Friday, September 28, 2012

Fun Stuff for Writers and Readers: Upcoming Events

There are a number of events coming up within the next several weeks for writers and readers in the North idaho area. Check out the highlights of three of these events below, then browse our Events page for an expanded list.

Two upcoming events at the Coeur d'Alene Public Library include Banned Books Week activities and a Civil War Reading Series.

Banned Books Week

In a celebration of our freedom to read, the CDA library has scheduled three free activities along with educational exhibits:

October 1, 6:30-8 p.m.: “The Lorax,” a film based on the book by Dr. Seuss that has been challenged in some communities because of its environmental theme. The movie will be shown in the Shirley Parker Reading Room of the Seagraves Children’s Library on the lower level.

October 4, 7 p.m.: Banned Books Week Read Out, representatives from the Library Board of Trustees, Library Foundation, City of Coeur d’Alene, Coeur d’Alene Police Department, and others will read from challenged books and discuss why the books were challenged. City Councilman Mike Kennedy will emcee. Refreshments provided by the Friends of the Library.

October 5, 4-5:30 p.m.: “The Lorax,” in the Children’s Library.

Civil War Reading Series

Nov. 8, 15, 29, Dec. 13, and 20

In commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, in partnership with the Idaho Humanities Council, is offering a five-meeting, scholar-led reading/discussion program exploring the theme “Making Sense of the American Civil War,” in November and December. The program is free but only 25 copies of each of the three books to be used in the series are available. Participants are asked to commit to attending all sessions in the series. Participants will also need a current Cooperative Information Network library card.

The five two-hour book discussions are scheduled for five Thursday evenings, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., on the following dates: Nov. 8, 15, 29, Dec. 13, and 20 in the library Community Room at 702 E. Front Ave. To sign up for the series contact David Townsend, Library Communication Coordinator, at 208-769-2315 Ext. 426 or by e-mail at  

Click here for details on these and other library events.

Spokane Spotlight Series
An Evening with David Sedaris
Wednesday, November 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox

With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, David Sedaris has become one of America’s pre-eminent humor writers. The great skill with which he slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness proves that Sedaris is a master of satire and one of the most observant writers addressing the human condition today. Sedaris is the author of the collections of personal essays, Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames, each of which became a bestseller. His newest book, a collection of fables entitled Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (with illustrations by Ian Falconer), was released in September 2010.

Sedaris will visit Spokane for one night only, featuring all-new readings of his work and a book signing.

Tickets:$47.50, $42.50 and $37.50
Click here for details.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quotations about Writing Part 2: 20th Century Writers

You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.
Ray Bradbury, American fantasy, science fiction, 
horror and mystery writer (1920 - 2012)

This post is a continuation of Monday’s post, Quotations about Writing Part 1: Early Writers.

Hopefully some of these quotes from other writers will inspire you, make you think, make you laugh, or be useful to you as a writer in some way.


Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
Cyril Connolly, English literary critic, writer (1903 - 1974)

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.
Anaïs Nin, French-cuban author, (1903 – 1977)

The function of art is to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.
Anaïs Nin, French-cuban author, (1903 – 1977)

Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it.
Jesse Stuart American short story writer, poet, novelist (1907 – 1984)

Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard.
Daphne du Maurier, English author, playwright (1907 - 1989)

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can't help it.
Leo Rosten, Polish-born american writer (1908 - 1997)

Hard writing makes easy reading.
Wallace Stegner, American historian, novelist (1909 – 1993)

I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork.
Peter De Vries, American editor, novelist (1910 – 1993)

When I stop working the rest of the day is posthumous. I'm only really alive when I'm writing.
Tennessee Williams, American writer, playwright (1911 – 1983)

Writing is like a contact sport, like football. You can get hurt, but you enjoy it.
Irwin Shaw, American playwright, screenwriter, novelist (1913 – 1984)

A good editor understands what you're talking and writing about and doesn't meddle too much.
Irwin Shaw, American screenwriter, playwright, novelist (1913 – 1984)

Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.
Bernard Malamud, American novelist, 1914 – 1986

There is only one way to defeat the enemy, and that is to write as well as one can. The best argument is an undeniably good book.
Saul Bellow, Canadian-born American writer (1915 - 2005)

The whole point of writing is to have something in your gut or in your soul or in your mind that's burning to be written.
Jerome Lawrence, American playwright, author (1915 – 2004)

I love writing about my job because I loved it, and it was a particularly interesting one when I was a young man. It was like holidays with pay to me.
James Herriot, British Veternarian/Writer 1916 – 1995

The part of my writing I find the most rewarding is when people write to me or speak to me in public to tell me how his or her life has been changed by my books.
Sidney Sheldon, American writer (1917 – 2007)

I felt that I had to write. Even if I had never been published, I knew that I would go on writing, enjoying it and experiencing the challenge.
Gwendolyn Brooks, American poet (1917 – 2000)

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long.
Leonard Bernstein, American composer, conductor, author (1918 - 1990)

If you're a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he's good, the older he gets, the better he writes.
Mickey Spillane, Americn author of crime novels, (1918 – 2006)

Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.
Issac Asimov, American author, professor of biochemistry (1919 – 1991)

