Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Little Book of Plagiarism

I'm reading Posner's The Little Book of Plagiarism. "Reading" may not even be the right way to put it, since the book is so small (109 pages and pocket-sized) that I nearly finished it in one round-trip commute. (Don't worry--I take the train.)

I'd definitely recommend the book to any writer, publisher, editor, or even blogger. Aside from the fact that it's a quick and interesting read and not at all like the legal treatise it could be (and haven't we all wanted to peek inside the comparisons between Kaavya Viswanathan's writing and Megan McCafferty's?), it's full of things that we should be thinking about as we make writing and publishing decisions. Plagiarism isn't quite so straightforward as it might seem, as evidenced by some of the respected authors and scholars who've been called out for it.

For instance, did you know it was considered plagiarism to cite a source you found referenced in another source without citing the place you found it as well? Poor practice and risky, certainly, but plagiarism? Frankly, I didn't know that, and I'm both a writer and an attorney.

It's good information, and it only takes a minute (well, a couple of hours, then) to read. And if it gets you interested in all issues plagiarism, you'll also want to check out Jonathan Bailey's Plagiarism Today blog. I don't know Jonathan, but he happened to leave a comment on my post about Eggs, Milk, Vodka last week that coincidentally had me checking his blog on the same day I checked out Posner's little book. It was a happy coincidence and he went straight into my bookmarks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

One Hundred Things

A hundred things is a lot. My friend Barb was working on her list a couple of days ago, and having a hard time with it, and I mentioned that I was pretty sure there WEREN'T one hundred distinct facts about me. So she started writing them for me. I think she was up to 27 or so when I decided to give it a go myself, but I suspected that it was a diversionary tactic designed to keep her from having to work on her own list...or maybe a warm-up exercise.

Anyway, I decided to give it a shot and I was surprised by how easy it was. After I finished the list, three or four additional things occurred to me that probably should have been on the list. I thought about looking for things I could replace, but that seemed like too much attention to give this kind of exercise. It's surprisingly interesting to do, though. I recommend it, even if you're not going to post the results.

