Friday, December 27, 2013

Books of 2013

     While I'm not sure of this, I would wager we writers/readers march into every new year with a promise of reading books––and sticking to the promise. First, we need to create a list. Trés importante! Second, find the time. Trés, trés importante! Third, READ and WRITE!!!!!
     I began 2013 with a list (same as with 2012). I end this year (as I did the previous) without having had enough time for #s 2 and 3. And if you could see me now, you'd know I'm shrugging shoulders, turning down corners of my mouth while simultaneously raising my eyebrows––much like a c'est la vie! expression.
     A new plan is warranted. I've been mulling over a few scenarios in the last week, and I think I'm onto something for the new year. I'm not overloading the reading list. Period. So simple! I am adhering to "read & write" each day. Period. So simple!
     As ideas sifted in my head about how I would (if ever) catch up, how I would enter new titles on the upcoming list and read them, and still write––I remembered a blog I posted in July titled Setting Priorities. I searched back for it. Read it. Digested it. Accepted it.
     For 2014, I will include the following "catch up" on my reading list:
  • Unread issues of Glimmer Train;
  • Unread issues of The Sun;
  • McSweeney's 15
  • Sing You Home, Jodi Picoult
  • My Ántonia, Willa Cather
  • The Red Thread, Ann Hood
  • The New Desert Reader, ed. Peter Wild
  • Homer & Langley, E. L. Doctorow
THEN, and only THEN will I begin the reading list designated for 2014, which I will limit so as to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE in the between!

     By Easter, which is designated April 20th, I should have wended my way through the "catch up." I will remind myself to tell you how this proceeds by that time. Now, astute readers, remember that Glimmer Train and The Sun will still be arriving in my mailbox, and something will have to be done with those, right? 
     Of course, I had a rich reading year of what I did read. Yes, indeed. Should you be interested in some of those rewarding titles––whistle, and I'll be happy to pass them onto your 2014 Reading List. In the meantime, I wish you a healthy, happy, and productive reading and writing 2014.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas, 2013

It's that time
Christmas time is here
Everybody knows
There's not a better time of year *
     It's been a tradition for the last thirty-odd years to amass a family Christmas CD and VHS/DVD collection by making one purchase of each genre at this time of year. As time passed and the collections swelled, we'd spend many a fine December hour listening to a CD or an evening watching a video.
     Last night was one of the "watching" nights. We chose National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase. It was well worth waiting for. Such wit, heart, and goofiness. It ranks right up there in our assembled collection of Christmas cheer!
     Of course, listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies is not meant as an excuse for a slacked-off writing and blogging schedule. No. No, indeed. 
     The last four months have been a whirlwind of personal busyness: beekeeping education and two beehives; conjunctival graft to correct an ulcerated eye on our mini-Schnauzer; torn ligament in our Silky Terrier; and, time with family at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, and the passing of a dear family member there. Thanksgiving came and went, and before I knew it––Christmas was upon our family. The angst grew proportionally. And I grew in the process.
     Rather than living in a bubble of stress, I picked "my battles." I made choices. I accepted missed self-imposed deadlines, especially if it meant that otherwise I might slip the slippery slope of slop-piness. I spent time with those who needed my time, and I was where I was supposed to be when love and support was needed. Two holiday parties were RSVP'd negative, because I felt it was more important to have the family hearth prepared. And, you know what––it's okay. Another year is on the wing.
     I am dedicated to the meaning and feeling of Christmas. My wish for you is that you be filled with the beauty, the peace, and the wonder that is Christmas.
* Title Song: Christmas Vacation

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Typography and Fonts

     A day late, but for good reason. I haven't informed you, dear readers, that I've taken on "yet one more thing."  Beekeeping! 
     There. I've told you. It's said, but you, my readers are astute enough that you knew that just by seeing my beekeeper's badge displayed here. Oh, I've digressed too far. I'll return to this wonderful preoccupation at a later time, AND the wonderful place it now holds in my writing world. Who knew!

     Moving to the post for today, typography. 
     I follow several blogs. Blogging that covers a wide range of personal interests. Bloggers who are, I feel, like kindred spirits. As time permits, I write comments on something that has resonated with me on those blogs. I regret I don't let everyone know I appreciate this/that/or the other about what has stirred them enough to dedicate time and effort to an idea, thought, or observation. But I read them, nonetheless, and many times I smile.
     So it is with blogger Rob Bowker and his blog, Typewriter Heaven.
     Rob writes on and ruminates about typewriters––old, manual typewriters that he studies, acquires and repairs. Visit his blog, and you'll find the full range of his interests is done through typecasting. His posts speak to me, a doe-eyed "wanna have" for '50s/'60s manual typewriters. Through Rob and his blog, I'm learning. Ahem, thank you Rob.
     In mid-November, Rob posted an animated film that he credits his sister for passing along to him. I have watched this delightful short many times, and am grateful for its opening up "yet one more thing" (read that as yet one more "interest").
     Without further ado, I share The History of Typography––Animated Short, a paper-letter anima-tion done by Ben Barrett-Forester about the history of fonts and typography. I hope you'll enjoy it.