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist.
Isaac Asimov, American author, professor of biochemistry (1920 - 1992)

My stories run up and bite me on the leg-I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.
Ray Bradbury, Novelist, 1920 – 2012

If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing.
Kingsley William Amis, English novelist, poet (1922 – 1995)

Artists don't talk about art. Artists talk about work. If I have anything to say to young writers, it's stop thinking of writing as art. Think of it as work.
Paddy Chayefsky, American playwright, screenwriter, novelist (1923 – 1981)

Getting even is one reason for writing.
William Gass, American novelist (1924 - )

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make.
Truman Capote, American author (1924 – 1984)

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.
Truman Capote, American author (1924 – 1984)

Writing, basically breaks down to relationships between people and that is what you write about.
Leon Uris, American novelist, 1924 – 2003

I enjoy writing, sometimes I think that most writers will tell you about the agony of writing more than the joy of writing, but writing is what I was meant to do.
Leon Uris American novelist (1924 – 2003)

In writing and politicking, it's best not to think about it, just do it.
Gore Vidal, American writer (1925 – 2012)

The writer's duty is to keep on writing.
William Styron, American novelist, essayist (1925 – 2006)

Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.
John Updike, American novelist, poet, short story writer (1932 – 2009)

Once I discovered the endless fascination of doing the research and of doing the writing, I knew I had found what I wanted to do in my life.
David McCullough, American author (1933 - )

There's an awful temptation to just keep on researching. There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing.
David McCullough, American author, historian (1933 - )

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
Joan Didion, American author and journalist (1934 - )

Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress the truth.
Wole Soyinka, Nigerian writer, playwright and poet. (1934 - )

No letter from a lover is ever more welcome, brings more joy, than a publisher's expression of interest does to a new author!
Judith Brocklehurst, author (1936 – 2008)

Someone who wants to write should make an effort to write a little something every day. Writing in this sense is the same as athletes who practice a sport every day to keep their skills honed.
Anita Desai, Indian novelist (1937 - )

If the desire to write is not accompanied by actual writing, then the desire must be not to write.
Hugh Prather, American writer (1938 – 2010)

A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.
Margaret Atwood, Canadian novelist, critic, poet, essayist (1939 –

I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
Anne Rice, American author (1941 - )

Good writing gives energy, whatever it is about.
Marilyn Hacker, American poet, critic (1942 - )

Keep writing. Getting from page four to page five is more important than spending three weeks getting page four perfect.
Alan Dean Foster, American author (1946 - )

What I do say is that I can write verse, and that the writing of verse in strict form is the best possible training for writing good prose.
Philip Pullman, English writer, (1946 –

If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.
Stephen King, American author (1947 - )

Writing is one of the few professions in which you can psychoanalyze yourself, get rid of hostilities and frustrations in public, and get paid for it.
Octavia Butler, American science fiction writer (1947 – 2006)

Writing is an extreme privilege but it's also a gift. It's a gift to yourself and it's a gift of giving a story to someone.
Amy Tan, American writer (1952 - )

Writing is hard for me, ... every critic and reader in the world is looking over my shoulder and shaking their heads about how bad that last sentence turned out.
Tess Gerritsen, Chinese-American novelist (1953 - )

I always tell people that I became a writer not because I went to school but because my mother took me to the library. I wanted to become a writer so I could see my name in the card catalog.
Sandra Cisneros, American writer, (1954 – )

Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.
David Sedaris, 2005 American humorist, author (1956 - )

When you surf, the ultimate goal is to get into a pipeline where the water circles around you and that's all there is. In writing, it's the same thing. You want to get into this pipeline where the story is circling around you and that's all there is. That is writing nirvana to me.
Michael Connelly, American author, (1956 - )

Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening.
Jeanette Winterson, British writer (1959 - )

The most difficult part of writing a book is not devising a plot which will captivate the reader. It's not developing characters the reader will have strong feelings for or against. It is not finding a setting which will take the reader to a place he or she as never been. It is not the research, whether in fiction or non-fiction. The most difficult task facing a writer is to find the voice in which to tell the story.
Randy Pausch, American professor of computer science, author (1960 – 2008) "The Last Lecture."

Writing well means never having to say, 'I guess you had to be there.'
Jef Mallett, American artist, writer (1962 - )

Most of my work consisted of crossing out. Crossing out was the secret of all good writing.
Mark Haddon, English novelist/poet, (1962 – )

It's hard for me to show work while I'm writing, because other people's comments will influence what happens.
Donna Tartt, American writer, (1963 – )

A great writer reveals the truth even when he or she does not wish to.
Tom Bissell, American journalist, fiction writer (1974 - )

Monday, September 24, 2012

Quotations about Writing Part 1: Early Writers

Of all those arts in which the wise excel, 
Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well.
 John Sheffield, English writer, (1648 – 1721)

Many of us enjoy quotations and popular sayings. We like them because they sometimes resonate deep within us by reflecting what we have experienced in life, or what we wish to experience. They echo what we feel, believe, recognize, imagine, or hope. They support or give meaning to what we know. They inform us, make us think, make us laugh, and inspire us.