1. I prefer old-fashioned film to digital photography.
2. I never look back after I've written.
3. It's hard for me to think sitting down.
4. I'm more from Mars than I am from Venus; it's often very difficult for me to understand what women are thinking and why.
5. I'd kind of started to believe that my dog was going to live forever, and I hate that I was wrong.
6. My health problems make me angry.
7. At 16, I described the child I wanted to have in great detail, and at 29 I had her.
8. I can't sing.
9. I sing all the time.
10. I am English, Irish, French and Danish in nearly equal parts, but I only feel Irish.
11. I am not as good a Catholic as everyone in my life thinks I am.
12 I've only had two jobs I didn't like in my whole life, and they were both part-time summer jobs.
13. I carried my dog in my book bag around my law school campus years before anyone had heard of Elle Woods.
14. I am friends with nearly all of the men from my past.
15. My first paid article was about McGruff the Crime Dog, and it took me hours to write.
16. A similar-length article now takes me about 20 minutes to write.
17. I can do well on any standardized test, even if I know nothing about the subject matter.
18. My left and right brains are nearly perfectly balanced, and I shift back and forth as to which is slightly dominant.
19. I love math, but I didn't know it until I was 30.
20. I recently lost my best friend, and it still hurts every day.
21. I have a hard time turning off my "work brain" and focusing on anything else.
22. I am happiest and healthiest when I go to mass every day...but I usually don't.
23. I am very messy.
24. I love blank paper, to the point that I keep buying it even when I have stacks of different varieties already at home and am doing most of my writing on the computer.
25. I have very little curiosity about other people's business.
26. I am very uncomfortable in situations in which there is nothing productive to be done.
27. My daughter is 11.5 and her beauty still catches me by surprise on a regular basis.
28. Tea is an important ritual in my family.
29. I've been saying that The Sun Also Rises is my favorite book for so long that I'm no longer sure whether it's true.
30. When I was in law school, I hung out with a bunch of guys who thought I was cool because I'd drink cheap whiskey straight from the bottle with them, but a lot of times I covered the opening with my teeth and didn't really drink.
31. I skipped a day of my bar review class to take my sister to see the Grateful Dead at Soldier Field.
32. People are often surprised to learn things about me that I thought were right there on the surface.
33. I write very fast--5,000 to 7,000 words a day if I'm mostly focused on writing, and with very little editing required.
34. I hate milk, but all other dairy products (ie: ice cream, milkshakes, cheese) are my favorite food.
35. I made yogurt in a high school microbiology class and have consequently never tasted it.
36. I miss my hair.
37. I had "morning sickness" all day every day for four months, and came home from giving birth two sizes smaller than I'd been when I got pregnant.
38. People mistakenly believe me to be social.
39. I have kept every drawing, craft, and note that my daughter has created in her lifetime.
40. I also have a box of drawings, crafts and notes my sister made for me when she was a child and I was a teenager and in college.
41. I am not sentimental.
42. I love infrequently, but completely.
43. I do not know why I blog.
44. The song "Hang on Sloopy" always makes me smile.
45. I love semi-colons.
46. I love water, whether it be in my bathtub, falling from the sky, or filling an ocean.
47. I pay for and start watching a lot of movies I don't end up finishing.
48. When I was writing my book, I listened to nothing but Rick Springfield's music continuously for nine months.
49. I have three full filing cabinets and I don't know what's in them.
50. I have storage units in two cities and I still can't fit everything in my house.
51. I get excited about mathematical patterns.
52. I can't help noticing grammatical errors; I don't want to nitpick, but they stand out to me like flashing neon signs.
53. When I see words in isolation, like on a street sign, I automatically read them in different directions and scramble the letters.
54. My bookshelf is full of books I will never read again, and the books I cherish are packed away in boxes.
55. I keep a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church near my desk for quick reference.
56. I once wrote 273 pages of a novel in three weeks, but then took years to write the ending.
57. I used to do a lot of writing on the train back and forth to work, but now I can't stay awake long enough.
58. I am surprised that I like my daughter's mice.
59. I prefer not to think about people reading what I write.
60. I don't care much about stuff; I have a painting on my living room wall because my sister brought it over and hung it up, and I'm still using the stereo my mother bought for me in 1985.
61. When I read, I skip over descriptions of rooms and locations entirely.
62. I love lightly salted rice cakes--not as a diet food or a "lesser evil" or anything like that...I eat them on purpose.
63. I didn't get my driver's license until after I graduated from college, and then probably only because my parents bought me a used car for graduation.
64. Two years later, I'd driven across at least ten states alone (but for my poodle).
65. I hate volleyball with such an all-consuming passion that I am suspicious of anyone who plays it.
66. I still collect Hot Wheels.
67. I still have the teddy bear I got just before I turned two, in 1968.
68. I was a political activist in college.
69. I once ran a welfare advocacy clinic.
70. I worked three jobs simultaneously while going to law school full time.
71. Once every couple of years or so, I suddenly think of my best friend from law school and really appreciate anew the friendship that we had and the fun and mutual support we shared...but I don't get in touch with him.
72. I miss paper letters. Email is okay, but I loved writing and receiving handwritten letters in the mail.
73. I gave up voting after GWB was elected for the first time.
74. I love soccer, but I haven't been to a game in years.
75. My library books are always late.
76. I like to read in the bathtub. If the water would stay hot and life didn't intrude, I'd stay to finish the whole book.
77. I hate meeting new people with my hair short because I feel it gives the wrong impression of who I am.
78. I improvise.
79. I say what I mean--it's a big waste of time and counterproductive to try to read between the lines and figure out what I "really mean"--I really mean what I said.
80. A nurse tried to "hold back" my birth until my mother's doctor arrived to cover her own mistake, and without the intervention of a young intern at Jackson Park hospital in Chicago, I might have been brain damaged.
81. I haven't really given any new music a fair listen since the late 80s or early 90s.
82. I tell my daughter every day that she's exactly who I always wanted.
83. Getting caught in a downpour makes me laugh out loud.
84. In high school I got physically ill whenever I had to give a speech.
85. I've made a good part of my living as a teacher and public speaker.
86. I do not like poetry.
87. I love to discover people who are better/stronger/faster than I am in intellectual and professional arenas and work to keep up with them.
88. In my teens and early twenties, I avoided shorts because I thought my legs were fat; now that they really are I couldn't care less and wear what I want.
89. I didn't go to the dentist for 22 years.
90. I love to throw things away; I check my coupons hoping that they've expired so that I can clear them out.
91. I only own one pair of jeans, and that only because my mother insisted that everyone needed at least one pair of jeans and bought them for me.
92. I have as many vacuums as I have carpeted rooms in my house.
93. I am afraid of spiders to the point of possible phobia, but other bugs don't bother me in the least.
94. I love Neons. I can't think why anyone would want a whole, real, grown-up car when we could all have these friendly little high-mileage, easy to maneouver, practically free cars.
95. Every Monday when I'm dragging my garbage can up the hill behind my house at 6:00 a.m., I wish that I was married.
96. I have had two dogs who were well and truly mine throughout their lives, and I feel disloyal to both; each of them deserved to be the best dog a person ever had.
97. I don't have an artistic or decorative bone in my body.
98. I don't care in the least if you dislike me for who I am, but being misunderstood makes my brain explode.
99. I have been a lawyer, a receptionist, a hostess in a restaurant, a business college instructor, a curriculum developer, an author, a journalist, a salad prep girl, a telephone solicitor for the American Heart Association, a teacher trainer, a stay-at-home mother, and a night auditor in a hotel.
100. I'm madly in love with my kid. That probably sounds trite and overlaps with half a dozen other things I've said, but anyone who knows me would probably agree that it's my defining characteristic.

