Thursday, August 29, 2013

Say It Ain't So!

from Jacqueline

I may have touched upon this subject before.  No matter, it warrants another airing.

When did it become the linguistic fashion to prefix any statement - usually in the form of an answer to a question – with the word, so? I, for one, am truly fed up with it. 

Several weeks ago I was listening to someone being interviewed on NPR, and the “so” factor was so (dare I say it) evident in each response to a question, I had to turn off the car radio – it was driving me nuts!

            How do you like your eggs?
            So, I like them poached.

Well, it wasn’t quite like that, but almost.  You could have removed the “so” at the beginning of each answer, and you would have had a complete sentence.  This tedious locution was almost as annoying as listening to Caroline Kennedy scatter “like” and “y’know” with abandon.

When I was a child, at about the age of six, we were taught that “so” was a “joining word.”  That’s how teachers embarked upon grammar at that age.  So was a joining word, along with words such as “and.”  And while we’re about it, I never thought I would begin a sentence with “and” after Miss Bishop’s take-no-prisoners grammar class in Infants 2 – but of course, I do.  (I should explain – the first two classes of the primary school were known as the “infants” classes.  You didn’t get into the juniors until you were 7).   “But” was listed as another joining word.  But starting a sentence with “so” is, well, so unnecessary. It sounds really silly too – the sort of sentence opener you’d expect from a kid in Infants 1.

I’m not the only person to go on about the so thing.  Here’s what Anand Giridharadas commented in a New York Times article.

“So” may be the new “well,” “um,” “oh” and “like.” No longer content to lurk in the middle of sentences, it has jumped to the beginning, where it can portend many things: transition, certitude, logic, attentiveness, a major insight.”

He suggests that this locution has its roots in Silicon Valley, or even further north, at Microsoft (that lot again …), and generally in the scientific community, where a conclusion is often introduced with the word “so” – as in “A+B=C, so therefore, C = A+B.” 

OK, I get all that, but starting a sentence with so is redundant. It makes the person speaking sound as if they missed something at the beginning and they’re trying to catch up in the middle. Sometimes it gives the impression that the speaker thinks they know more than anyone else (imagine an eye roll, “So, where we begin is …”).

I know I sound like a bit of a curmudgeon, but I think it’s time for a linguistic paradigm shift* – back to Miss Bishop and her joining words – and put so in its place, as the connective tissue in the body of a sentence.  It’s enough that, as Zadie Smith suggested, in spending time on Facebook we’re all cells in the giant brain of a 22 year-old.  (Well, what she actually said in a New York Review of Books essay was, “ ... 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore." We don't have to take it a step further and give the impression that we're geeks on a weekend pass from Google. 

I do hope the elevation of so from the middle of the sentence to the beginning, ends soon.  I'm grating my teeth so much, I'm getting TMJ!

Well, that's it from me.  Wishing you an excellent long weekend!

(*Does anyone remember the paradigm shift?  People were having them all over the place, and in company, about 15 years ago. I don’t think they’re made any more ….)

A&E's The Glades and My Pettiness

I am petty.  I'm not proud of it (at least that's one mortal sin I avoid), but I have to admit I hold animus and jealousy toward people who have found success for their novels in TV and movies.  I’ve said in the past I don't watch many police shows because they’re just silly compared to the real life of a police officer.  But the fact is, more recently, my pettiness probably had more to do with it then realism.

It's tough to hold these feelings towards a friend like Jeff Lindsay's darkly comic novels that are the basis for Showtime’s Dexter series.  He's too good of a guy to deserve petty jealousy and frankly, if he could come up with a novel like Darkly Dreaming Dexter, I don't want this guy mad at me.

One show that has nothing to do with me, or, as far as I know, any of my friends, is A&E's The Glades.  I know the premise and virtually every day someone comes up to me and asks if I have something to do with the show because it is about the exploits of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agent working in the wild south-central part of our swampy state.  I get e-mail from people who read Escape Clause, which, coincidentally is about an FDLE agent working in Belle Glade.  I am an actual FDLE agent who has worked in Belle Glade and wrote the F&^%$#G  book in 2005, five years before the show came on the air.  I think I have a right to be jealous of a show like that.  I didn't even get asked to consult on the show.  And I have never seen it.  Partly because I'm busy, but also, I'm sad to say, partly because I'm petty.

