Archive for ‘English’

June 12, 2012

Proofreading Made Fun

Someone posted this on Facebook and I had to share it. Looks like someone made some new additions to the standard copy editing/proofreading symbols. I especially like the axe used to mean “remove permanently from your lexicon” and the trowel which symbolizes “cut the crap”.  I could definitely use these in my own writing!

June 10, 2012

R.I.P. Rocket Man, Ray Bradbury

While the news isn’t new, I couldn’t not post something about the passing of visionary, Ray Bradbury. When I read the news that he had died on Tuesday, I was in Dallas on a layover. Although I always suspected his time wasn’t far off as he was getting up there in years, the news made me swell up with grief .

I discovered Bradbury when my 9th grade English teacher handed out copies of Fahrenheit 451. From then on, I was hooked. I tried  out some other science fiction after discovering Bradbury but nothing could match his dark, lyrical genius. He surpassed any genre. His stories were more about human beings than outer space or robots.

Three random things of note (to me, anyway):

1) I remember almost meeting him once about 12 years ago. There was a writing conference here in Tucson that he was supposed to attend. I raced over to discover he had to stay home due to a small stroke.

2) I bought The Bradbury Chronicles about three weeks ago and it’s on my bedside table.

3) How apropos that he left this world on the day of the the Venusian eclipse.

In honor of Mr. Bradbury’s passing, here is a scene that has stuck with me for years. It’s a short story called “Kaleidoscope” from The Illustrated Man. This is the very end of the story when Hollis, an astronaut whose rocket has blown up, is racing toward earth and toward his death:

He fell swiftly, like a bullet, like a pebble, like an iron weight, objective all of the time now, not sad or happy or anything, but only wishing he could do a good thing now that everything was gone, a good thing for just himself to know about. When I hit the atmosphere, I’ll burn like a meteor. “I wonder” he said, “if anyone’ll see me?”

The small boy on the country road looked up and screamed. “Look, Mom, look! A falling star!”  The blazing white star fell down the sky of dusk in Illinois. “Make a wish,” said his mother. “Make a wish.”

February 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens would have turned 200 years old today if he were alive. The cherished writer was a legend in his time and continues to influence the literary world today.

NPR has a great peice on Dickens’s life, his writing process, and information on the Dickens bicentennial celebration at the Morgan Library in New York, which has the world’s largest collection (outside of England) of Dickens’s documents, letters, illustrations and artifacts. You can read it here.

As an added bonus, I’m going to plug my Etsy jewelry. My Dickens necklace was featured in a lovely little treasury posted in honor of Mr. Dickens today. Thanks, Chuck!

February 4, 2012

Paper Trails

Robert McCrumb of The Guardian posted an article about the power of paper in a digital era. The article focuses on the perseverance of the written word and looks at writers who save paper drafts of their manuscripts:

Ink and paper lives on in countless surprising ways. I see that the University of East Anglia has just announced the acquisition of a manuscript archive: more than 50 boxes of typed manuscripts, short stories, pencil drafts, notes and re-workings by the Yorkshire-based novelist Robert Edric. A self-proclaimed “hoarder” of his own work, the archive shows in fantastic detail the creative writing process.

Edric has more than 20 novels under his belt and his archive of manuscript drafts, which were handwritten or typed, goes back 30 some years. In the article, he reflects on saving drafts:

 “I mostly write in pencil on paper and I’ve kept everything. I never throw anything away and I don’t write on a computer so there is no ‘delete’ option. You never normally know how a writer works. It takes an enormous amount of energy, but if you work on a computer there’s no way of showing someone the process because you end up deleting things, re-writing parts.

 “You don’t ever see the scribbles and revisions from 20 years ago – how you reworked and reworked the text. I only really use a computer to finish the process. The vast part of the archive has never seen the light of day. Four or five of my early novels were never published – but they were the foundations of my career and I was learning to work hard.”

Personally, I write on paper when I’m not near my computer or I print off old drafts and save those. I’ve also saved old, old writing in notebooks and things I’ve typed in the past. As a result, there is a large amount of paper in piles and in boxes around the house, which makes my husband crazy.

I also save drafts on my computer, but I’m sure there are plenty of drafts I haven’t saved because I’ve edited and re-edited without renaming the files. I like to think I’m saving some trees, and besides only I’m going to see those old shitty drafts anyway.