     While you, dear readers soak up this film, I must check my third (and new) hive. Winter in South Florida moves in even as my fingers move across this keyboard, and I must "feed" my darlings.
In the meantime, I hope you appreciate the next newspaper, journal, or book you read for its legacy of the printed word. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gratitude on Four Levels

     Thanksgiving––the season, the week, the day of the year for giving thanks––was made more meaningful this year by the untimely passing of a family member. 
     I returned a week ago from Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. My niece, Debbie, received a kidney and heart transplant this past August. The hours-long procedure occurred one year after the famed Mayo had fitted her with a Left Ventricular Assist Device, known as an LVAD, while she awaited the two "new" organs. Debbie was a fighter. She LOVED life, and wanted very much to have the gift of new organs to replace the cumbersome LVAD. She wanted to live the remainder of her years normally in the loving surrounds of her husband and family, and her BFF, Brinkley, her dog.
     A Delta flight on a balmy morning flew me to a crisp afternoon in Minneapolis, and from there onto Rochester via airport shuttle bus. Threshers and bailers worked the fields along the agricultural highway. I had time to focus, to gravitate, to recall times spent in gaiety and family reunion. The sun set in a beautiful mid-west sky. The air became crisper as I travelled an hour and a half south to meet news delivered in my air time that had truly "gone south."
     I flew there to be with a hope-filled family who had been, over the months, assured Debbie would walk out of the hospital on her own and live a life she'd dreamed about for years. I flew there to give support, and provide physical and mental relief. I flew there to meet the WONDERFUL Mayo staff who had worked and hovered over Debbie for all these months (years). I was where I was supposed to be, and for which I had planned weeks in advance.
     All the rosaries, novenas, Masses; all the crossed fingers, toes, and get-well cards––the prayers and wishes in all their myriad forms––were not in the Master's plan. While I was there, Debbie lost her heroic struggle. I was present for her, her parents, her children, and her beloved husband. We were there for each other in the end. We bowed our heads in prayers and tears with her last heartbeat.
     So it's Thanksgiving––the season, the week, the day for being grateful. I am grateful, and let me count (just) four ways:

I am thankful for being at the side of my family in their darkest hour.    

I am thankful to live in a country with the best medical care.

I am thankful for having been blessed with a healthy mind and body.

I am thankful for the opportunity to reset my priorities.

Today, the day I write this Blog Post, I am grateful for so many things––for everything. And I am grateful for the Prayer of St. Francis. Thank you. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Writers and Their Typewriters, #3

Personal Typewriter; Portable Typewriter Smith-Corona Classic 12 available today. Handsomely styled with sleek, modern lines, it has the solid construction, built-in dependability and advanced features that have made Smith-Corona portable typewriters the first choice of millions the world over. In excellent condition. 
Remington Letter-Riter, a portable typewriter you'll take pride in owning and pleasure in typing. It features 42 keys, and an 84-character keyboard. In good condition.
Seen in up-scale store window
 Boca Raton, FL

     Two internet classifieds among twenty-three advertising the sale of portable, personal, and in-demand typewriters. And that's just on one day, two weeks ago. Typewriters are sought after by young and old––writers, collectors, even store window designers. View this CBS News Video, Typewriter Renaissance, to see what I mean.

     I've attached the following from The John Updike Society, dated June 1, 2010, for your interest:
John Updike’s typewriter is for sale.
Christie’s Auction House has listed John Updike’s Olympia “electric 65c” typewriter with cover and metal typewriter cart as Lot Number 318 in Sale 2328, Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana. The estimate for the typewriter is $4000-$6000. June 22, 2010 is the date of the auction.
The lot description dates the typewriter from 1967-68, probably purchased when Updike lived with his family in London from 1968-69 not long after he wroteCouples. Of interest is the ribbon, which passed only once and recorded a speech for a Gordon College commencement, a paragraph on writing well, a letter regarding an intro he wrote for Kafka’sComplete Short Stories, and a letter to his typist. According to Christie’s, “the typewriter was given to one of his daughters about 15 years before his death.”
Call it a case of bad timing. The Society is in the process of establishing an archive, with several collections already donated. But we’re just a little too new to have the money to purchase something like this to preserve for future museum display.  The Updike typewriter is one of two in the sale, with Jack Kerouac’s priced in the $20,000 range. But the Updike typewriter is priced in the same range as a manuscript of Walt Whitman’s, and higher than a typed and signed letter from J.D. Salinger.
UPDATE:  Christie’s lists the price realized as $4,375 for the typewriter.

I hope I've continued to pique your interest on typewriters with this third in a series (see Writers and Their Typewriters #1  and  Writers and Their Typewriters #2.)
Do you have a typewriter? How did you come by your typewriter(s)? Do you use it, or is it more of a collection item? Tell me, I'd love to know.

Friday, November 1, 2013


     Have you ever visited "Selling It" on the back inside cover of Consumer Reports? If you haven't, you really should check out an issue in a bookstore or library. "Selling It" is this publication's euphemism for "goofs, glitches, gotchas." It is monthly fodder for the proofreader inside of me. At first, I'm struck by outright laughter––talk of things gone wrong because someone failed to proofread! Then dismay settles in.
     I shake my head wondering how many customers are turned off by grammar or spelling errors. Perhaps it's naiveté that prevents a marketing department from reviewing each word in each line in detail––assuring no typographical or caption mistakes accompany a product's path to the consumer front lines.
     And it's not just Madison Avenue, manufacturers, or promoters who commit these transgressions. Banks, department stores, signage companies, grocery and drug store chains engage in the same. Good, bad, or indifferent, writing errors interfere and compete with messages. They undermine credibility and drive away customers. Costly, costly, and on many levels.