With this in mind, I pulled together a list of quotations about writing from writers. The list grew so long that I have broken it into two parts. Part 1 provides a list of quotations from early writers, up to writers born in the 1800s. Part 2, which will be posted on Wednesday, covers writers born in the 1900s.

Some of the writers are famous and some are not as well known. But all offer thoughts and advice about writing and the writing life.



Good sense is both the first principal and the parent source of good writing.
Horace, Roman poet (65 BC – 8 BC)

Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious disease.
Peter Pierre Abélard, French Philosopher, (1079 – 1142)

Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.
Samuel Johnson, English author (1709 - 1784)

The writing of the wise are the only riches our posterity cannot squander.
Walter Savage Landor English writer and poet (1775 – 1864)

If a writer wrote merely for his time, I would have to break my pen and throw it away.
Victor Hugo, French poet, novelist (1802 - 1885)

Easy reading is damn hard writing.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, American novelist and short story writer (1804 – 1864)

I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.
Henry David Thoreau, American poet, author, naturalist (1817 – 1862)

Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them; and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them.
John Ruskin, English author, poet, critic (1819 - 1900)

Writing is learning to say nothing, more cleverly each day.
William Allingham, Irish poet, editor (1824 – 1889)

Learn as much by writing as by reading.
Lord Acton, English historian, writer (1837 – 1869)

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
Oscar Wilde, Irish writer, poet (1854 - 1900)

A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules or fits certain definitions. It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.
Edith Wharton, American novelist, short story writer (1862 - 1937)

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.
Jules Renard, French author (1864 - 1910)

After being Turned Down by numerous Publishers, he had decided to write for Posterity.
George Ade, American writer, columnist, playwright (1866 - 1944), "Fables in Slang", 1899

No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.
H. G. Wells, English author (1866 - 1946)

When I am dead, I hope it may be said 'His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.'
Hilaire Belloc Anglo-French, then British, writer, historian (1870 – 1953)

I don't want anyone reading my writing to think about style. I just want them to be in the story. 
Willa Cather, American author (1873 – 1947)

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
Robert Frost, American Poet, (1874 – 1963)

Writing a poem is discovering
Robert Frost, American Poet (1874 – 1963)

Habits in writing as in life are only useful if they are broken as soon as they cease to be advantageous.
W. Somerset Maugham, English playwright, novelist, short story writer (1874 – 1965)

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
W. Somerset Maugham, English playwright, novelist, short story writer (1874 – 1965)

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.
W. Somerset Maugham, English playwright, novelist, short story writer (1874 – 1965)

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Thomas Mann, German writer, 1929 Nobel Prize Laureate (1875 - 1955)

Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.
Hermann Hesse, German-Swiss novelist, poet (1877 – 1962)

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
Ring Lardner, American columnist, short story writer (1885 - 1933)

At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable.
Raymond Chandler, American novelist, screenwriter (1888 - 1959)

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.
Gene Fowler American journalist, author (1890 – 1960)

And how is clarity to be achieved? Mainly by taking trouble and by writing to serve people rather than to impress them.
F. L. Lucas English scholar, literary critic, writer (1894 – 1967)

You can make anything by writing.
C.S. Lewis, Irish novelist, poet, essayist (1898 – 1963)

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
C.S. Lewis, Irish novelist, poet, essayist (1898 – 1963)


Be sure and check back on Wednesday for quotations from 20th Century writers.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Straight A's Week

When I open my email each Monday morning and read a letter by Tim Cork, I am off to a great start.  A leader in business training, a noted author, and fantastic speaker, Tim is in the business of providing inspiration. His steadfast words of wisdom never fail to shore up my confidence and help me focus on my goals.

I chose to share this particular message as it arrived at a fortuitous time for me. As we turn the corner into fall, and the softness of summer brings us into close contact with a mounting  list of impending chores, coupled with a kind of primeval fear familiar to those of us who live in northern climes, I found myself in need of a good coach.  A positive attitude is a treasure and a quality I seek in friendship. In writing, it is easy to have days of profound discouragement where a major pep talk is desperately needed. After reading Tim's email, I thought about how my own enthusiasm for a project, or novel, years in the making, must tend to ebb and flow.

From Tim Cork:

“Enthusiasm glows, radiates, permeates and immediately captures everyone's interest.”
                                                                                                      – Paul J. Meyer 

You must believe in what you are selling, promoting, managing, or doing and transfer this belief to the buyer at work and at home. This is especially true when “the product” you are selling is you and the buyer is your spouse, child or friend. In fact, you are always selling yourself. Regardless of what your product or service is, people are really buying you. Through your enthusiasm, you can be effective. If you are feeling good about yourself and your product, you will be successful. However, showing excessive enthusiasm or false enthusiasm is a quick way to turn people off. Enthusiasm must be sincere. When it is, real energy will be released. Your motive will be apparent.

Genuine enthusiasm … it’s contagious

Enthusiasm is derived from the Greek word enthousiasmos, which means inspiration. People perceive it in a flash if you don’t mean what you say or your body language isn’t in harmony with your words. Most of us are open books. It’s easy for people to detect whether we really mean what we say. Anyone with genuine enthusiasm definitely inspires us. It’s the genuine that is contagious. Children’s enthusiasm is almost always genuine. They can turn it on immediately. They don’t have to be prompted or pretend. We adults tend to hesitate because we feel silly or it just doesn’t feel natural. We need to keep it in mind that we don’t get that second chance to create a great first impression.