The one exception to this juvenile attitude is for the work of my very good friend, Paul Levine.  I love the movies based on his early novels set in Miami and involving my favorite professional football team, the Miami Dolphins.  I know they changed Jake Lassiter's name but the gist of the story and the characters are the same.

That was a work of genius, good job, Paul.  (For legal reasons I must state that Paul Levine, nor any of his relatives, had anything to do with Ace Ventura or any other pet detective.)

Am I wrong to be an envious little twerp?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Macs, Safari, and Selections (Ridley)

MACs Safari and Printing:

A quick entry this week about Macs and Safari. 

Safari is a terrific browser, but one of its limitations is its inability to print selected text from a website, forcing to print an entire page.

Voila! There's an app for that! Or, in this case, what Safari calls "Extensions." You cannot believe the number of VERY COOL extensions that exist for Safari. Among them "Print Plus"

Go to Safari/Preferences/Extensions/Get Extensions.

Once you have selected Productivity from the left menu, then click CMMND/F for "Find" and type in "Print" -- load the Print Plus extension. Make sure Block Pop Ups is not blocked under Preferences/Security.

Once installed Print Plus mounts a little icon at the top of Safari. Click that and a bar appears at the top of your web page. You can do multiple selections, hit "PRINT" in the blue bar, and you will only print your selections. It's a terrific addition to Safari. Now I'm going to go explore other extensions!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Roar of the Engines...Across Sea and Time

From the messy desk of Paul Levine...

The roar of the engines would have been enough for me.

We didn't even have to take off.

My late father, Stan Levine, had told me about the sound and the vibration you could feel in your bones.  So, just sitting in his old seat -- the navigator's -- aboard a B-29 firing up its giant four engines, would have been enough.

But ten days ago, hearing the engines was just the beginning.  At the Rocky Mountain Air Show in Colorado, I flew aboard "Fifi," the last airborne B-29 from World War II.
I've written before about my father's last mission aboard the "Nip Clipper." 
I wrote how the B-29 was shot down after a bombing run over Yawata in August 1945 on the Japanese mainland, how the crew floated for seven days in the ocean before being "rescued" by fisherman who turned the men over to the militia who beat them, and how a Japanese military policeman saved them from beheading.  ("Hiroshima, Personally," my piece in The Miami Herald, written on the 50th anniversary of the atomic bomb attack, can be found here).
Well, I always wanted to fly a B-29, and this was probably my last chance.  (The Air Show also featured a still-flying B-24 Labrador, plus several World War II fighters.  More information on the tour here.  It's coming to Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas in September).
As those engines fired up, so did my tears.  Oh, how I wished my father could have taken this flight with me!  I sat gripping the sides of the navigator's desk, which had a map of Japan and a sextant for nighttime navigating.  (This particular map had been borrowed from the Enola Gay).  I traced my fingers over the spot where my father's craft had been shot down.  And then over Hiroshima, where the crew had been taken one week after the bombing.
I imagined my father's emotions sitting in am identical aircraft with hundreds of others, on North Field, Tinian Island, preparing for the 13 hour bombing run.  (Hoping it would be a 13 hour run, meaning they would make it home).  My body tensed, and I felt my father's presence with me.  
Once airborne, I relaxed and enjoyed the ride. 

I watched the flight engineer at work with the ancient controls.
..and the co-pilot. 

I looked forward through the cockpit and the famous glass "greenhouse" where the bombardier would sit -- in front and below -- the pilot and co-pilot.  (Photo shows the original Norden bombsight).
I wished the young pilot good luck on landing the big bomber. 

And wondered if these ancient instruments still work. 

For me, the most interesting piece of equipment in the cockpit was also the least photogenic.  A simple hatch in the floor. 

It's where my father and the crewmen in the front of the plane bailed out.  One after another, the radio operator, flight engineer, navigator, bombardier, co-pilot, and pilot jumped into space as their aircraft, one wing engulfed in flames from a flak hit, screamed toward the ocean.  Ten of the eleven crewmen survived the crash, the ocean, imprisonment, and the war.  The pilot, Lt. George Keller, did not.  His chute never opened, and he was killed on impact with the water.  My thoughts turned to him and his family, too.   
The entire experience lasted about an hour.  And a lifetime.  Even now, I can feel those massive engines in my bones. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

26 Miles Across the Sea

Patty here...