Gee, No One's Ever Called Me "Rockin'" Before...

Much to my surprise, the lovely lady who runs The Accidental Environmentalist (I'm never sure whether or not to use people's names if they don't have them posted on their blogs, so I'm erring on the side of caution), nominated me for this award:

I was surprised not only because the designation was new to me, but because the nomination came from one of the brightest faces on Blog Catalog--a place full of interesting, nice, and knowledgeable people. She's always one of the first to jump in with encouragement, words of advice, or just a friendly greeting, so a nod from her is a compliment indeed. (Always cooler when the cool kids think you're cool, right?)

Now, if I'm understanding the rules correctly, it's time for me to pass on the mantle (or this nice fuschia logo, as the case may be) to five other Rockin' Girl Bloggers. I would appreciate it if you would all agree in advance to pay no attention to the fact that TWO of my nominees (or 40%) have photographs of their bathrooms on their blogs. I assure you that it's purely coincidental.

First (as always), my good friend Barb Cooper, who manages to spin both a life lesson and laughter out of everything from a trip to the grocery store to knitting a sock. You'll find Barb's blog at So the Thing Is...Blog, but I can't resist pointing you to her website, as well, where she's archived humor columns dating back to 2001.

Gerri at Absolutely True has a humorous (and sometimes cynical) take on news from around the world, and she rounds up some of the most outrageous occurrences from every corner of the (round) globe. You're bound to find something that incites laughter, moral outrage, or a war between the two.

ExtraordinaryGirl is an Augusta, Georgia native living in a village in England. She's an engaging writer no matter what she's writing about, but I especially enjoy her posts describing her new home and the surprising differences (and samenesses). Pay no attention to that giant "BATHROOM" tag in the left margin.

I generally enjoy Thorn's Novelish blog, but even if it weren't on my regular reading list she'd deserve a nod for her excellent (and highly successful) post on duplicate cover art last week.

Finally, a new acquaintance but a great find--Theresa at Sleeping Kitten - Dancing Dog! This is a lady with a kind and encouraging word for everyone who is nonetheless not afraid to speak her mind when there's a wrong that needs to be righted. Her blog includes everything from movie reviews to recipes and food safety tips--truly something for almost everyone.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Can a Grocery List be Copyrighted?