The key ingredient

Enthusiasm is the key to all winning teams and successful businesses. Enthusiasm attracts us like a magnet. It creates motivation, helping us overcome fear, rejection, and failure. It is a big part of courage and burning desire, the fire in the gut that drives us. Enthusiasm is a big part of attitude and getting straight A’s in life. Without this crucial ingredient, you will never achieve the success you desire.

Make it A Straight A’s Week ! 

Tim Cork
President, Straight A’s Inc.

Last week I saw a little boy standing at the curb with a backpack in place, and cap on his head, looking anxiously up the street. When I asked him if he was headed to school and he nodded, I practically jumped up and down with excitement and told him how lucky he was. I know he was a bit puzzled; he said he was worried about the bus coming. I told him it would be here soon, and I was so happy to think of him getting on the bus and starting the whole adventure lying ahead. "I bet you'll be really good at school," I told him.

When dealing with children, my enthusiasm flows like a river. I will keep this in mind as I write. If I lose my way, there is always that Monday morning email to get me back in the game.

To learn more about Tim Cork and his work, click here:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Gift of Wings

Friends who know me have heard me speak of my love for Lucy Maud Montgomery. The heroine of my youth, the woman I chose to pattern my life by, the author of the greatest selling novel of all time, has kept me enthralled for most of my life. It all began when my mother first read Anne of Green Gables to a group of rapt sixth grade girls; it was my first book club. Wisely choosing to read to us at exactly the right time in our life and in the month of June where the story is set, my mother created a fan for life in me.

Having read L.M. Montgomery's entire body of work, as well as the complete journals, I thought I had exhausted the supply of information regarding this amazing woman. This summer, I decided to take a look at Mary Henley Rubio's highly acclaimed biography, The Gift of Wings.

Thinking there was nothing left to learn about my beloved author, I was, of course, wrong. A good biography will furnish tidbits and details drawn not just from the body of work, but from family members and friends as well. This beautifully written biography of one of Canada's most celebrated writers looks far beyond Montgomery's own published journals, and draws on a wealth of previously undiscovered material.

These words can be found on the back of the book jacket.

"The writings of Lucy Maud Montgomery are so familiar and captivating that it is easy to feel we know her. But the complex woman behind the sparkling story of Anne of Green Gables experienced the dark side of life, as well as the intense joy of creativity." 

It all started one Sunday evening when sitting alone in front of the tube, flipping the channels to find something entertaining, I happened upon an excellent production of Anne of Green Gables. While I cannot count the number of times I have read the book and seen the show, I always find something new. In the much loved story, there is a point of departure in the deep friendship Anne shares with her neighbor, Dianna Barry. Anne goes off to college to study to be a teacher, while Dianna is told that educating women is a waste of money and that she must begin her duties as a wife and mother. Watching Dianna walk away, in this film production, I felt the most terrible sadness imaginable. Was I thinking of my own mother and grandmother who were told the same awful story? Were the legions of women who were the first in their respective families to obtain a  degree on my mind? I can attest to the fact that when my mother attended my graduation from Mills College,  in Oakland California,  she did feel proud, and even though I knew it was difficult for her to tell me this, I truly appreciated it when she did. Married with a five year old son, and another baby on the way, I was anything but a traditional student, and getting to the point of actually acquiring my diploma had been a quest in and of itself.

Perhaps the success of Anne of Green Gables has to do with her depiction of the world of girls and women at the turn of the last century, devoid of argument, but full of hope and possibility.  Lucy Maud Montgomery saw her novel rejected. It was a female friend who worked in the editorial department for Lewis Page who championed the cause and convinced  the publisher to accept it.

As an advocate of education for women, the beneficiary of an excellent high school single sex education, as well as a graduate of a woman's college, I am painfully aware of the sad fact that much of the world still refuses to allow girls to attend school. We must never forget where we come from, all we have accomplished and how much work still needs to be done.

As for those who were the vanguard of the new age, I can only remain deeply grateful and forever in their debt. Thank you, Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Guest Post: Burying Frank

 Courtesy of Bill Pigott, a Toronto Writer

What saved it from being unbearable was the hawthorn. In full bloom, it enveloped us in the breath of Spring.

If you counted the robin, there were five of us at the interment.

Frank had died at 84, alone. What family Frank had lived, perhaps understandably, far away.

Few people epitomized a name as well as Frank. For, Frank had been issued the deck of life with the people suit missing.

Frank’s unmarried crust had thickened with age. A great battlement shutting in profound neediness. Our last visit together looked like a disaster - unless you understood the codes.

“Turn down that goddam T.V.!” I walked across Frank’s living room and obeyed.

Frank’s right hand held a cigarette, precariously. The inch long ash threatening harm to a fine Persian rug. Frank’s body inscribed a “C” in the chair. The pose of slouching indifference reading “go away”. But, meaning “stay - please”.

