Category Archives: Writing

Everybody Needs An Editor

One day, shortly after starting my first job that involved a lot of writing, I realized that I worked for a magician.

Seriously!  My boss, another John, could look at a good piece of writing and make it amazing.  All he used was a pencil.

I can recall standing next to him as he looked over my memo that first time.  He changed a “this” to a “that,” reorganized a couple of words in another sentence and handed it back to me.

Naturally, I figured that since he was the boss he had to do something to contribute; after all, his name was going on it.  But when I looked at the simple changes he made, I was astonished.  Those simple changes made a huge difference.

“Everybody needs an editor,” John said, smiling.

That was close to 40 years ago, and since then I have used that line constantly.  I’ve said that to everybody I’ve ever worked with.  To writer friends.  To blogging buddies.  Because it’s true.  No matter how good a writer you or I am, different eyes notice large and small ways to make something good, better.

If you’re writing a novel, drafting a memoir, compiling blog posts into a future best-seller, you need an editor.  Someone who can help polish, perhaps shorten or reorder.  Someone who can tell you if your work makes sense, or if there are areas that need clarification/reworking.  Someone who can change some “this-es” to “that-s,” reorganize a bit, cut, and shine up that manuscript you’ve been working on.

editing-1

I have someone to recommend.

Karen Kingsley is an old friend of mine who has been a professional writer/editor for her entire career.  For the last 15 years, she has been a freelancer.  Her website is Kingsley Ink.

She’s written and/or edited just about anything you can come up with:  books (fiction and non-), websites, web content, essays, marketing materials, advertising, blogs, speeches, resumes, cover letters, Facebook posts, tweets, press releases.

Karen can help you shine.

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Filed under 2017, Bloggin' Buddy Books, Class Act, Dreams, Editor Recommendation, Everybody Needs an Editor, Good Works, Humor, keys to success, Memoir writing, Writing, Writing technique

We Are Not Alone!

Last week, I read Bloggess Jenny Lawson’s new book Furiously Happy.

Image from Amazon.com

Image from Amazon.com

Furiously Happy deals with Jenny’s mental health issues, how she copes with them, and, importantly how they help make her the person she is.  It is truly a gift to folks with anxiety, depression, other mental health issues (and to those who care about them).  It shows them that they’re not alone.

The blurb on the flap sums it up pretty well:

This is a book about embracing everything that makes us who we are – the beautiful and the flawed – and then using it to find joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. Because as Jenny’s mom says, “Maybe ‘crazy’ isn’t so bad after all.” Sometimes crazy is just right.

While Furiously Happy is geared towards folks with mental illness, I came away from the book feeling comforted about my physical illness, Crohn’s Disease.  Because Furiously Happy reminded me that other people — probably everyone, in fact — struggles through life with something.   And that’s why we all — every one of use — need each other. 

Because no matter what each of us is facing, we’re not alone.

Plus, the book is hilarious.  You will rarely enjoy mental illness quite this much.

Oh, and go read her most recent blog post, which had me laughing for hours last night.  It is a compendium of awkward moments sent to the Bloggess via Twitter.

 

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Fathers and Daughters

The father-daughter relationship is fraught with all the possibilities a therapist could wish for.  Even in my family.

Well, except for my relationship with my father.

You go ask Dad …” was one of the enduring sounds of my childhood.I only asked “why me” once:

It was a hot summer day when I was about four.  I was happily cooling off in the puddles on the sidewalk.  I didn’t even really want to go to the beach.  My brothers and sister did, though.

“Go ask Dad if he’ll take us to the beach,” Judy commanded.

That summer, Dad, already working two jobs to support his wife and five kids was studying to take his insurance licensing test.

“Why me?” I whined.  “I always have to ask Dad.”

“‘Cause when you ask him, he always says yes” Bob responded.  Judy and Fred agreed.

So I went in and asked him.

Sure enough, he packed up his books, loaded the four of us up into the car, and headed off to Beardsley Park, where there was a delightful stream that formed the most wonderful pools of different depths, where we would each be happy and cool.   I can still see Dad sitting on a rock ledge in the shade, his pants legs rolled up, his feet in the water and a large black binder on his lap.

I never again asked “Why me” when it came to getting Dad to do anything. Because I realized that my brothers and sisters were right.  Dad always said yes to me.

Somehow, the fact that I was the clear favorite in Dad’s eyes was rarely held against me by my brothers and sisters who all had far more complicated relationships with Dad.  It was pretty much accepted by everybody.  That’s just how it was.

Dad and Me in Geneva, June 1998.  You have to guess which is me.

Dad and Me in Geneva, June 1998. You have to guess which is me.

I don’t have any recordings of his voice, which was deep and scary (to everybody but me) when we were kids, and became deep and comforting when we were grown. But this song, while he never heard it, always makes me feel close to Dad, who died in 2000. Today would have been his 98th birthday.

I love you, Dad.