A new book by the founder of the surprisingly popular proves that there's an audience for everything. Milk, Eggs, Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found is a collection lists. Yes, that's right--a hardcover book priced at $19.95 and made up of "found" grocery lists.

Now, it seems unlikely that anyone slaps a little "(c) 2007" on the bottom of his grocery list (though I'm starting tonight), and once upon a time that would have been the end of the issue. But--although the news has been surprisingly slow to spread--copyright notices have been unnecessary since 1989. Now, any original expressive work is automatically copyrighted as soon as it is committed to "fixed format". The definition of "fixed" is extremely broad, including both digital and "hard" copies, sound recordings, handwritten drafts, and more. In essence, for the written word, as soon as you write it down. Or type it. Or word process it. Or blog it. You get the idea.

That means all kinds of things we don't usually thnk of as copyrightable are not only copyrightable, but copyrighted. Email, for instance. I've been told that in Austraila, forwarding an email without permission has been construed to infringe copyrights. That may seem extreme in our free-forwarding culture, but is email forwarding really any different from photocopying someone's handwritten letter and distributing it? Profit, remember, is not a necessary element of copyright infringement.

So what about your grocery list? We know copryight notices aren't required, so the issue seems to be whether a gorcery list is the kind of "creation" that can be copyrighted at all. I assume that the author and publisher considered this before bringing out Milk, Eggs, Vodka. It's entirely possible that the "authors" of those grocery lists aren't protected, because for a work to be copyrighted it must have some degree of originality; there must have been some creative effort. The line isn't clear. Telephone book style listings of information are definitely not copyrightable; stories are. There's a lot of ground in between.

A grocery list seems like precisely the kind of thing that couldn't be copyrighted--just a list of ordinary items.

Except...except...except...if there's nothing unique or interesting about the form of expression--whether it be a comedic combination of items, an outrageous abbreviation system, or the scribbled notes in the margin--then why is there a book?

Read in a hundred thousand disclaimers here, because I haven't read the book, but it seems to me that the author and the publisher have effectively disproven their best defense simply by publishing the book.

So...anyone missing a grocery list?

(c) Tiffany Sanders, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Begin at the Beginning

Well, after a couple of days of good news (writing the way you write naturally is just fine, thank you, and even an assignment without a paycheck might pay off), a reader named Julie left a comment with a very important point. It's a point that I might have been treating as self-evident, and upon reflection I realize that it's probably not--so many thanks to Julie for pointing it out.

You have to do the work.

Making it as a writer first requires writing. I know that sounds silly, but I can't tell you how many people I know walking around with hypothetical books in their heads and big plans for the success of those books and their tours and television interviews and all that but't write. You have to write.

And writing isn't enough, either. Writing for a living is a business like any other, and that means parts of it aren't that much fun. It also means that parts of it cut into your writing time. If you want to write and be published you have to research markets. You have to send out tailored queries and submissions. You have to track what you've sent where and what kind of response you've received. You have to think about what rights you're willing to sell and then keep track of that, too, so that you don't end up selling or reprinting something you don't own.

Sometimes, in the beginning, you have to take on assignments that just don't thrill you.

About eight years ago, I had a conversation with another writer. I'd just taken on my first assignments as a newspaper stringer, and was writing a scintillating article about McGruff the Crime Dog. I suggested to her--a recent graduate of a respected writing program--that she might want to contact my editor. She sort of wrinkled up her nose and said that she didn't really care for that kind of writing. She's an excellent writer--far better than I--and she has great contacts, but she's been holding out for her "Oprah's Book Club book" all these years. I've never for a moment doubted that she has the ability to write one. But she didn't. And she didn't accumulate clips, and she didn't use her contacts. Eight years later, I have (without a related degree or any contacts to speak of) published two books, written a third that's out to an agent right now, started a fourth, made my living as a newspaper stringer, a copywriter, a curriculum writer for a national corporation, and now have a full-time, salaried writing job.