Santa Catalina Island, just off the coast of Los Angeles, is steeped in history and mystery. It is where actor Natalie Wood died in 1981, under circumstances some still call suspicious, where a Civil War barracks still functions as the Isthmus Yacht Club, where William Wrigley, the chewing gum tycoon who bought the island in 1919, watched from the window of his home on Mt. Ada as his Chicago Cubs baseball team practiced in the field below, where author Zane Grey sometimes wrote 3,000 words a day in his rambling pueblo-style home overlooking Avalon harbor. Grey's house is now a hotel, in which I once stayed hoping for a visitation from the author’s 3,000-words-a-day spirit. Unfortunately, it was the ghost’s day off.

Zane Grey: a passion for fishing and adventure

Zane Grey, on a honeymoon visit to Avalon with his wife Dolly in 1905, fell in love with big game fishing. He later made Avalon his home and became a member of the Tuna Club, the West’s first big game sports fishing organization, which was created in 1898 by Dr. Charles Frederick Holder. Past members include movie directors Hal Roach and Cecil B. DeMille and actors Stan Laurel, Jackie Coogan, Charlie Chaplin and Bing Crosby. Winston Churchill was a guest of the club. His thank you letter to the board is framed and mounted on the wall in the cardroom.

 Holder's portrait graces the wall of the Tuna Club library

Membership rules: To become a member you have to reel in a fish of 100 pounds or more all by yourself within 100 miles of Catalina with regulation tackle (linen or Dacron line). The club's philosophy is based on conservation and good sportsmanship, i.e., allowing the fish equal footing with the angler.

The Tuna Club on August 17, 2013

The Tuna Club, Zane Grey and the problem with Mrs. Spalding: There are currently no women members of the Tuna Club but that’s not how it used to be. According to our tour guide, Zane Grey was an accomplished fisherman. He was also curmudgeonly and not well liked by the Tuna Club membership. In 1920, he caught a 418-pound swordfish, which afforded him major bragging rights around Avalon. The following year, Mrs. Keith Spalding of the Spalding sporting goods family, bested Grey’s catch by 8 pounds. Grey complained loudly and publicly that it was impossible for a petite woman like Mrs. Spalding to have landed the fish without help. The Board of the Tuna Club was not happy about Grey’s unsportsmanlike rant. After a thorough investigation, they concluded that Mrs. Spalding had indeed caught the fish by herself with the approved line and tackle. The Board told Grey to apologize to Mrs. Spalding in a public forum or resign from the club. He did both.
"For when the one great scorer comes to write against your name. He writes not that you won or lost, but how you played the game."

 Mrs. Spalding's fish

My tour: The Tuna Club has always fascinated me. A scene from one of my favorite movies, Chinatown, was filmed there: P.I. Jake Gittes flies by seaplane to Catalina to interview Noah Cross who is a member of “The Albacore Club.”

Gittes (Jack Nicholson) stands on the front deck of 
the "Albacore Club" AKA The Tuna Club.
In the background is the real Catalina Island Yacht Club.

The original clubhouse, built in 1908, was destroyed in the Great Avalon Fire of 1915 but rebuilt within six months. For outsiders, angling for a look inside is as difficult as getting into Fort Knox with a low credit score. But once a year, the club opens its doors for tours to benefit the Catalina Island Museum. By happenstance, I was in Avalon on that very one day.

The library pictured below is on the left side of the main hallway. It holds photos and memorabilia from the club's 100-year history. Directly across the hall is the card room with 2 green felt-topped tables, and more history. On one wall is a "Fish Board" that lists the names of members who have caught fish in the current year, the tackle used, the weight and type of fish (tuna, marlin, broadbill albacore, white sea bass, and yellowtail).

The library

Zane Grey's writerly spirit: Maybe Zane Grey’s spirit was making up for his prior no-show because while I was inside the building, the answer to a troublesome clue in my current novel magically revealed itself in the guise of old fishing tackle.

I've never read any of Zane Grey's books but I'm going to now. Anybody have a favorite I should start with?

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Elmore Leonard – Good Guy

By James O. Born 

Elmore Leonard, Dutch to his friends, passed away at 87 on Tuesday morning.  He was a friend of mine.  He literally got me writing.  The hole his passing leaves in my life has only started to hit me.  There are other postings and obituaries that document his skill as a writer and his success over many, many years.  I would point out Wallace Stroby,writing for the Star Ledger    and   Scott Eyman, the book editor for the Palm Beach Post .  A more personal view comes from the current king of crime fiction, Michael Connelly writing for the LA Times.