     Then there's you and me, writers of prose. Writers of poetry. For the majority of publications, authors are considered the primary proofreaders.

     Proofreading is the process of reading a text and scrutinizing all its components to find errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, illustrations, and tables. We're the ones who bear final responsibility for errors and inconsistencies in our published works. Proofreading takes time, extra painstaking time––but it pays off in the end.
     We may be tempted to proofread our own writing, but readers will spot the errors we missed. Even the best writers overlook mistakes in their own writing, and they value a fresh set of eyes to proofread their work before publication. To help mitigate this responsibility, a professional proofreader may be hired by either the author or the publisher.

     Basically, I fall back on a golden "eleven" checklist:
  • I allow for my writing(s) to simmer on the back burner for a while. When I return, I've acquired  a new perspective.
  • I use a printed copy. I can't do proofing/editing/revising on a computer screen.
  • Believe it or not, I read backwards from right to left, one paragraph at a time.
  • I take frequent breaks to remain fresh.
  • I examine one problem at a time––grammar; punctuation; spelling; redundancy; sentence cadence.
  • I've created a checklist.  Punctuation √, Grammar √, Spelling √, Redundancy √, Cadence √
  • One line at a time, I chant. I tackle one line at a time.
  • I use a spellchecker BUT recognize its shortcomings.
  • I trust my dictionary. 
  • I trust my thesaurus.
  • I ask for another set of proofreading eyes.
     Many websites and books provide guides and checklists for how to proofread or what to expect of a hired proofreader. Check out what I've provided below.
     The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published
     The Writer's Essential Tackle Box
     The Copyeditor's Handbook

     Proofreading is the last chance to correct mistakes before our readers see them, and the last opportunity to make sure our writing presents the image we want.
     Don't forget: Keep CLAM and Proofread!!!!

Friday, October 25, 2013


     It's October, and time for revision. I write new pieces––poetry, short stories, or essays through the year. I tweak these pieces through the year. Come November, I dedicate myself to major rewrites on pieces I want to submit to literary journals or competitions in the new year.
     Every year at this time, I bring out the Revising Checklist. I examine a piece's introduction, and its content. I look at the organization for transitions, emphasis, and its conclusion. Style, by way of similes, metaphors, concrete language, repetition and clutter is scrutinized. The same for the mechanics of the piece––punctuation, word and verb usage, and spelling. Revising takes time. It requires getting the words right. It involves more than just correcting errors. It can mean shortening, lengthening, changing or substituting, and in all honesty, it's a messy and frustrating affair. Paper clutter on the floor? Sometimes. Desktop/file overload? Absolutely.

     In revision, I try to make my writing as clear, smooth, and interesting as I can. I must do it. It is in my best interest to revise or rewrite until the cows come home, and every year at this time, I sigh.

Revise ~  verb  1. to look over again in order to correct or improve  2. to make a new, amended, improved, or up-to-date version
Rewrite  verb  1. to make a revision  2. to revise something previously written
     All good writers revise. All good writers rewrite. Rewriting is an essential part of composing, and in the end it can be the most rewarding part. 

To wit:
- The pleasure is the rewriting.     Joyce Carol Oates 
- If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.    Elmore Leonard
I'm all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.   Truman Capote
- I have rewritten––often several times––every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their        erasers.    Vladimir Nabokov

So, tell me do you think revision is important to your writing? What is your modus operandi for revising/rewriting your stories, essays, or poem? What steps do you use to make your work become the best that it can be? As always, I love hearing from you.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Famous Writers' Writing Sheds

     I ended last week's Blog post with this: Books and Boards reflect a deep-seated desire to have a secluded, away-from-the-room-filled-with-distractions in which I currently write. Authors of every stripe have or have had their version of a "writer's cave," and for the same reasons I hold for myself. 

     Allow me, in today's post (a post or two will continue this theme), to give a small tour of some of the more famous writers' writing sheds. As I've gleaned sources and images, I see mussed and fussed pages, notepads, and open books strewn on tables, adjacent surfaces, even floors. Their desks, much like my own, lean toward cluttered. In some, there are the rudiments of humanity––radios, ashtrays, cigarette packs, pets, framed pictures, and typewriters. 
     While some writers chose to set up shop abroad to immerse themselves in an undistracted world of prose or poetry, their choices often overlooked vistas of the Alps or vineyards surroundingTuscan villas or perhaps a castle or two. A few set up camp in hotel rooms.
     The writers I'm spotlighting in this and forthcoming posts, and their deified writing huts or sheds, are or were near at hand to each other. Their quaint and simple structures could be reached by a worn path or a short walk from the main house. Crucial to them was the sense of ease, the lifting of a creative web, the necessity of being near to their writing labors. 

Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan's book A Place of My Own is the story of how he built a tiny writing hut for himself in the woods behind his Connecticut house. As he writes on the first page, "Is there anybody who hasn't at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn't turned those soft words over until they'd assumed a habitable shape? What they propose, to anyone who admits them into the space of a daydream, is a place of solitude a few steps off the beaten track of everyday life."Pollan turns his sharp insight to the craft of building, as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut property—a place in which he hoped to read, write and daydream, built with his two own unhandy hands.
Roald Dahl
(Quentin Blake, children's author and illustrator)
I didn't go into the shed very often, because the whole point of it as far

 as Roald was concerned was that it was private, a sanctuary where he could work where no one interrupted him. The whole of the inside was organised as a place for writing: so the old wing-back chair had part of the back burrowed out to make it more comfortable; he had a sleeping bag that he put his legs in when it was cold and a footstool to rest them on; he had a very characteristic Roald arrangement for a writing table with a bar across the arms of the chair and a cardboard tube that altered the angle of the board on which he wrote. As he didn't want to move from his chair everything was within reach. He wrote on yellow legal paper with his favourite kind of pencils; he started off with a handful of them ready sharpened. He used to smoke and there is an ashtray with cigarette butts preserved to this day.
Roald Dahl's writing roomThe table near to his right hand had all kinds of strange memorabilia on it, one of which was part of his own hip bone that had been removed; another was a ball of silver paper that he'd collected from bars of chocolate since he was a young man and it had gradually increased in size. There were various other things that had been sent to him by fans or schoolchildren.
On the wall were letters from schools, and photographs of his family. The three or four strips of paper behind his head were bookmarks, which I had drawn. He kept the curtains closed so that nothing from outside came in to interfere with the story that he was imagining. He went into the shed in the morning and wrote until lunchtime. He didn't write in the afternoon, but went back later to edit what he'd done after it had been typed out by his secretary.
He wrote in the shed as long as I knew him - we worked together for 15 years from 1975 to 1990 and I illustrated a dozen of his books. I would take my drawings down to Gipsy House for him to look at while sitting on the sofa in the dining room. I don't think he let anybody in the shed.

Mark Twain's writing hut is currently situated on the campus of Elmira College in Elmira, NY.
"It is the loveliest study you ever saw...octagonal with a peaked roof, each face filled with a spacious window...perched in complete isolation on the top of an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills. It is a cozy nest and just room in it for a sofa, table, and three or four chairs, and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lightening flashes behind the hills beyond and the rain beats upon the roof over my head—imagine the luxury of it." - Mark Twain, in a letter to William Dean Howells, 1874

Michael Pollan asks it best, "Is there anybody who hasn't at one time or another wished for such a place...?"

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Dreamed-for Writing Shed

I want one of these: a dedicat-
ed place to write and create––a modest, outdoor building solidly anchored to the floor of my back garden, preferably near a few trees but not too close to the beehives. It would be a stand-alone place that would take me away from the house both mentally and physically, a haven where I could think or be inspired. 
     I picture this outpost as a poetic vision of a shed––modest of size, yet big enough for two pooches to lounge in my midst. The structure would
reflect me as environmentally friendly, unique, eclectic, and of a loving nature. It would be adorned with a covered porch or deck with a comfortable chair or two, and small-paned windows with heat-reflective glass. There would be no doubt left to the "fly on the wall," as to who occupies this tiny dwelling.

The space would contain deep boards (waist high) braced along two walls to hold a printer and other requisites of writing, with a pull-up chair to help in that process. Above the boards would be built-in shelves or cubby holes for books and files. A cupboard would house supplies, and a cork bulletin board would post notes. Shades or blinds would cool the interior. A carpet, most likely a runner, would cover some floor.
     Electric wiring would run the ceiling fan, printer, a few lamps, an electric teapot, and an under-counter refrigerator. A seating area, probably a used loveseat with a colorful and soft throw on an armrest, would provide a less-rigid place on which to contemplate ideas or to welcome a guest. A small table would sit nearby to hold a mug and a few books.
     For a number of years, I collected home design books filled with ideas for a future one-room writing space. When Pinterest entered my life, I created Cabins 'n Cottages, Retreats, and Writing Cottages boards to which I've pinned other images and plans.
     Books and Boards reflect a deep-seated desire to have a secluded, away-from-the-room-filled-with-distractions in which I currently write. Authors of every stripe have or have had their version of a "writer's cave," and for the same reasons I hold for myself.  I'm set. Now all I need is the money and the permits, because I sure have a plan.

    Have you ever envisioned a nurturing retreat away from the distractions of the home for your writing? Have you dreamed about a small enclosed space, simple in design and surrounded by natural landscape? 
    Check out Tumbleweed Tiny House CompanyNantucket Sheds, and Tiny House Blog for inspiring ideas for yourself.

Friday, October 4, 2013

You Never Know

Recently I responded to a call from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Florida:

WIN Elizabeth Gilbert's new novel, The Signature of All Things!

"This kind of storytelling is rare––one in which an author can depict the particulars of a moss colony as skillfully as she maps the landscape of the human heart." This is just one of the many amazing reviews for Gilbert's new book, exploring the life and times of a woman who discovers the wonder of botany.