It isn't, any of it, Oprah's Book Club. And frankly, I don't care about that--I care about making enough money as a writer that I don't have to eat up writing time earning a living some other way. But what if I did? Somehow, I have a strong suspicion that most best-selling authors have a few regional magazine articles and $50 short stories in their past.

Friday, June 22, 2007

What Does "Free" Really Mean, Anyway?

Imagine that you are an up and coming music writer. Music writing is your dream, and you've had a little success. You're writing music reviews for a few websites and a regional magazine, perhaps, making anywhere from $10 to $100/review, depending on the market.

One day, without ever really entertaining the thought that it might be accepted, you pop off a query to Rolling Stone. Much to your surprise, you get a call almost immediately--the magazine loves your proposal, and they're willing to run it as a cover story. But for whatever reason (this being wildly hypothetical), they can't pay you for the story. Do you write it?

It seems to me that there are only two possible answers to this question:

1. Yes, of course, because once I've written a Rolling Stone cover story I'll have hundreds of markets available to me at good rates that might have been out of reach only yesterday.

2. No, I never really wanted to make it in the music writing business anyway. Better $10 from Ralph's Obscure Newsletter of Indy CDs than nothing from Rolling Stone!

For as long as I can remember, a debate has raged in the writing community about "writing for free". Many writers say, "Never write for free!" while others (myself included) can point to lucrative opportunities that came about as the direct result of something written for "free". It suddenly occurred to me today that we've been asking the wrong question and debating the wrong issue all along. The question isn't whether or not we should write for free. Of course we shouldn't. The question is what "free" means in the context of writing and publishing.

The world is full of publications proclaiming that the only "payment" they offer is the opportunity to "see your work in print" or offer a link to your website. If all you want is to see your work in "print", start a blog. Publications with low quality work and low readership don't provide clips that are going to be of much use to you in advancing your writing career. But what about that link to your website? Is that payment?

The answer is that it depends entirely on where that link will be placed. If the link is on a site with no page rank and 50 visitors a day, it's not likely to benefit you in any meaningful way. If you're a music writer and the link is on Billboard's official site, it's worth a heck of a lot more than the $10 or $100 you might have gotten for a paid article on a lesser site. For one thing, it's likely to bring a lot of relevant traffic to your website. Just as important, it's a link that screams "important music resource this way!" to Google and the other search engines.

People and businesses shell out hundreds of dollars per month to have a single link on a relevant, highly-ranked, high traffic website. So you might not be getting a paycheck, but you may be getting something of much greater value in return.

Sometimes, the "payment" for your work can be even further removed from an editor cutting a check; sometimes, the value truly is in the clip. In the Rolling Stone example above, they "payment" for your "free" story might well be skipping over another two or three years of writing for indy newspapers and regional magazines and moving into the big leagues. It might be commanding much more respect and higher rates that the publications you're already working with. For some, it might simply be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to write a Rolling Stone cover story.

The right question, it seems to me, is the same one I was suggesting back when we were all asking the wrong one: What's in it for me? There are many, many, many opportunities for "free" writing that not only won't help you or your writing career, but might do it some harm. But the question to ask in making that determination isn't, "Are they going to cut me a check?" but "Is there a tangible benefit in this for me.?" Very often, I think, the answer is yes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Writing is Easy

Yeah, you heard me right.

I'm sick to death of hearing published authors carry on about how writing is a grueling task on a level with working in the coal mines.

Of course, your experience may differ.

But that's the whole point of this post, really--your experience may differ.

I think it's an important point to make, because novice writers are so quick to believe anything that an experienced writer says. I've been making my living primarily as a writer for about a dozen years. If I can get in a focused 5-6 hours of writing, I generally turn out about 5,000 words in a day, which may require light editing later.