In Frank’s right hand was a glass of Canadian whiskey - neat, dark brown. Soon, Frank would demand another drink. Please and thank you would not figure in that transaction either.

We had spent the afternoon watching golf - in silence. The Master’s was Frank’s favorite. All dressed, we would be going to Tachet, a neighborhood restaurant. A treat reserved for my visits to town. Frank looked natty in grey flannels, white shirt and black cardigan.

At Tachet, the food was French and they fussed. Perhaps they mistook Frank’s snarly nature as merely Parisian. By the end of dinner, it would be touch and go whether there was more food on Frank than in.

As we readied to go out, I knew we would have to face the “gauntlet”. The gauntlet was a steep wooden stairway that dropped about fifteen feet to the garage under Frank’s house. Frank insisted on taking those stairs unaided in spite of virtual blindness, and no sense of balance - the after effects of several mild strokes. And, three stiff whiskeys.

Frank teetered at the top of the stairs risking a five metre plunge. I stood two steps down, just in case. “Get out of my goddam way!” I didn’t. Frank fell forward grasping for the banister bars and found them. Four more heart-stopping lunges and Frank reached the bottom.

Fifteen minutes later, exhausted, I wheeled Frank into Tachet, set the brake and let the French take over.

Over dinner, Frank reprised one of the hidden things in Frank’s life - creativity.
Frank had worked for a large ad agency in Philadelphia - writing tag lines transforming product to image. I imagined the agency carefully sliding Frank’s meals under a door marked “Beware of Frank.”

“It was 1948," Frank said. An old client was seeking new directions. “Goddamned if they didn’t want a timeless catch phrase. Something simple. Simple is best. But, simple is the goddamned hardest. And, the bastards wanted it over night.”

With a morning deadline, Frank sat at home, rejected thoughts balled on the floor. Listening, I imagined Frank in the half light, shrouded in muse-choking smoke and railing.

“At 3:00 in the morning, I was done in. I had a line in front of me that looked promising. I decided to sleep on it. When I woke up, I knew I had it. “A Diamond Is Forever”. I wrote that. Put DeBeer’s on the map. Got a handshake from the boss. Bugger all else. Number one advertising slogan of the century - did you know that?” The tone was proud. “The goddam agency fired me in 1972 when it moved to New York. I guess I wasn’t forever.”

I cleaned as much of Frank’s dinner off Frank as I could without being obvious. We drove home. Frank went to bed and I left for the last time.

The robin brought me back to grave side. I heard the priest. But, I was thinking about Frank’s antisocial ways. And, imaging the obstacles she faced in the business world of the 1940's.

“Rest in peace Mary Frances Gerety. May God have mercy on you.” The priest concluded his ministrations with a splash of holy water and murmured condolences.

Then, we left Frank, alone. Under the hawthorn.


Friday, September 14, 2012

More Words (part 2)

     From the time I first learned to spell, I liked playing word games i.e. Hangman, Boggle, Scribbage, and of course, my very favorite, Scrabble.  I not only like word games, I like words in general - the sound of the word when I speak it out loud, spelling the word, and learning the meaning and origin of the word.

      Peter Ackroyd (Vision From An Addiction to Fiction, The Times [London]. March 30, 2002) explains, " There is a disease which consists in loving words too much. Logophilia first manifests itself in childhood and is alas, incurable. " You might say I have logophilia - an infliction that many of us suffer from - a love of words.

     Words are everything to a writer. Especially choosing the best descriptive word when describing person, place or thing. In Wednesday's post for WNI , I highlighted a book titled The Correct Word  by Josephine Turck Baker,  a complete alphabetic list of everyday errors in English,  in which Baker denotes misused words, then gives examples of the word used properly. In today's post, I have another interesting book about words  to tell you about, another out of print  book I discovered at a favorite used book store. This one is titled, The New York Times Everyday Reader's Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, Mispronounced Words , copyright 1972 and edited by Laurence Durang. 


     On back dust jacket the description reads, "Includes words we know until somebody asks us what they mean; words we understand when we read them but not when we hear them (or vice versa); words we are inexplicably unsure of using in conversation; words we can pronounce but not spell (or vice versa)."  And I would add, words for writers.

     While I know equinox n. the time when night and day are of equal length everywhere, occurring about March 21 and September 22, I did not know equipage n. 1. a horse drawn carriage. 2. all of the equipment or furnishings, as of a home or military unit, considered together.   Or rub-ri-cate v. to mark , color, or illuminate (a book, etc) with red.

      As writers we are always on the look out for the right word to use, the best words for the story we're telling. Learning new words and growing our vocabulary is something all writers should  continually   strive for. Reading , and  reference  books like the one I mentioned today are good tools to help us on that journey. And it's also helpful when playing Scrabble !



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Correct Word (Is That A Pleonasm?)

    Most folks that know me well,  know how much I like visiting used book stores, and without fail, I  always find a unique, interesting book to buy. That's how it was when I recently stopped by Browser's Books in Coeur d Alene - it didn't take long for  one  to  grab my attention, almost as though the handsome  hard cover book was calling my name .