I'd like just a few moments to share my own views of Dutch Leonard. 

Virtually anyone who can read English would recognize that he was a great writer of both Crime Fiction and Westerns.  But in my opinion that's not his biggest accomplishment.  To me, Dutch achieved what few people can: he was a really good guy.  That's tough to beat.  Not everyone can raise a great family, treat other people well, have a wicked sense of humor and not take themselves too seriously and be a phenomenal success.

I met Dutch around 1987 at a library event one of my father's friends had invited me to.  It was the first such event I'd ever attended (it wouldn't be the last.)  We started chatting and he was interested in my job at the DEA.  He casually asked if he might call me sometime for some technical advice.  I didn't think much of the request at the time.  Little did I know that the encounter would change the trajectory of my entire life. 
Me harassing an elderly man until he smiled outside of Books and Books in Coral Gables.

Most published authors are approached by people interested in writing, nervous to show their first manuscript to someone, but confident they had written the Great American Novel.  He was encouraging and helpful, but most importantly, and this cannot be overstated, he was critical.  He told me what I had to do to be a better writer and by following his advice, I eventually landed a book deal and a second career.  It was tough to hear at the time but every sentence I look at now is viewed through the prism Dutch created.  I can hear him telling me not to get sappy in this very post.  No flowery language, just tell the story.  His most famous line, "Cut out the stuff people skip."  That's a genius that rivals Oppenhiemer.

But it was his many other traits that led me to try to emulate him.  His patience and love of family, his thoughtfulness and interest in doing the best he could at whatever he did.  All the details that are easy for most of us to over look in our own lives.  As busy as he was, Dutch didn't forget people or kindness.  The word "effortless" comes to mind.  He made everything seem easy even if it wasn't.  

No matter how much success he had or how popular he became, it never went to his head.  He was interested in other people.  He wanted to know what made people tick.  That was how he could create such perfectly flawed and believable characters.  No one is perfect, but everyone deserves a chance.  It's in his novels and his life.  A theme that will resonate long after we are all gone.

It's easy to point to him as a mentor, but it was also his longtime associate, Gregg Sutter, who would brutalize my manuscripts until I finally got an idea of what I was supposed to do.  A guy like Gregg is so invaluable that words don't do justice to his service.  It was Gregg who pulled out the nuggets of gold from mountains of research.  He would travel the globe looking for an interesting angle or aspect that Dutch could turn into a masterpiece.  And Dutch trusted him completely.  There is no higher compliment.
Gregg Sutter, a young John E. Born and Dutch in 1990

Oddly enough, I would have to say that I met a guy I depend on now as a mentor through Dutch more than 20 years ago.  I listened to a panel on crime fiction with Dutch and two other writers.  One member of the panel was still an attorney in Miami who had written several novels.  His name was Paul Levine.  Even then I recognized that he pronounced his name incorrectly, but when we reconnected 10 years later, after the publication of my first novel, he displayed the same patience and interest in helping others as Dutch did for so long.  Through Paul I met the other contributors to this blog.  It's funny how everything is connected.  Another thing Dutch did for me without even realizing it.

I'm sad that the world lost a great writer on Tuesday.  But what strikes deeper and more profoundly is that the world lost a great guy too.  That's what's important to remember. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Was It For This The Clay Grew Tall?

from Jacqueline

If you’ve lived a few years on this planet, you come to know that, at the opposite end of the good and the bad things that happen in this world, there is the truly magnificent and the unbearably horrific.  Always we must rejoice in the magnificent, and always we must grieve, collectively, for that which is beyond bearable, but has to be borne, somehow. 

Today, having seen the photographs of the Hades that Egypt has become, I find I am looking back at the terrors I have known, even since childhood, and I am glad that I am shocked anew. I am glad that I feel sick to my stomach about the suffering of people who are not simply living the fear we associate with, say, losing a job, or dealing with bereavement, the loss of a house, divorce – all those events are terrible in themselves, but I know that with time the grieving passes and that life spreads out the tablecloth of possibility once more, and we are invited to take a bite of whatever nourishment that is laid out for us.  It might not be quite what we enjoyed before, and it might take some getting used to, but, for most of us, time heals.  And I know that time can, eventually, heal the wounds of collective disaster too, though the scar tissue runs deep and broad, and it takes work, and people coming together, putting aside their anger, fear, grief, and doing their best to wash away the misery with love.