Obviously, it's not like that for everyone--there are very successful writers who claim to hate the process of writing. Even Dorothy Parker said she didn't like writing, she liked "having written". I know writers for whom that's dead on. For me, I have no interest in "having written". The magic is all in the process for me...I lose interest in a work pretty quickly when it's done and only have eyes for the new blank page in front of me.

The single most important thing that a new or aspiring writer can know is that it's DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE.

  • If writing is a lot more work than you expected it to be, don't get discouraged--many very successful authors describe the writing process and arduous and even painful.
  • If writing flows out of your fingertips onto the page as if the words had just been waiting, already in order, to be released, don't assume you're a lightweight--many successful authors report that they feel like the words and stories "come from somewhere else".
  • If you rely on outlines, great--write an outline. Many authors depend heavily on them.
  • If you prefer to just sit down and write and see what happens, go for it. Regardless of what outline-dependent authors preach, you'll be in the company of several wildly successful authors--including Stephen King--if you opt to let your characters lead you.
  • If you like to edit each day's work at the end of the day, or first thing the next morning, and that works out for it. If it's more comfortable for you not to look back until you've reached the end...fine.
  • Some writers do well with a very disciplined schedule, and some "binge write". As long as you're producing quality work and meeting your deadlines, it's no one's business but your own whether you write for two hours every morning or for twenty straight hours on Saturday.
The bottom line is that virtually every piece of writing advice you hear from a published writer is based on what worked for that writer. You are not that writer. Your mileage may vary. There is a lot to be learned from successful writers, but only if you have the strength and confidence to take what works for you and leave the rest. If you're a free-form writer and that's always worked well for you, it's entirely possible that buying into someone's proclamation that you "can't write a coherent novel without an outline" is going to cripple your writing. If you're at your best in the early morning hours, the fact that some other writer has great success staying up all night writing shouldn't influence you.

Be the writer you are. That's the only "writing tip" that works for every writer.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cover Art Expose at

I really, really, really need to be asleep, but I couldn't resist a quick note to share this fascinating post about duplicate cover art at Seems stock photograph has its downsides, and one of those downsides is prominently on display right now, with side-by-side images of various novels with some...err...familiar-looking images on the front!

It's definitely worth a read purely for entertainment value, but it raises larger issues as well. Are these publishers getting sloppy, or is it okay to duplicate cover art? Does the association with one book help to sell a later book that uses a slightly altered version of the same photograph? (And if so, might some of these duplications be calculated?) As authors, how do we feel about stock photography that might be recycled again and again becoming the "image" of our books?

It's a topic we could explore all night, but I'm going to keep it brief for tonight in hopes that some others will weigh in

Saturday, June 16, 2007

We're Not Big on Celebrity News Around Here

But we've had enough stories of child-star self-destruction to last several lifetimes, and this story provides a very encouraging counter-point...especially for me, since my daughter keeps asking when her next movie is going to start filming!

Math Wonder

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Sun Also Rises

No, this isn't some big philosophical post about how better days will come. It's literal.

Aw, man. Even that sounds like a pun, in context.

Forget the whole titling thing. I want to talk about The Sun Also Rises, the Hemingway novel. If you've never read the novel and you think you might someday, then I suggest that you stop reading right now, because the rest of this post is about how the last line of the novel changes everything that came before.

That's quite a device today, especially in film. Kevin Spacey suddenly walking upright in the last frames of The Usual Suspects springs to mind, for instance. But in the twenties? It seems to me not so much. Maybe some literary scholar will read this (because all the top literary scholars read my blog, of course), and step forth to tell me how wrong I am and provide a list of other examples--I think I'd be fine with that, and probably run straight out to read those books and analyze the trend. Because what fascinates me is that Hemingway seems to have done it decades before it became a common device and no one seems to have noticed!

I've read a lot of essays on The Sun Also Rises, and engaged in a lot of discussions, some in college classrooms and some over drinks late at night and some on the truly incredible Lost Generation forum, where the knowledge base is dazzling. There's always a lot of talk, of course, about the significance of that last line, but it's always presented as a change, a learning moment, character development.