     The title ,  The Correct Word - How to Use It by Josephine Turck Baker was  published by Correct English Publications, Inc,  copyright 1938.  A table of contents is not included, but the opening page details all the reader needs to know about contents of this book :  The Correct Word and How to Use It; A Complete Alphabetical List of Everyday Errors in English. While the author does a wonderful job of highlighting the misuse of words, she does an  even  better job in showing readers how to use them properly. Because Baker includes so many words, and examples of how to use them, I'm sure I'll be studying The Correct Word   for a long time !

Here are a few of her listings :

Desire, Want, Wish, Need

     While desire and wish are interchangeably used in many instances to indicate the longing for something regarded as desirable, desire is used of that which is near at hand or in thought; wish, of that which is remote. Again, desire being a Latin derivative is not so simple a word as the Anglo-Saxon wish;  in consequence, desire is used more especially of the higher things or of those which are coveted. We desire wealth, distinction, honor, fame; we wish to visit a friend. Want is used of that which may be simply lacking or which may be lacking and necessary; need is used of that which is lacking and necessary. One may want a new garment, but may not need it. Want should not be interchangeably used with wish. One properly says, "I wish to see you," not "I want to see you."

    I must confess, this still confuses me some, as when I think of someone I haven't seen for a while, I not only wish to see them, but I want to see them, too.


Company at Dinner

    "Company at dinner",  not "Company for dinner" is the required form. Many persons err in saying, "We are going to have company for dinner", instead of "We are going to have company at dinner".

O.K. (This one I found fun !)

    The origin of O.K . is obscure, but it is said to have originated with Andrew Jackson, who used it as an abbreviation of "All Korrect". Usage varies in the writing of the past and participle forms of O.K. The usual forms are: O.K.'d or OK'd;; OK'ing. Grammatically considered , there is no past or perfect tense form of O.K. except as usage has established it. When written in full as a noun, O.K. is spelled  either okay or okeh, each being pronounced owe-kay'.  

  Such like

     "Such like", is a pleonasm; either such or like being redundant. In such sentences as, "We read novels and such like:, such is incorrectly used, "We read novels and the like", being the correct form.

     According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language  pleonasm is 1.  the use of more words than are required to express an idea; redundancy. 2. An instance of this. 3. A superfluous word or phrase.

     Listed here a some of the  superfluous words Baker includes in her book:

     They return back.
     They retreated back.
     Equally as good.
     He has got money.
     Connect these ideas together.
     They were united together.
     They ascended up the hill.
     A new beginner.

     And finally, my last example, Moments and Minutes:

     A moment is not a minute. A moment is a space of time incalculably or indefinitely small; a minute is a sixtieth part of an hour. One may say either, "I will come in a few moments", or "I will come in a few minutes", but in exact language the expressions are not identical in meaning.

     I'm quite sure this book in no longer in print, but if you are lucky enough to come across a copy I recommend you pick it up  as it's filled with interesting words, phrases, possessive proper nouns, possessive common nouns and more.  I can tell you, my copy of this  book won't be gathering dust on the shelf, but will be  used and referred to time and time again !



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New contest! Write a Six Sentence Mystery!

Welcome to the latest challenging contest from Writing North Idaho! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to pack a puzzling mystery story into six sentences. Clever whodunit, cozy mystery, edge-of-seat suspensefest, sophisticated "noir"—the style of mystery is up to you, as long as it keeps us guessing until the end AND you can tell it in just six sentences (of any length, not including the title). The Six Sentence Mystery Contest officially opens September 15 and closes October 15. For more details, click here.

Are you a mystery buff? Who are some of your favorite masters of mystery?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Spoonerisms, Eggcorns, Mondegreens and Other Silly Things

My family has a penchant for Spoonerisms. This is where you utter mixed up syllables of two words, or more, putting together something that sounds utterly ridiculous. It is done accidentally in a moment of the mouth engaged before the brain. My niece, a bride discussing what she wanted to carry in her bouquet said, “I’d like dayling trasies.”  My sister and I knew exactly what she wanted because we, too, talk in Spoonerisms. She wanted “trailing daisies” in her bouquet. I once asked a roommate if she wanted any “pined canapple” on her pizza. She declined wearing a “What’s up with her” look. Other now family remembrances are: ficket pence, flutterby and chilled greese.

The name Spoonerism (aka "marrowsky" after a Polish count) started because a minister all too frequently mixed up parts of words combining them into something hilarious. “Mardon me, padam, but you are occupewing the wrong pie” for “Pardon me, Madam, but you are occupying the wrong pew. “It is kisstomary to cuss the bride,” and “Is the Bean dizzy?”

In the first Harry Potter book, George Weasley said he didn’t know why his aunt knitted their names in the boys’ sweaters because “We know we are Gred and Forge!” The wonderful poet, Shel Silverstein has a book titled Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. Many other authors have used spoonerisms deliberately, Shakespeare to name one. Walt Disney created the main dwarf, Doc, to talk in spoonerisms to bring humor into the movie of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Think about adding this element to one of your characters. It interjects some humor in what otherwise might be a too tense scene or story. Sometimes it is called “comic relief.”