Do you want to win a copy? Tell us about a time when you discovered something wonderful about nature. We're giving 3 copies away tomorrow!

I saw the notice on my Facebook feed approaching 9 P. M. the night before the selection was to be made. I breezed past it, but then paused. Pushing back up the feed, I rested on it and thought: I'm going to do this. All things "nature" run through my blood. I'm going to do this. And I did, and here's what I submitted in 277 words.

After settling into my home on a Florida canal, I began what would become a daily exercise. I’d descend the canal bank and search for all manner of life along its shore and in the water. Among the many fascinating things I found, were flat, thin, oval plates ringed in blue, beige, and gray. To my inexpert eye, I thought they were severed halves of freshwater clams or mussels. I soon learned this flat plate belonged to the apple snail, a freshwater mollusk, and is called an operculum––a cover that slides across the shell’s opening like a retractable door when the snail withdraws into its shell. One memorable day, a snail complied with a live-action demonstration of this when I lifted it from the mud. I caught my breath in marvel.

Apple snails are afoot in your canal, pond, or lake when you find grape-like clusters of pink-to-red eggs on objects above the water. Emerging vegetative stems and pointed cypress knees provide above-water pedestals for the female to deposit ten to eighty eggs packed in a gelatinous mass to keep them safe before they start life on their own. The young snails appear after two weeks, drop into the water as mini-versions of their parents, and quickly grow to adult size. They want to live with a passion.

For the shore-wading limpkin (also found in my back garden), it’s an important food source. For the snail kite cruising on the wing over water, it’s this bird’s only food. Apple snails are an integral part of Florida’s lake, pond, and marsh life. They are a part of my life, also.
I wrote it. I submitted it, and I won one of the three copies. If I hadn't, I would not have won. Simple as that.

But here's what I really won––I took a small, calculated risk to submit something I believed in, entered a mini competition to test my "flash" writing, and had in my hands (within two days) a hardcover book by an acclaimed author. It tasted and felt sweet.

Fellow writers, enter small competitions with your words knowing big-time fame might not come of it––but the validation of a crafted piece will bolster your writing efforts. And, don't forget to enter the big ones along the way. Either way, if you don't, you'll never know. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Word Parts ~ Suffixes

     I'll try to suppress my enthusiasm for suffixes in this week's post, but I hope you'll understand if I get carried away.

     Suffixes (Suf means "after") are added to the end of a root or existing word. Suffixes (like prefixes) are not words in their own right. They cannot stand on their own in a sentence. When typed, a hyphen typically precedes them.
Their beauty is twofold:
  • they give new meaning to an existing word; and,
  • they indicate certain parts of speech
     For example:
Noun                                Suffix (Meaning)                             Adjective          
fate, sin                              -ful (full of)                                      fateful, sinful                                      
patriot                                -ic (one having the character of)      patriotic                          
sweaty                               -y (characterized by)                        sweaty
manage                              -able (capable of, able to be)           manageable
fiction                                -al (relating to)                                 fictional
child                                  -ish (of, relating to, being)                childish

     The suffix: -ion (pronounced shun) indicates the word's part of speech is a Noun. Words ending in
-ion, -tion, or -sion means that the given word will have in its definition in the act or process of; state or condition of. Using the word production, I can deduce that it's a noun, and that it's the process of producing. Here are a few others you can try to deduce their meanings: hydration, diversion, expansion, fusion, or orientation.

    As mentioned in last week's Post (please see Word Parts ~ Prefixes), once learned, these word parts help in understanding the meaning of words you don't know. Analyzing a new word for its meaning in this way should be confirmed with your dictionary.

Consider these handy reference books available at Amazon or learn more about prefixes and suffixes on the web at

Once again I ask: Are you surprised at how many words you knew? 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Word Parts ~ Prefixes

     The Greeks and Romans (Latin) devised a system for creating words by putting together smaller word parts called prefixes, roots, and suffixes.  Last week's Post covered the roots or stems of words (please see Roots of Words). Today's Post covers Prefixes (Pre meaning "before"). This word part is added to the front of a root (basic meaning of a word).
     The value of learning to analyze these word units becomes apparent when you come across a word which meaning you don't know. Once learned, those word units help you deduce and understand many words. These word parts contribute to the total meaning of a word, while each part has its own meaning. Analyzing a new word for its meaning in this way should be confirmed with your dictionary. A word is a sum of its parts––a part-to-part relationship. In reading on how to analyze a word's components at Cuesta College's website, I came across this: "It has been estimated that 60 percent of the English words in common use are made up partly or entirely of prefixes or roots derived from Latin or Greek."
Let's get into the swim of it!
     A prefix is a group of letters added before a word or root to alter its meaning and form a new word. For example:
Word                            Prefix                                    New Word
natural                          un- (no, not)                          unnatural
mail                              e- (electronic)                        email
work                            over- (above, beyond)           overwork
media                           multi- (many, more)               multimedia                                        
clutter                           de- (from, down, away)        declutter

     There are prefixes that indicate when (before), where (between),  or more (ultra). See how daily words change meaning when preceded by these designated prefixes.

