Of dictionaries, memories, and friends

When a copy of this selection from Samuel Johnson’s famous dictionary arrived last week, I was delighted, and immediately reminded of my late, and well-loved friend, Bill. He would have appreciated the book, chuckled over Johnson’s witty definitions, delighted in the words at play. We would have sat around the kitchen counter, alternately reading random definitions from the book, in between sips of wine. Like every … (more–>)

Storytelling cubes

You don’t expect Wal Mart to be the source for literary tools, but if you amble into the section crammed with toys, you can pick up a set of Rory’s Story Cubes for just $10 (the base set). Now, I realize these are meant as a creative game for children and/or families (marked ages 8+), but they are actually an ingenious little tool for plot development … (more–>)

 Writers and reading

This post is about, and for writers, for reporters and editors, for book authors and editors, magazine editors, feature writers, layout artists, copy editors and anyone who either fancies themselves one of these, or has the curious desire to become one (curious because, at least for freelancers, it often involves spending more money on books than you get in income…). If you aren’t in that company, … (more–>)

Three, six, seven, nine… how many basic plots?

When I was in school, back in the last century, I was taught there were three basic plots in which every story ever written could be classified: Man-vs-man, man-vs-nature and man-vs-himself. That was in the days when it wasn’t politically incorrect to use the word man to mean everyone. Today we’d say it differently, use other pronouns, but the meaning is the same. Three is a … (more–>)

Book collecting: snobbery or reading passion?

The book has always been a sign of status and refinement; a declaration of self-worth – even for those who hate to read. That’s the lead into a recent piece on Aeon Magazine about book collecting and collectors. It’s also about reading and the snobbery of readers. Fascinating piece. For me, anyway. Pretty much everything about books and reading fascinates me, from the art to the … (more–>)

The Crafty Crow and the Doves

Once upon a time, an old crow lived by the seaside. He had grown fat over the years because he was too lazy to work for his food. He preferred to sit than fly. He followed the other animals to get their leftovers, taking what wasn’t his, and annoying them by begging for some of their food. The other animals shunned him. They had chased him from … (more–>)

The Secret to Good Writing

Spoiler alert: the secret to writing well is…. (insert drum roll)… writing. Writing a lot. Every day. Every possible minute you can spare. Writing and writing more and then writing even more. But doing so within a pre-specified limit. Oops… Now we all know that, aside from some local bloggers and EB columnists, most of us get better the more we practice a thing. Writing – … (more–>)

A Sense of Pinker’s Style

I share one of Steven Pinker’s passions: I like to read style books, grammar books, language books. To me, they’re like literary chemistry sets. When I was young, getting a chemistry set for Christmas or a birthday opened a whole world to me. I’d explore all sorts of interactions and experiments until I had run out of chemicals to do them with. Used litmus paper littered my … (more–>)

Not Getting It

In a recent opinion piece in the Enterprise Bulletin titled “Swayze overused by council?” EB reporter/editor Paul Brian comments, I think the overuse of Swayze is outlandish and it is not congruent with the tough financial situation of the town.* Like much of the EB’s increasingly vague reporting since former editor Ian Adams left, the paper’s current editorial staff doesn’t seem to understand municipal politics. The reporting on many … (more–>)

Thurber’s Writings & Drawings

Books of James Thurber‘s cartoons and writing were always on the shelves at my grandparents’ home, as well as on my parents’ bookshelves. I read them, as I did everything else on those shelves, when I was quite young. I still remember his odd, eccentric cartoons with their primitive lines but sharp and bizarre wit, although I can’t recall much if any what stories I read of his back … (more–>)

Tricks of the mind

Reading involves bit of trickery. Mental trickery. It engages the imagination and fools us into thinking we are there within the book: nestled beside the author, or better yet, beside the characters. Immersed in the created world, floating through it like a ghost in a haunted house movie, or perhaps in the imagined flesh, interacting on the mental stage. We ask ourselves how we would play … (more–>)

The Hunting of the Snark

I’ve always wondered why Lewis Carroll’s wonderful poem, The Hunting of the Snark – an Agony in Eight Fits – has never been redone, rewritten in a modern version, with modern references and people. It seems to lend itself to revision, at least to my eyes. Perhaps it’s because this sort of whimsical, satirical poem is not popular these days (it was written between 1874 and 76, a … (more–>)

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