Mondegreens are unintentionally misheard words or phrases. Children are especially known for this. In Christmas carols, “The cattle are lowing” becomes “The catalog glowing” or “The cattle are lonely…” “Jeff’s nuts roasting on an open fire,”  “Check for snipping at your nose,” and “Barney’s the king of Israel." “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” was heard “I led the pigeons to the flag. One nation, under God, with liver tea for all.”

Eggcorns is a relatively new term. It began when a woman mistakenly called acorns eggcorns.  It is surprising how many eggcorns are in common use: duck tape, Long Ranger, toe the line, coming down the pipe, mute point, bread and breakfast, skimp milk, garbleydegook, mind bottling, jar dropping and windshield factor.* It is not that people who spoke these phrases are dumb, it is that they heard and/or remembered a verbal conversation wrong. You can bring some levity in your stories with the clever use of any of these funny phrases.

                                 Rindercella and the Prandsome Hince.

Once upon a time, in a dingkom far away, a gung yirl was a slave to her stuggley eptisters. She had to sook and cew all lay dong. An invitation to a bancy fown gall was delivered. It seemed the Prandsome Hince was brooking for lide! The stuggley septisters were so excited. They laughed when Rindercella thought she could go to the bancy fown gall too. After the sean mepstumpper and the stuggley eptisters left, Rindercella ried and ried until her eyes were ced. Suddenly her gary fodmother appeared. “Try your drears my dear. Bibbadee, babbadee boo.” And with a sweep of her wagic mond, Rindercella was transported to the bancy fown gall in a poach made out of a cumpkin. Rindercella danced all light nong. At nidmight, the clock truck svelve and Rindercella reft the gall losing her slass gipper. The next day the Prandsome Hince appeared at Rindercella’s door. “Did you thuse liss?” he said holding up the slass gipper. Rindercella yaid “Ses!’ They were married and hived lappily ever after.

* duct tape, Lone Ranger, tow the line, coming down the pike, moot point, bed and a breakfast, skim milk, gobbledegook, mind boggling, jaw dropping and wind sheer factor.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Judging Writing Contests Can Improve Your Writing

Recently I volunteered to help judge a portion of the Utah Writers League state writing contest. Tim, somewhere in Utah, asked the president of the Coeur d’Alene chapter of Idaho Writers League president, Faye Higbee, for assistance. I answered the call. What I received in return for my volunteerism and 14 hours of work was a gift to my own writing.

This past April, I volunteered for the fifth year to help judge the Coeur d’Alene Public Library’s annual writing contest. This contest has many entries in its nonfiction and fiction categories drawing participants from second grade to 19+ years of age. Again, the rewards were multiple. I helped my community, encouraged the development of writing skills, received an invitation to a community volunteer thank you breakfast and garnered a gift to my own writing.

Writing North Idaho has sponsored three writing contest: one on first best short story line, a short story contest using the winning line from that contest and a haiku contest. I was a judge in two of the contests and a coordinator for the third. In all contests, my rewards were in multiples. I again encouraged writing among strangers by helping offer a contest where prizes were available (always an extra incentive), helped spread the joy of writing and improved my own writing skills.

I had a score sheet as a guide for these contests and using my own knowledge of writing, I was able to ascertain different levels of writing abilities where writers had entered their best work. Through the training of writing classes, reading many books about how to write, writing posts for this blog for three years and writing a book of my own, I was able to draw on those aspects of my writing skills to look objectively at others’ writing. I was surprised at how quickly some poor writing stood out----incorrect grammar, poor proof reading (mea culpa), uneven flow, unbalanced structure, and lack of focus.

On the other hand, I saw signs where authors had used an outline to help them pace and define their stories. I could discern good research and which writers had an excellent grasp of the rules of grammar. A good author limits the number of adverbs he uses, has a “hook” at the story’s beginning, uses the active voice and gives the reader a satisfying conclusion. These were evident in winning entries. I took mental notes as well as physical ones.

Judging all of the points in the preceding two paragraphs helps me to be a better writer because I can remember stories where there were good examples and bad examples. I am able to apply what is stored in my brain to make my writing better. I will always remember the pathos used by a writer who won our short story contest. It was about a Serengeti baby gazelle who had tripped while being pursed by a predator. This author, Lila Bolme of Post Falls, ID, skillfully built the tension from the first line, “Her long journey through pain was almost over” through the first gamboling steps of this carefree baby to her joyful exploration of her new world next to her mama, to the terror and innate sense she used to flee this dark thing following her, to her tripping and finally death. Ms Bolme had written it so skillfully that I was engrossed throughout and her writing ability made the story stick in my mind, hopefully forever. I learned the valuable lesson of how tension can help the story and I plan to I apply it to my stories.

In two stories I judged this week, the subject was about the legend that the Aztec chief, Montezuma, had secretly dispatched members of his tribe to stockpile hordes of gold from the Conquistadores after they imprisoned him. The folklore is that these runners transported and hid gold jewelry, icons, and decorative wear in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. What a great story to tell on many different levels. Unfortunately, neither of these writers was able to centralized his thoughts, use a time line or hone in on one or two aspects of the story, Both wandered off telling a little of this, nothing of that and avoiding what should have been the top theme throughout each story. I learned from reading those stories because I had a judge’s sheet to track “theme identified,” “clarity of subject,” and “satisfying conclusion.” In one instance, the hook came three paragraphs into the story which was by then already blurred. In the other story, the hook came where it should, at the beginning, but then the story wandered all over the chronological calendar with tidbits and unfinished tales of people looking for this hiding place or not looking for it. One story went on to tell of a man who found parts of these hidden treasures, melted them down and became wildly rich. However, the author failed to follow through on where this hiding place was and if people can visit it now, or if people continue to search for more treasure. In other words, there was no satisfying conclusion. I learned through their examples.