Prefix                         Meaning                               New Word
pre-, pro-                    before                                    preschool, premature, predate
ante-                           before                                    antecedent, anteroom, antenatal
post-                           after                                       postwar, postgraduate, postdate
inter-                          between, among                    interstate, interfere, intermarry
intra-                          within                                    intramural, intracardiac, intractable
trans-                          across                                    transatlantic, transaction
sub-                            under                                     submarine, subscript, subserve
circum-                      around                                    circumnavigate, circumference
ultra-                          beyond, on the far side of,     ultrahigh, ultrapure, ultrasound

    Prefixes that deal with numbers or counting are seen in these examples:

Prefix                         Meaning                               New Word
uni-                              one, single                             unicycle
mono-                          one, single                             monosyllable
bi-                                two                                        bilateral
duo-                             two                                        duo fold
tri-                                three                                      tricycle
quad-                           four                                        quadrant
multi-                           many                                      multicolored
penta-                          five                                         pentagon
poly-                            many                                      polygamy

Series of six

Consult the chart prefixes, suffixes, roots for a more inclusive listings. Also, check out the two books pictured at Amazon Books.

Are you surprised at how many words you knew? Are you surprised that you knew their meanings based on prefixes and roots?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Roots of Words

     When I attended elementary school, I was taught the fundamentals of how words were formed––Roots. Within the definition of a root, we would find the word itself, its pronunciation, part of speech, and its English definition. Sometimes those English words contained different meaning, but I digress.
     Learning the meaning of roots of words made (for me) learning vocabulary and spelling so much easier. I retain those lessons to this day. They fostered my interest in the history of our fascinating language.
     The root of a word contains the basic meaning. A root word is also known as a base word, or its stem. Their origins are usually Latin or Greek. It is in the root part of a word that the base element or basic meaning is contained. Once you know the meaning of that root, you can manipulate it with prefixes or suffixes, and change the meaning of the word. Sounds like another Blog post to me.

Roots are the underlying support of trees.
Roots are the underlying support of words.
     Roots are supports. For example: 
astro = star    bi = two    cardio = heart   hydro = water   hypno = sleep   micro = small   mono = one   pod = foot   psycho = mind   pyro = fire   script = write   therma =heat   tri = three   uni = one

I've offered a few root words. Can you supply a prefix or suffix to the them to discover new words and how richly they alter their roots?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Twelve Women/Twelve Quotes

Readers of this Blog know my fondness for quotations––found under "Verbatim."
Readers of this Blog know my fondness for collecting books of quotes––found under "Bibliomania."

     Reading words by writers who have made it, those same writers who have had to plod along in their creative ups and downs, plotting them with pen and ink, is like having a universe of mentors at your fingertips. Wit and wisdom are dispensed in nuggets of pleasurable advice, giving courage and inspiration along the way. All good words. All good news.
     Books offering instruction on writing by acclaimed writers and poets, contain passages that have the power to lift up and carry away the novice or experienced writer who, otherwise, might be caught in creative angst or a cobweb of self-doubt. These writers impart some of their journeys under chapter headings like: technique, voice, mood, and so on. Their words impart glimpses into how or what kept their creative drive or glue together. For these books, read between the lines; seek and you shall find the wisdom.
     Wonderful collections of quotations exist. They are akin to writing self-help books, and to be lucky enough to find one that speaks to you page after page, is worth having at your fingertips. Maybe two. Maybe three. They are wonderful books to read from a pillow's supporting fluff at day's end. Read a few lines before the bed lamp shuts down for the night. Jot them down on the notepad next to your alarm clock. Or, let one or two latch onto your subconscious. Let it or them become your morning reveille. What a difference a few well-chosen words can make.

Maya Angelou
     "Words on Words"  
Poetry is music written for the human voice.

Elizabeth Berg
     "Escaping Into The Open"
Try to be observant, to look beyond surfaces. Let yourself feel everything that you can . . . . As a writer, you should have a sticky soul; the act of continually taking things in should be as much a part of you as your hair color.

Julia Cameron
     "The Right to Write"
Specificity is like breathing: one breath at a time, that is how life is built. One thing at a time, one thought, one word at a time. That is how a writing life is built.

Maureen Corrigan
     "Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading"
It's not that I don't like people. It's just that when I'm in the company of others––even my nearest and dearest––there always comes a moment when I'd rather be reading a book.

Natalie Goldberg
     "The Essential Writer's Notebook"
Make contact with other writers. Go to workshops to meet people. Don't stay isolated. Make an effort to seek out people who love writing and make friends with them. It helps to confirm your writing life.

Anne Lamott
     "Bird by Bird"
Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can't––and, in fact, you're not supposed to––know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.

Diane Mehta
     "How To Write Poetry"
To write a good poem, you must tap into deep feelings, observe the world closely, and put words together to create something that's uniquely yours.

Joyce Carol Oates
     "Good Advice on Writing"
Technique holds a reader from sentence to sentence, but only content will stay in his mind.

Mary Oliver
     "A Poetry Handbook"
A poem that is composed without the sweet and correct formalities of language, which are what sets it apart from the dailiness of ordinary writing, is doomed.

Katherine Anne Porter
     "The Quotable Writer"
If I didn't know the ending of a story, I wouldn't begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph, my last page first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I'm going . . . . And how I get there is God's grace.