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Filed under Baby You Can Drive My Car, Birthday, Crazy family members, Dad, Family, Father-Daughter Relationships, Geneva Stories, Holidays, Humor, Love, Missing Folks, Taking Care of Each Other, Why the hell do I tell you these stories?, Writing

Do I Hear Five?

On May 29, 2011, I was fifty-four and a half years old.  And I was seriously irritated at the GOP in Congress.  You see, they had announced that they were going to take away Medicare from those then under 55 years old.  And that meant me.  I spouted off about it to anyone who would listen.

They’re gonna take Medicare from ME!  I’m 54-1/2!  That’s where they’re gonna start!

After the first 528 times I mentioned this fact to each and every person I could corner, I still felt unsated.  I wanted to tell more people of my irritation.  Whether or not I knew them.

And so I heard a voice inside my head (something I rarely admit to):

Go forth, it said,  and start a blog.

Oh and give it a stupid name to keep yourself humble.

And so I did.  Both of those things.  FiftyFourAndAHalf was born with this post.

Blogging has been a completely different experience than I expected.

My original plan was to do a political/humor blog.  But in spite of a never-ending source of fodder, I found that I wanted to write about other things, too.  That part didn’t really surprise me.

What surprised me was that blogging, and Word Press, became a place where I met new friends, discussed topics important to me.  Where I laughed and cried along with folks I will probably never meet.

Thanks, everybody.  And while I’ve been writing less than usual and reading less than usual, I love the special place that is the ‘sphere.  So, yeah, thanks for being out there, for reading, and for giving me stuff to read too.

From Daily Kos.com

From Daily Kos.com

 

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A Is For Algorithm

You will be surprised to learn that I didn’t plan on posting about this.

I figured that anybody who has ever read my blog knows precisely where I stand on this issue.  So I left it in that barren wasteland where all unused posts go — DRAFTS.

But then tonight I read a blog post that broke my heart.

Most of you know my bloggin’ buddy, TwinDaddy of Finding Twindaddy.  He has a new job doing tech-ie stuff at a school, and he wrote about ALICE at his school in a post called “A Sad State of Affairs.”

Alice?  Who’s ALICE?

Alice is an acronym that stands for:  Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.  The drills that students, teachers and administrators of our American — Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition — schools must perform periodically so that everybody is ready in the event that an active shooter comes to their school.

High School Students, Teachers and Administrators

Junior High School Students, Teachers and Administrators

Elementary School Students, Teachers and Administrators

Somehow, I don’t think this has gone down to the nursery school level.  Give it time.

Anyway, deleted what I had drafted because it was lame.  But after reading Twin Daddy’s post, I thought I’d show you the algorithm that one school in Michigan came up with.  It’s quite creative.

Because, you see,  not only do they (and folks in other states) have to worry about some nutcase coming through the door blasting, but they have to worry about other nutcases.  Yup, folks in many states need to figure out how to deal with potential crisis situations because of the folks who have been dubbed “ammosexuals.”   Ammosexuals are those particular nutcases who believe that their right to openly carry any fucking gun they please, and to waive it around, proclaiming their god-given/NRAsponsored right to bear arms, trumps your kids’ rights to, well, you know, breathe.

Because, of course, in states where it is legal to “open carry” guns, how can you tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys.”  So they had to come up with a decision tree:

Credit:  Americans for Responsible Solutions

Credit: Americans for Responsible Solutions

(Click to Enlarge)

Of course, by the time any school administrator could figure out that, well, that’s a bad guy, they’re probably dead.  Not a whole lot of help, then, is it?  Oh well, what’s a few more gun deaths in America?  It’s what we’re becoming famous for worldwide.  Once folks thought our streets were paved with gold — now they are paved with blood and bullet casings.

*      *     *

We really need to figure out, as a society, how to get a handle back on our brains, so that we can protect, at a minimum, our kids.

From my friend Father Kane at the Last of the Millenniums:  https://thelastofthemillenniums.wordpress.com/category/gun-control/

From my friend Father Kane at the Last of the Millenniums: https://thelastofthemillenniums.wordpress.com/category/gun-control/

 

ELECTIONS MATTER

Oh and as an aside, I passed through Newtown a few months ago.  I saw a pickup truck with this bumper sticker:

Assholes (Not Google Images who gave me this image)

Assholes (Not Google Images who gave me this image)

This is the ammosexuals’ response to the message that sane people in Sandy Hook put forth after the massacre:

Thanks, Google

Thanks, Google

 

And it made me realize just how important gun control laws are.  Because I wanted to shoot the asshole driving that truck.

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How I Became A Famous Humor Writer

You might as well start gagging now. Because as a fake humor expert, I am bound and determined to tell you how it is done.

(Oh no!  I already violated one of the principles of writing — “Show,” don’t “Tell!”  Rats!)

When I wrote my post Trifecta! the other day, many commenters were shocked to find out that I had studied humor writing.

I’m not quite sure how to take that.

I mean, can’t you tell that this has been a life-long pursuit of mine? That I have been through decades of intensive training and Dick Van Dyke show watching?  Doesn’t my brilliant technique shine through? You know, like shinola?