In another well written and highly graded story, I read about a simile between the millions of bats in India comparing them to the millions of Indians and their multiple levels of various living situations. The theme was all tinged with how wonderful diversity is. Another story adroitly told the benefits of hiring seniors and not just for the “Want fries with that?” type jobs. From scoring those stories, I learned how to set up a story, how to write back up facts interestingly and what were important things to say, how to write those points and how to write a satisfying conclusion.

I encourage you to find several different examples of score sheets for writing contests, either online or from actual contests. Use them as a guideline to critique your own writings. You will find it hones your writing ability and makes you a better writer.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Reading + Writing + Labor Day

Who do you have to thank for bringing writing into your life? Do you read as much as you write?

My two-and-a-half year old grandson...reading or becoming a writer?

Today is Labor Day. It was organized to exhibit the strength and spirit of corps of trades and labor unions and was accompanied by a party for the workers and their families. Today, at least 17 countries celebrate some kind of Labor Day; most celebrate on the first day of May including Russia, Malaysia, Sweden, Norway and several Middle East countries.

In the United States and Canada, it is always the first Monday in September. It has lost its significance as a show of support of workers and is seen as a holiday for everybody. Government offices, banks, medical offices and other businesses are closed so their workers can enjoy a day of other activities. For us in the northern hemisphere, especially locations with four seasons, Labor Day marks the official end of summer. It certainly does in northern Idaho. My area of Coeur d’Alene, in the “panhandle” of Idaho, sees a dramatic drop in the tourist population thus reducing traffic on the roads, in the stores and on our numerous lakes. The date is a mixed relief for us locals as we, too, must get children ready for school and begin to curtail our lazy days spent on the boat fishing or skiing.

In my house, Labor Day and especially September 3, marks the wedding anniversary of Bob’s and my parents. Both couples were married on September 3 thirteen years apart and both those weddings fell on Labor Day. This date never fails to remind us of how lucky we are with our “choice” of parents. All four were loving, nurturing parents, and gifted in their own ways.

My mother was a woman of many talents. One of the things I most appreciated about her was seeing her constantly reading. I was the tag-a-long baby so by the time I noticed her activities, she had more leisure time with three of her four children in college. My siblings do or did like to read. I remember being read to before bed by either my father or mother every night. (Snip, Snap, Snurr was a favorite book of my Norwegian mother and me.) I also remember hiding under the covers using a dull flash light reading until I got caught and was forced to quit. I did not know it then but I do now…a love of reading comes before a desire to write.

Being given those examples has brought me untold riches. I often say a silent thank you to Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Carnegie for their idea that there must always be free, public lending libraries. I thank my mother for her example of reading because it led me to writing.

Reading has filled many hours of my life with fascinating journeys to foreign lands, exposing me to families with different structures and values than mine, opening my mind to new ideas and giving me knowledge far beyond my college education. I thought that if I would ever write anything, it would be a historical fiction book, my preferred genre. To date, attempts at fiction have been a failure but I am practicing. Some of my fondest memories of raising my own two girls are trips to the public library followed by hours of sweet smelling, little blond haired heads snuggled on either side of me on the sofa while we read. 

I scored well in writing exams and in classes where essay writing was included. My first job as an occupational therapist was in a large county hospital. After a few months, the coordinating physician complimented me on my clear, concisely written notes in the patients’ charts. All of these positive experiences led me to finally attempt writing in my sixth decade.Then I did not know where this ability to write would lead me.

Now I am part of blog with 5 other fantastic writers. I have written newsletters for several organizations, do research (the most liked part of writing for me) on almost any subject, judge with credibility other writers efforts (see the upcoming September 5, 2012 post) and enjoy composing posts, letters and an almost completed nonfiction book. I have met so many nice writers and appreciate their support. Without a love of reading, I would not have a love of writing.

All of this is brought to mind because today is Labor Day. Today is the day my parents were married. Today is the day I think always of the gifts my parents gave me. Today is the day I am glad I passed on my love of books and writing to my daughters. We share titles of books we read and like. One daughter is writing her second successful blog ( This blog centers on training for triathlon and marathons while raising young children; she is a better writer by far than I ever will be. Growing up she always had a book in her hand. Her undergraduate degree was English literature was followed law school. Reading comes before writing it seems. 

My other daughter, a psychology major, is the “grammar guru” of the administration building on the college campus where she works. People come to her with questions about grammar. She is not only smart but also she has always read a lot, not a coincidence. Both daughters are passing along the love of reading to their four children. Maybe one of my grandchildren will become an author “just like Nana.”  I hope so.  Before writing came reading. We scribes have chosen or were chosen by a vocation or avocation to be writers. How lucky are we?