Anna Quindlen
     "How Reading Changed My Life"
Perhaps it is true that at base we readers are dissatisfied people, yearning to be elsewhere, to live vicariously through words in a way we cannot live directly through life. Perhaps we are the world's great nomads, if only in our minds.

Edith Wharton
     "The Writing of Fiction"
General rules in art are useful chiefly as a lamp in a mine, or a hand-rail down a black stairway; they are necessary for the sake of the guidance they give, but it is a mistake, one they are formulated, to be too much in awe of them.

And one more makes a Baker's Dozen:

Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
We fear poetry, I think, for the same reason we fear rain forests, the depths of the ocean,  and our own unconscious. We fear the unknown, particularly inside ourselves.

I'll add books of quotes or books with inspired writing instruction to Bibliomania and Verbatim above. Find them. Read them, and feel inspired.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Care: Culling Books

       As far back as I can remember, I've always had a book in my hands (to the chagrin of my mother who felt I should play or do something else instead). Books came into my young life as hand-me-downs, gifts, or rewards. In school, I was taught by book-loving nuns to consider volumes, large or small, as best friends. The Sisters of St. Casimir  taught me how to remove a book from a shelf, how to turn its pages, to have clean hands, and not to have food or drink nearby. And never wet a fingertip to turn a page, or gasp! dog-ear it––use a bookmark, please! Valuable lessons instilled that I still carry with me.
     I began purchasing books soon after my first paycheck. Hundreds of paychecks later, I'm still in the book-buying game. I covet books. When I walk past a bookstore in a shopping plaza, my whole being pulses like a divining rod. I lack the discipline to walk past it, because I know what waits inside for me. Nothing can be as soothing as a few hours spent in the shop of delights, and I never leave empty-handed. There is always a book I don't have, and that book needs me.
     The evolving collection of books reflects my idiosyncratic interests, curiosities, and hobbies. I have books about honey bees and beekeeping, travel (near and far), raising parakeets, freshwater fish, cats, and dogs. I have books on South Florida vegetation (orchids, palms, ferns, trees, gingers), and wildlife (snakes, turtles, birds, butterflies). Four shelves are dedicated to history (U.S. and foreign), urban planning, architecture, architect mongraphs, and U. S. historic buildings), and another two hold cookbooks (I love to cook!). Did I mention two bookcases (five shelves each) are dedicated to creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry and poets, humor, and many literary journals? Also, my needs as a writer have increased exponentially the last few years, and I now possess books addressing specific writing issues. They, too, have shelves.
     My home has become a repository for the passion for books. Stacks of books lend warmth and comfort and a modicum of disarray to our rooms. How satisfying it is when occasionally a book is needed to "verify something," and verification can be found a few steps away.

     Last week in Book Care: Horizontal vs. Vertical vs. Jumbled Up, I noted every room in our home contains a bookcase––some cases larger than others with some rooms having several. Available space, both in the house and on shelves, is a problem. I've wrestled with this for a while, and decided it's time to thin out the books. It's not a welcome task. I can readily part with accumulated "stuff"(knick knacks, CDs, DVDs, clothes), but find it far more difficult to part with books.

    I'm the avid book reader in the family, and therefore have the most books. I know I need to part with them, but part with them where? I'd be happier if I could consolidate, but consolidate them where? I'm thinking it's a challenge I'll take with me until I'm six feet under. I know people who list their books on ebay or Amazon, but I'm of the local mentality. If I'm to part with them, then I need to know they're nearby. My husband and I are giving serious thought to building a Little Free Library in our front yard. It'll help in some instances, but not all.
     For the time being, I've committed myself to more library visits, and less book-buying. I own many books of fiction. I've read most of them, but I probably won't read many a second time. These will find a another home. Reconnecting with my library would allow me to borrow a book, and if it sweeps me off my feet, I can always buy it later. As with thoughts of a curbside library, I'm thinking of purchasing a digital reader for newly-released books. Between parting with bought books, falling back on library borrowing, and the purchase of a digital reader, I might be able to stem the tide of book overload.

I'm working toward more than one solution for book overflow. Are you? What ideas can you share?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Care: Horizontal vs. Vertical vs. Jumbled Up

     A conundrum has entered the life of this bibliophile: How do I get more space from the bookshelves in my life? It's a toughie, and a solution must be found posthaste because book-shopping blitzes were made while I traveled the Southwest this summer.
     I've surveyed our modest library for a book/bookcase ratio, taking into consideration the physical size of  the books housed. Standard-sized hardback occupies most of the collection with a smattering of over-sized volumes. Soft-covers and paperbacks are to be found in the mix––mostly of the literary-journal variety. I also have a few shelves of autographed books, first editions, and a few vintage volumes in fragile condition.
     Bookcases have been designated (whole or partial) by genre––fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir, art, art history, gardens and gardening, the natural world, and travel. The problem is the amount of books continually expands and there's not much space for buying a new bookshelf. Tempting as it is,  floor stacking is out of the question, as is building an addition to the house.
     The options, then, for stacking the new armload of books brought home are limited: do I convert some shelves from vertical stacking to horizontal stacking, or do I combine both methods and have a jumbled arrangement.