I will stop being an ass now. Although being an ass is fun – and funny (see Steve Martin, for example).  And it comes so easily to some of us …

On to the Public Service Announcement

 PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT!

PSA2

Surprise is an excellent humor technique. Google Image, Natch.

 

When I said that I “studied humor writing” in Trifecta, I applied the first and most important rule of humor writing:

EXAGGERATION

So yeah, I “studied” humor writing. I took a course. One course. Online.

I’d been writing professionally — as a fake medical expert — for years; but it’s very dry. I am not. (Well, sometimes.)  But I wanted to have some fun, and so I started taking writing classes.

Humor Writing I was the second of three courses I took at Gotham Writers Workshop. (The first was Creative Writing 101 and the third was a Memoir course.) You can probably tell by the fact that I took THREE courses from them that I thought they were pretty good – or that I learned enough to justify the cost. Or that the courses coincided with baseball season. Or basketball season. Perhaps Lacrosse.

The first lesson of the class was the hardest, and most fundamental:   Written stories have to be structured differently than spoken ones or they are not funny.

Our first assignment was to tell a funny story you’d told a million times. This’ll be a breeze! I thought. I chose one that I’d been telling for 30 years to tears of laughter. After three days of trying, I posted a question on the online chat room:

“Has anybody else found that they are suddenly no longer funny?”

Everybody in the class felt they were no longer funny.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to write.  My hilarious — time tested — story fell flat. Writing that story up made me realize just how different humor writing is from just plain ole writing. And it made me realize that I had a lot to learn. I still do.

Anyway, if you click on the link above, you will get the synopsis of the course. It mentions a few principles of humor writing – ones that I really do use a lot. And the course led me to start this blog – (because what the hell else would I do with the stuff I wrote there?).  I am not sure it would be appropriate to sue Gotham for that, though.

There are lots of techniques and skills that I learned. The ones I use most often are:

The Rule of Three. Things are inherently funnier in threes. The Three Stooges (who I don’t think are at all funny); the Three Little Pigs; the Three Musketeers. The course taught me to look for threes whenever I was trying to be funny. It is something I do consciously now. Because for some reason it really does work. Even when I don’t use threes, I find that looking for them focuses my thinking on the two or four or however many end up in my story.

Snowballing is another good technique. That one I’m pretty sure you can figure out for yourself. Especially after this winter.

It enabled me to find my “voice.” Showed me ways to look at stupid people and present them at their, ummm, most realistic. Dialog. Comparisons to normal life. 

Two of my early blog posts were assignments in the class. They are still some of my best.

Downsizing

Manitoba Bound

I am not promoting or being paid (alas) by Gotham. But I promised to write about my humor writing studies.  The teachers taught me a lot, but much depends on the level of participation in the class.  It was great in the first two, sadly lacking in the Memoir course.

I don’t have any pretenses to being the next Erma Bombeck or Dave Barry.  But if you want to start paying me the big bucks in exchange for some snark, feel free to contact me!

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Filed under Bat-shit crazy, Bloggin' Buddies, Criminal Activity, History, Huh?, Humor, Hypocrisy, Taking Care of Each Other, Wild Beasts, Word Press, Writing

Four Thousand Crazy People?

Today I reached a milestone that makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

The day didn’t start out quite so warm.  In fact, just the opposite:

My picture.  Taken with MY iPhone.  Take THAT Google images!

My picture. Taken with MY iPhone. Take THAT Google images! The Potomac River, expressing my feeling that with the GOP in charge of both houses, Hell IS Freezing Over.

 

But now I have a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.  Coffee and oatmeal helped, but really it was the number that did it.

“I have 3,999 blog followers!” I told John last night, excitedly.

As in all things blog-related, he just looked back at me and politely held back the “so what” he was thinking.  (Can I see a show of hands of folks whose significant other has zero, zip, nada interest in all the wonders of blogging?)

For a non-stats watcher, well, I was watching this one.  It was kind of like New Year’s Eve, when I just have to watch the countdown.  And I have to do it aloud.

So this morning, while I was reading blogs I got my 4,000th follower!

PROOF!

PROOF!

There I was, commenting on Felix the Cat and I saw the orange star light up!  And heeeeeerrrrreeee he is — my 4,00th follower:

Snakes in the Grass

A Blog of Retirement and Related Thoughts

Stolen directly from his blog.  Yes, I am that kind of woman.

Stolen directly from his blog. Yes, I am that kind of woman.

He blogs about retirement, technology and his new life in Florida.  He’s a new blogger — I am his 33rd follower!  And that’s a nice number, too.  Go check him out.

Thank you all for reading my stupidly named blog, for commenting, for “liking” and even for arguing.  Thank you for writing the crazy, varied, dramatic, thoughtful, sarcastic, mind-blowing pieces you guys post.  Blogging is a blast, and I really treasure the very real relationships we have developed here in the tubes.

Do I hear 5,000?

 

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Filed under Bloggin' Buddies, Family, Humor, Word Press, Writing