed to us that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Twenty years of living with an abusive smoker and two years with a loving partner, and now the diagnosis. We all but crawled under the tables, to realize that our petty envy was for a woman struggling with so much more than her weight.

And here I have done it again; the metaphor of struggle rears its ugly head. So maybe it is a struggle. A struggle to survive under difficult circumstances, to bear up under a death sentence, to give as well as receive. But what else is life?

We are here for so short a time, as the astronomers gleefully point out. What should a life be? A struggle against ignorance, and a reaching out to others, finding love and sharing love, making a mark, being remembered.

But it is a battle that you do not lose if you embrace life wholeheartedly and love with a will. It is all up to you in the beginning and the end.

Things I Spied IV: Writing Apps

Books

Some of my best writing takes place in motion, on or waiting for the subway. It is funny, because I used to closet myself in reverential silence whenever I had to put pen, then key, then pixel to paper. But now I have My Writing Spot on my iPhone, iPad and computer, and whatever I write gets synced on all three sites. It is a very simple app, with none of the bells and whistles of Word or even Pages, but I find it very appealing. It was designed by a mystery man, who is an Email away for excellent support. He asks in a very low key way for a donation for his work. I know I sent one in already, but I am so pleased with the app, I am planning to send another.

When you open a new document (the +sign), a blank page appears and you type. In a wireless environment, everything is saved immediately and you can color code each document listed in the left-hand panel. My blogs go from a green dot while in preparation, to a published in pink one. Offline, on the iPhone, you have to intentionally shift to that panel to save your work by touching the upper left corner. When you are connected wirelessly again, you can sync it to the computer and iPad. So I walk the subway platform, typing on my iPhone, then shift from side to side in the rocking train, writing, writing.

I often write the blog on My Writing Spot wherever I am, then copy it into WordPress on my computer for formatting, addition of pictures, and publication. I also used it to write parts of  “Tainted Biology,” my new novel. Writing 1700 words a day is a challenge, so once again I took every opportunity to compose; on the subway on my iPhone, waiting in an office on the iPad, or finally standing at my computer at home.

Then I transferred what I had written to Scrivener.

Ah, Scrivener, the joy of my writing life! And the complete opposite of My Writing Spot!

Writing a novel, a script, a grant proposal? Scrivener can accommodate you. Separate your work into chapters, scenes, segments? Add pictures? They are right there at your fingertips on the left sidebar, having been imported in. References? They are there in the left-hand bar as well. Need to keep track of your characters? Templates are at hand. Need a split screen? At your fingertips!

Instead of having to flip back and forth through files or programs, everything is there on one page.

I used Scrivener in writing my first novel, “Bad Chemistry,” and for writing grant proposals, and have found it to be infinitely flexible and useful. Best of all, once the work is done, Scrivener will format it into Word or other writing apps in an instant! There is extensive tutorial support, most of which I have not used, because the basic steps are highly intuitive.

The cost at $45 is well worth it in terms of the quality of writing life it provides.

Now if only it would find me an editor and publish my books for me!