     I prefer vertical stacking, actually. For one, it conveys a sense of order, and second, it makes it easier to take a book off a shelf. This option lends itself well to the genre organizing of my housed literary delights, BUT you get fewer books on the shelves.
     Horizontal, on the other hand, lends itself to housing like-minded books together, and gives more space for added books. I accommodate more paperbacks and soft-covers with this method, but it conveys a slightly disordered appearance (it's all in the eye of the beholder, though, isn't it?), AND it's a tad more difficult to retrieve a book from the middle or the bottom.

     I grew attached to the vertical method. I grew attached to the horizontal method. Et voila! The Jumbled Effect! There's still a method to my "madness," but I've squeezed more space from existing book shelves that now occupy every room in my house. Also, I made an aesthetic sacrifice, and it seems to be working––for the reasons noted above. The outcome is that I have found the way my books are placed has become more interesting, and it gives my shelves more of a quirky personality. At the front of the shelf, I've placed small-framed photos or objects to create a still life. Am I going "decorative" shelving? I don't think so. Photos and meaningful objects need their display space as well.

     What do the aesthetes, the conservationists, have to say about this? This is what I found from the American Institute for Conservation of Historical and Artistic Works :
It is extremely important that books stood vertically on shelves are squarely upright and firmly supported by neighboring books or by bookends. Leaning at an angle puts stress on the entire book structure, deforming the spine and the joints where the covers are attached. Bookends must be stable and smooth so as not to damage the covers. Books should not be packed together so tightly,however, that they are difficult to remove without causing damage. Large,oversized books are best laid horizontally in stacks of no more than two or three high. Protective pads, such as squares of polyester felt, may be placed between stacked books to prevent them from rubbing.
     So having read the conservationists' point of view, you knew this was coming: how do YOUR books stack? But before you answer that, take a glimpse at this animated clip of one person's view of organizing a bookcase. After watching the short clip, let me know your answer of how you stack your books.
Organizing the Bookcase

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Care: Lending Books

How hard, when those who do not wish
To lend, that's lose, their books,
Are snared by anglers; folks that fish
With literary hooks;

Who call and take some favourite tome
But never read it through;
They thus complete their set at home,
By making one at your.

Behold the bookshelf of a dunce
Who borrows; never lends;
Yon work, in twenty volumes, once
Belonged to twenty friends.

     When will I learn? Books lent are never returned.
     A generalization, I know. But the fact of the matter is that of the last seventeen books I've lent to friends, they've either not returned them; or, when asked for their return the borrowers became surly. What gives with this? Do I look naive? Am I perceived as bankrolling another's library collection? Is it assumed I won't miss the book?

     When I lend a book to a friend who has complimented the contents of my personal library, I do so with a generosity of spirit. Inwardly, I smile on his/her taste, interests, acumen, and above all the desire to know more. This is "spreading the wealth" at its finest. I lend. He/She will return. But in effect, I've said "au revoir," "adios," "arrivederci," or "sudie" (if you're Lithuanian).
     I realize there have been times I, too, borrowed a book. I took it home, and made sure it didn't get lost in the shuffle of my volumes. I  began to read it, and life took over: other needs, must do's, and ought to's (not to mention reading priorities) set in, and before I knew it the borrowed book became part of my collection. Three come to mind, and I'll confess their titles: The Etruscans, 1066 And All That, and Dumbth. I remember the fateful days their owners handed the books to me. I've since lost contact with the rightful guardians, and haven't a clue where they live. Borrowed volumes occupy my shelves, and if I'm not able to return them does this make me a biblioklept? If so, Mea culpa!

     I've come up with a watertight plan for not lending out books, or for having lent books returned. If you, too, share my problem––feel free to borrow from it.
     - I NO longer lend books. Rather, I jot the title/author/publishing year and date on a slip of paper, and tell the requestor to check it out at their friendly Indie Bookstore or Library.
     - If I break the above rule, I affix a bookplate or Ex Libris to the inside front cover or title page of the book to be borrowed. My bookplates are simple with a heading of From the Library of,  under which I'm able to write my name (indelible ink) on a provided line. More elaborate or decorative bookplates can be found, and some chide the recipient to return the book, as in: Steal not this book for fear of shame/For here you see the owner's name.
     A Japanese bookplate dating back to 1470 (cited by James P. Keenan) carried an especially powerful warning:     To steal this book closes the gates of heaven,
                                  And to destroy it opens the gates of hell.
                                  Anyone who takes this book without permission
                                  Will be punished by all the gods of Japan.

     After that, I have the borrower place his right hand on the Family Bible to swear to the book's return in a specified amount of time.
     Or, I'll have the borrower pledge his first-born son, car, house, or some other object of desire by me, the lender.
     If any or all of the above fails, I can chose to forget about the lapse, ratchet down the worth of the borrower, and buy a replacement, hoping against hope that what I lent was not a first edition or autographed copy.
     If I am the borrower––well, let me assure you, that the prospect of having a red-lettered sign hung around my neck announcing I am a BIBLIOKLEPT––is enough for me to return the book, pronto.

Am I alone in these matters? Have your books been lent out never to be seen again? How did you resolve it?

*a singular pronoun will be used from this point forward.