Archive for ‘words’

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!

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May 22, 2012

Magic 8 Ball of Literary Wisdom

Tormented? Driven Witless? Whipsawed by Confusion? (thanks, E. Jean). If so, Short List has a great post titled 50 peices of Wisdom from Novelswhich may offer insight into the big questions. You can mine the list for some real gems like this line from The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler:

“There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.”

And this one from Invisible Monsters by Chuck Pahlaniuk:

“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”

This one from Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin is a great tip:

“The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.”

And probably my favorite is from To Kill a Mockingbird:

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”

The post like a magic 8 ball that you can click on instead of shake.  Check it out here.
April 11, 2012

Who Said It? James Joyce or Kool Keith?

My husband sent me this quiz. You must guess if the quote was by James Joyce or rapper and former Bellevue mental patient, Kool Keith.

I only got 6 out of 10 right!

February 24, 2012

Consider the Legacy of David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace would have been 50 years old on Tuesday, had he not taken his life in 2008. The esteemed writer penned three novels and three short story collections in his short lifetime, Infinite Jest, being the most famous. He was a MacArthur Fellow and won a boatload of prizes including Time Magazines’ Best Book of the Year and the O. Henry Prize.

Jonathan Lethem said of his friend and colleague (they both taught at Panoma College): “His footprint as a colleague, the extraordinary impression he left on the whole series of English majors who’ve now floated out into the world. … The idea that I might be part of the moving-on seemed very like an honor.”

Wallace was an alumni of the MFA program at the University of Arizona, where I earned the same degree, While I’ve never been nearly as successful as Wallace  (or even successful at all as a writer), I’ve always felt an affinity to him for that reason.

McSweeney’s reprinted an old interview with him while he had a teaching fellowship at the U of A.  In the piece, he gives the undergraduate class he’s teaching a memorable piece of advice:

When you write fiction, you are telling a lie. It’s a game, but you must get the facts straight. The reader doesn’t want to reminded that it’s a lie. It must be convincing, or the story will never take off in the reader’s mind.

He obviously took his own advice considering his stories have taken off in readers’ minds all over the world.

February 18, 2012

Cats as Fonts

Buzzfeed published a very clever post called 20 Cats as Fonts.  (thanks, Cat!)

My favorite? Times New Roman, of course!

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 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?”

January 21, 2012

Say What? Como Se Dice? Huh?

My mother-in-law is visiting from Peru. I understand Spanish and she understands a good deal of English, but neither of us speak the other’s language. This leaves my husband to play translator when we hit a wall and can’t understand each other. Alone, my mother-in-law and I actually do pretty well. For instance, we spent the whole day together yesterday speaking our own languages, a bit of each other’s, and signing. We did fine.

While I’ve been with my husband for about fifteen years, I’ve never learned his native language. Sad, I know, but he’s only ever spoken English with me. When I’ve pressed him to speak Spanish, he’s told me he doesn’t like to because his parents used to make him practice his English all the time and now he doesn’t want to practice Spanish with me. Fair enough. I enrolled in a couple Spanish classes, but life got in the way and I finally gave up.

Every time we travel to Peru I pick up a more Spanish. One time I even traveled to Machu Picchu with an English-speaking friend and was able to navigate the trip as the Spanish speaker, which is pretty scary if you could hear how bad my Spanish is.

Anyway, Peter Constantine of The New York Times Book Review reviewed a new book called Babel No More by Michael Erard. The book addresses the language-learning wizards of the world. Constantine calls it “part travelogue, part science lesson, part intellectual investigation. . . an entertaining, informative survey of some of the most fascinating polyglots of our time.

Constantine writes: “Linguists warn Erard that some self-­proclaimed polyglots may say they speak any number of languages, when in fact most of them know only a few grammatical rules, and have only a smattering of ready words and phrases.”  

I can speak half-ass Spanish; I took a couple Russian courses and can read cyrillic, I studied Italian in high school and can’t remember a damn thing except that Bolognese is tasty; and I studied French for years but since the “use it or lose it” rule applies, looking at French now is like seeing an old friend whose face you recognize but whose name you can’t really place, even though you hung out for years. Does this make me a polyglot? Hardly. The consensus is that you have to know at least six languages to be considered a polyglot and you must know those languages well. I kind of figured.

Tonight, my mother-in-law said that she fed my “cut” her food and I told her I loved animals and wanted to get a *fart, too.

* Pedo (fart) sounds like perro (dog) in Spanish when you can’t roll your rs correctly.

January 8, 2012

AutoCorrect This

Autocorrect has been proving to be a headache lately. I can live with spell check in Microsoft Word because it only suggests that something is misspelled, but now that smartphones are crossing that little red wavy line and changing the spelling for you without you wanting it to, it’s become quite a pain in the ass.

Recently, when I sent an email from my IPod with the sentence: “That exotic plant we planted last spring has lost all its luster and has morphed into a black stub”, it changed “exotic” into “exit”, “luster” into “lid”, and “morphed” into “Morpheus”. The result read: “That exit plant we planted last spring has lost all its lid and has Morpheus into a black stub.” Uggh. I mean “Ugh” (I like that extra “g” in there for extra emphasis but spell check doesn’t).

Anyway, I found a very funny example of autocorrected texts on BuzzFeed called The 25 Funniest AutoCorrects of 2011. Check it out.

 

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