I wonder how long will it take Egypt to recover from the terror that is borne every day by ordinary people?  Just a couple of years ago it was the big tourist destination – Europeans flocked there in their thousands on package vacations - and now this.  Apparently tourists in the coastal resorts are being told to remain inside their hotels until their departure, and of course, they're leaving as soon as they can.

But what has touched me today, in the midst of the photographs of this human disaster, is this photograph. 

 A lone woman trying to stop a bulldozer from crushing a wounded man.  It looks like Tiananmen Square all over again – remember that?

And remember this young Iranian woman?

 Her name was Neda, which means “voice.”  And I am left wondering about the terror that comes with having the courage to want a voice in this world.

Today is one of those days when the closing words of  the poem, “Futility” by WW1 poet, Wilfred Owen, come immediately to mind:

Was it for this the clay grew tall?

—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil

To break earth’s sleep at all?

I am sure there are some who might say the photograph of the Egyptian woman was staged, or it was all so and so’s fault, while pointing the finger around the globe, and adding, well, this is just what happens in these places, isn’t it?  Or there are those who will ignore the news, trusting the phoenix of hope to eventually fledge, after all, it has before, eventually.  Or they might say that there has to be some sort of sacrifice to shock people into a new way of being. Frankly, right now I don’t care about all that, because I’ve heard it all before.  I just know that humanity has shot itself in the foot yet again, and we are witness to a tragedy of monstrous proportions.  God help those who are caught up in this hell on earth.

With all my heart, I wish you peace this weekend - wherever you are in the world.  Cherish your freedom, honor your voice and cradle your peace gently.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sea Writing JuJu

Patty here...

For the next ten days, I'm off sailing the briny blue waters of Southern California. For me, the sea is associated with a number of writing milestones and while I'm gone I hope to finally finally finally finish the draft of my next novel. Since I may not always be in Internet range, I'm leaving you with a few pictures of where I'm going, where I've been and a few sailing friends I've met along the way.

Avalon, Santa Catalina Island: This is where I finished the rough draft of my first novel False Profits and where one April day I got caught in the worst storm in my 18 years of sailing. There haven't been many adventures that left me wondering about survival. That was one of them. I have never written about the experience but one day I will.
“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning” —Anon

Cherry Cove, Santa Catalina Island: I've spent many happy days bobbing on a mooring, reading books, contemplating life and writing. Just a short way up the coast at Isthmus Cove is where I got the call from my agent that Mysterious Press had bought my first book.

Cat Harbor, Santa Catalina Island: It's officially named Catalina Harbor but nobody calls it that. Rustic and beautiful. This was taken on a calm day but it is the only safe harbor in the area when the Santa Ana winds blow.
"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge." —Raymond Chandler, Red Winds

Santa Barbara Channel, CA: Your intrepid Naked Author in her foulies,
navigating through strong winds and rough seas.
"I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over." —John Masefield, Sea Fever

Channel Islands, CA: "Call me Ishmael."

Block Island Channel, Rhode Island: Flying the spinnaker while 
crewing on a friend's sloop from Connecticut to Block Island.

"O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea,
Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,
Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
Survey our empire, and behold our home!"  —Lord Byron, Corsair

Block Island, Rhode Island: S/V Aurora anchored in the harbor.

"One ship sails east and another sails west
With the self-same winds that blow.
Tis the set of the sail and not the gale
Which determines the way they go.
As the winds of the sea are the ways of fate
As we voyage along through life,
Tis the act of the soul that determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife."
—Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Block Island, Rhode Island: Looking for that which every sailor yearns.

The after-sail PAR-TEE with friends!


Friday, August 09, 2013

The Fount of Penmanship

from Jacqueline

I love fountain pens.  In fact, I am pretty much almost as much a pen-a-holic as I am a book-a-holic, and I’m very partial to lovely notebooks too.  My favorite games when I was a child were “Offices,” and “Schools,” along with my daily “let’s pretend” that I was a writer. I still feel like the latter most of the time, actually.  And before I leave this paragraph, can you imagine my brother’s chagrin, as a four-year-old whose favorite game was “play in the mud and see how dirty you can get” when he was steamrollered into sitting on a chair and being told to listen while I wrote sentences for him to copy from my toy blackboard.  Mind you, something stuck, because who did he come to years later, every time his resume needed updating, eh?  Best fiction I ever wrote, that.