Nuh uh. I don't think so. (This is the part you won't want to read if you haven't read the book and think you might someday)

I think he knew all along.

I think that famous last line is so very powerful precisely because it shifts the context of everything that came before. He was never fooling himself! He accepts what he accepts and he makes the decisions he makes without buying into the illusion, without believing that if it weren't for his injury, it would be happily ever after.

Even Brett seems to buy into that illusion, and she's the reason it could never be. She'd be the one to find some other reason to stray, to walk away, to come and go, to hold back something...and yet she thinks, "if only". Jake, it becomes clear in that last sentence, doesn't think "if only" at all--or if he does, it's a very different "if only" from the one that's tossed in front of us throughout the book.

I love the book, but that's the thing I love most about it. The thing every other student of Hemingway I've encountered seems to think I've made up.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Easy Options for ESL Writing

A solution fell into my lap this week, not for a problem I have but for one I hear about all the time.

I work in a major metropolitan area with--like any major metropolitan area--a mix of people from all over the world. Just a few weeks ago, in making small talk on the way to the train station, a cab driver asked me what I did for a living. When I told him I was a writer, he asked me how he could improve his writing skills; English was his second language and he said that he was much more comfortable speaking and writing, but he was working two jobs and didn't have time to take a class.

The conversation wasn't a new one for me, but it's one I've always hated, because I'm a "fixer", and I didn't have an answer. Today, I learned about an online ESL writing class that looks like it might be just the kind of flexible and affordable solution I've never been able to point to before. Best of all, I'm acquainted with the teacher through Blog Catalog, and given the level of energy and willingness to help she shows in that forum (where she has no official obligation to anyone and no one is paying her), I'm very confident about the level of service and attention this program will provide.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I think "meme" is the French word for "same"

Actually, I know it is, but I'm not sure whether or not that's the origin of "meme" to mean something like this thing below. It seems logical, since what you do is take the same questions from someone else, but I'm making this up as I go.

I've never paid much attention to them, but my friend Barb posted this on her blog and she said that everyone who was reading it should do the same. Her instructions were very specific...she even pointed out that we should erase her answers (I can't be sure, but this may have been intended specifically for me, since I would have thought it funny as hell to just repost her questions AND answers if the instructions had been less explicit). There seemed to be no wiggle room, so here goes:

1. Are you taller than your mom?

Oh yeah. And so is everyone else.

2. What color is your car?

Well, white. But I didn't choose that. It's otherwise an exact copy of a RED car I once had, which was much more to my liking.

3. What is the closest thing to you that is red?

Other than that long-lost car? My blouse.

4. What is your ringtone?


5. Are you sick?

Sadly, yes. But I'm optimistic that a simple surgical procedure is going to fix me right up and change my life.

6. What color is your favorite pillow?


7.What is your favorite video game?


8. Had a nap today?

No. I never get naps anymore. I'm always willing, though.

9. Gold or Silver?


10.Is there an animal that creeps you out?

Animal? Not really. Spiders aren't animals, right?

11.Who was the last person you rode an elevator with?

If this means people I know, Joel Newton. If it means random people who stepped into the same elevator I did...some random woman who works on the 34th floor.

12. Did you go ice skating as a kid?

Yes, but not often. More on ponds than at rinks.

13. Ever have stitches?

Yes, in my chin when I was three years old.

14. Favorite non-alcoholic drink?

Coca-cola with a lot of ice.

15. How long ago did you kiss someone?

I need clarification of the question.

16. What's something you want to do before you die?


No, just kidding.

Well,not kidding exactly. I do want to nap. But I'd like to do something worthwhile, too. After my nap.

17. Have you ever caught something on fire?

If it's my own kitchen, does that really count?

18. Have you ever seen a ghost?


19.Have you ever seen the northern lights?

No. Once when I was very young, one of my neighbors was outside yelling that he could see them, and he woke my father up, but my father called him some choice names and went back to bed instead of waking the rest of us up to share.