But Edric brings up some important questions:  How important is it for a writer to save every draft of every piece he has ever written?  Will he ever look at those drafts again to see his process or will the drafts just gather dust?  Will the writer delete something he should have saved?

February 2, 2012

Put up the Red Flag: February is Letter Writing Month

Sick of email? Miss getting letters in the mail? I do. My friends and I still send cards, but I miss the days I would get a letter from my grandmother every week. Sometimes my best friend and I send letters back and forth and we get to draw little pictures in the margins of the paper and make lists and decorate the envelopes with our unique handwriting. It’s so much more personal than shooting off an email, even though that’s how I do most of my correspondence these days, like most people.

Letter writing is definitely a lost art, but not this month. Today, Mary Robinette Kowal launched “The Month of Letters Challenge“. On her website, Kowal writes:

I have a simple challenge for you.

  1. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs.  Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
  2. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.

All you are committing to is to mail 24 items.  Why 24? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 24 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month. You might enjoy going to the mail box again.

I love my mailbox and putting up the little red flag. Hell, I even love my mailman. He waves to me from his mailtruck and smiles from beneath his grandfatherly mustache every time he sees me like he’s driven right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. And I just bought a new sheet of stamps today. I guess I have no excuses. .  .

January 27, 2012

So This is What Happens After Everyone Leaves the Bookstore

This video has been making the rounds on the web for a while now, but I wanted to feature it here, too.

Sean Ohlenkamp and his wife, who run a bookstore called Type in Toronto, made this lovely little film of books dancing around their book store. Check it out here. You can also see a stop-motion film of them organizing their bookshelves here.

January 24, 2012

Watch that Language! You Dropped an “F-Bomb” Behind the Couch

Over at The Hot Word, there is a post on swearing toddlers. In a recent episode of the sitcom Modern Family, a cursing two year old was featured, which apparently has been causing a big rukus.

A swearing toddler in the media isn’t a strange sight these days. It happens a lot in films and if anyone’s seen Will Ferrel’s hilarious video short from Funny or Die of him getting chewed out by his tiny daughter, they’ll know what I mean.

It’s all funny and cute until your kid drops an “f-bomb”. Well, yeah it is still funny. Sometimes.

As a mother of a very verbose five-year-old boy, I wanted to burst laughing and scream simultaneously the first time I heard my son say, “Mommy, what the fuck?” Kids are verbal sponges and I’d obviously hadn’t been aware of all the “f-bombs” I was dropping around the house here and there.

And then there was the day he came home from preschool and gave me the finger. It wasn’t given in an F- you,-Ma-I’m-flipping-you- the-bird manner. He just lifted up his middle finger and said matter-of-factly, “This is the middle finger.”  And then he smiled that devious little boy smile. I exploded. All my vows to be an enlightened, tolerant mother of the 21st century went up in smoke. “Who taught you that?!” I yelled. I had suddenly become one of those uptight mothers who hate “foul language.” He shrugged. I continued: “It was one of those kids at school, wasn’t it?  One of them has an older brother and he learned it from him and now you know it and. . .”   You get the picture.

No matter how closely you monitor your own mouth, the swear words are going to fly out of someone else’s, especially at school. And even more when they get older.   Timothy Jay, a psychologist who studies psycholinguistics and obscenities at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts sheds some light on the subject. In an interview with Live Science he said: “Preschoolers are pretty well-versed in the lexicon, and by 11 to 12, we are looking at adult swearing patterns.” He added: “Kids say swear words as soon as they talk. We have 1- and 2-year-olds who say ‘f—‘ and ‘s—‘ in our sample. . . We don’t learn how to swear from television — nobody does. We learn how to swear from our siblings, from our parents, from the backyard.

So what do you do with a swearing toddler? Everyone has a different method when handling this situation. When it happened to me, I realized I was about to become a blazing hypocrite, but I sucked it up and had “the talk”. I told my son that swear words are “grown up words that grown ups shouldn’t use”. Hypocrite.  And then I told him that while I’d be watching his language, he should also correct me if I let a bad word slip out.

You wouldn’t believe how many times I hear his little voice say, “Mommy, can you please not say that word?”

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