 But I digress.  This story is about my love of fountain pens, especially.  I love a really good fountain pen, a writing instrument with some heft to it, but not too much weight that it makes my hand ache or interferes with the flow of ink.  I prefer to fill my own fountain pens, though let’s face it; cartridges have been the way to go for decades now.  I have about six fountain pens, and it’s getting close to the time when I should buy one of those special boxes to store my pens in – the ones that look like cutlery boxes, but display your pens instead.

I was in a pen store a few weeks ago, and had stopped to look at a dipping pen with a set of nibs.  You know the sort of thing. 

 The assistant came up and asked me if I would like to try, and I had to tell her that I knew all about using one of those pens, because when I was a kid, we wielded a pencil until we were eight years old, then we graduated to dipping pen, and only when the dipping pen was mastered were we allowed to bring our own fountain pen to school to use.  Here’s what I remember:  I remember dreading being the ink monitor – we all had to be the ink monitor for one day a month, though with 32 kids in the class, someone always got away with it and I hoped it would be me.  There was a big enamel jug filled with ink, and in the morning if you were the ink monitor you had to go round filling all the inkwells. The desks were of the Victorian variety – had been there since the school was built – and each desk had a hole for an inkwell and a china receptacle for the actual ink.  That jug was heavy for a child, and woe-betide you if you splashed it everywhere.

I still have a ridge against the middle finger of my right hand where the dipping pen nib pressed into my skin as I wrote, leaving a round blue-black stain that didn’t come out until I went to secondary school and was allowed to use a ballpoint (well, I think we were allowed to use ballpoint by the time we were 15 – I may be mistaken).  So, it was with some glee that as a nine-year-old I skipped along to Sykes, the town stationers, when Mr. Croft finally curled his finger at me in class, and I was told that if I wished I could bring my first fountain pen to school - finally, I had graduated from dipping that nib in the ink.  Hallelujah!  I had been keeping a precious half-crown in my pocket to buy that Platignum pen for weeks, and went straight into Sykes on my way home. 

I know we have so many tools with which to write - you can write a whole novel on your cellphone, if you like – but I am a great believer in the power of writing with traditional tools.  I write straight to the laptop, Microsoft Word is my first tool, whatever I am creating on the page, however, when it comes to revision, my fountain pens are at the ready.  I can sit and work a paragraph using pen and ink – it slows me down, brings my attention to each word, and the fact that I want to create a good page of work is in every stroke of the pen.  I am sure it opens a different place in my mind, brings my attention to the scene in a different way, and it works for me.

I think, too, that using a pen, especially a fountain pen, is good discipline.  Even if kids abandon them as soon as they can after school, there is something about the pen that gives one a deeper opportunity to explore each word, to make sure it’s right, to spell it correctly, so that meaning is not lost.  I am sure people are encouraged to be more adventurous with vocabulary when they’re not abbreviating on a cellphone.  I hate abbreviations in emails and text messaging – it feels so sloppy to me.  And it’s not just me being old fashioned – that’s me seeing words go down the drain and wondering how people will ever understand each other in the future.  Oh yes, perhaps they’re not understanding each other.

Finally, before I leave this treatise – and I can see I could write a book on this subject already – let me tell you about the pen that, for me, was a “sign” that I could be a published author, one day.  I was already publishing articles in very specific educational journals, and so wanted to break into something different, more mainstream.  There’s a British publication I would sometimes have my mother send me, and the “star prize” on the letters page was a Parker Duofold Fountain Pen.  Well, I finally wrote a letter to that magazine, and lo and behold, it was chosen as the star prize - almost twenty years ago now.  That blue and black marbled Parker Duofold sits on my desk, always, ready to be pulled into service – when a thank-you card has to be written, or an important letter signed. And soon, when I get back from England next week, it will be my revision pen, galvanizing me, bringing a sense of discipline as I turn from being the storyteller to the technician of the word, an advocate for the reader embarking upon the revision of another novel.

Have a lovely weekend, all ….