20. Do you know how to use chop sticks?

Absolutely not.

21. Name something good that happened today.

I ate Mexican food in brand new white pants and they're still white. (My mother suggested that they must be magic, as this couldn't possibly be attributable to me)

22. What room are you in?

My bedroom.

23. Are you worried about something you can't control?


24. Do you take daily medications?


25. Ever been in a fight?

Fight? As in two sided? No. But when I was 13 and my sister was 6, I knocked a kid flat on his ass after he hit her in the head with an ice ball. His mother stood patiently by and watched.

26. Are you wearing nailpolish?

Yeah, right. I don't even OWN nail polish.

27. Favorite color?

Bright, Irish green, like the green crayon or green poster paints in pre-school.

28. Innie or Outie?

I actually don't believe that anyone is an outie. I've never seen one.

29. Ever used a Ouija board?

Yes, back in my youth, before I remembered that I was Catholic.

30. Sweet or Sour?


31. Sun or Moon?


32. What shoes did you wear today?

White sandals.

33. Favorite eye color of the opposite sex?


34. Most important quality in any relationship?

That inexplicable thing that makes you want to do better and be better even when the other person is perfectly happy with you as you are.

35. Favorite zombie movie?

There is more than one zombie movie?

36 Time of day you were born?

10:41 p.m.

37. Do you know your blood type?

I did once.

38. What would you spend 5000 dollars on right now if you were handed it?

I'd prepay my rent and utilities for as long as that would stretch.

39. Name something annoying in public transit?

Can't. I love it.

Oh, wait. This isn't public transit's fault, but I HATE when the train is so crowded that people are standing in the aisles and there are always those obnoxious few who keep their one little bag on the seat next to them so that no one else can sit down, and stare straight ahead and pretend they don't notice the people searching for seats. I think they should have to buy tickets for their bags.

40. Did you grow up in the city or country?

City, but I thought it was the country. My parents were from Chicago, and my mother always referred to our town (population roughly 80,000) as "out here in the sticks," so I grew up thinking it was a small town in the middle of nowhere.

41. Would you ever consider going on a reality TV show if offered a large sum of money?

I was actually on reality tv once, for a very small sum of money. But I hadn't given much thought to reality tv then. Now that I see how it's contributing to the downfall of western civilization, I don't think I'd do it again.

42. Have you flown in your dreams?

I don't believe so.

43. Hugs or kisses?


44. You have 10 dollars to spend in the dollar store..what do you get?

Cleaning products and paper towels and stuff.

45. Slurpee flavor?

Blue raspberry.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Once Upon a Time This Was a Writing Blog...

So I thought, in honor of those partially-lost days, I'd share this link with you:

Writing Fiction Crawford Kilian has a way of digging right into what someone's written (even if that someone was him) and gutting out what could have been done better in a way that we can all use it to hone our crafts.

Many thanks to Jerry Russell at Please Don't Feed the Writer for outing this little gem.

Friday, June 01, 2007

New Genre, New Territory, New Worries

As a writer, I don't suffer from any kind of angst. I've heard many writers say that writing is hard and painful and it makes me wonder why they write. I write because whenever I pass too close to a keyboard, words start spilling out of my fingers unprovoked and spreading themselves across the screen.

I've written three complete novels (one published under a pen name, one being considered by an agent, one still in the filing cabinet) and two halves. I've written more biographies of Rick Springfield than any one person should be able to make a career of. I've written entire websites covering complex areas of law.

Today, I'm writing something that is either a long short story or a short novella. It's futuristic. It contains no dialogue. It is, in short, entirely unlike any of the many varied things I've written before.

And I'm a little worried about it.

I know it sounds crazy for someone who has been writing since elementary school, but that's never happened to me before. I don't know what this thing I'm writing is, whether it has a genre, whether it's supposed to be dark and dense and more descriptive than active like this. It's almost as if I've found myself giving birth to something that doesn't quite seem like it's going to be a baby.

I keep writing it. But I'm afraid of it. I don't think that's ever happened before.