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Posts Tagged ‘silliness’

So, we have:

Woman without her man is nothing.

And also:

Come and eat grandma!

And slowly, even the most stubborn souls begin to see the value of punctuation.

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Come and eat, grandma!

Oh, what a different a few dots and squiggles can make.

These are famous ones, of course. I was trying to remember a really wonderful one that wound up in print a while ago, and finally found it:

And this is all silly and a good reminder that commas are life savers (I know Ray’s family and dog are grateful for them!) … but there was a story the other day that also proved that a well-placed comma can mean the difference between winning and losing a legal battle.

I’ll admit that I’m a latecomer to the Oxford comma. I was forced to use it in grade school. But I was forced to do a lot of things with my writing in grade school, and many of them I heartily disagreed with and despised. Once I had a little more freedom to write how I wanted, I began to jettison those things I didn’t care for, and the Oxford comma fell by the wayside with the other castoffs. People have argued with me about it quite a bit over the years — which maybe says something about the folks I hang with¹ — but I have remained stubbornly against. I taught English for many years, and I taught the Oxford comma … but also made it clear that a) I didn’t use it myself and b) no one’s grade would be damaged by the decision not to use it.

But then I got my current job. I got this job, and one of the first things I had to do was edit the big, serious report we were producing. And before the editing began, I was asked to put together a style guide so that all of the people who were adding writing could try to have the same set of rules in mind as they worked and so that changes I made to text would all follow clear guidelines.

Making that style guide was, I have to admit, fun for me (which most definitely says something about the kind of person I am!). I saw the guide as my chance to lay down the law, list out my writing pet peeves, make our sleek and shiny report conform to my writing style. (Oh yes, a little power is truly a dangerous thing!)

Pretty quickly in my style-guiding I ran smack into the Oxford comma. And somehow, for reasons I couldn’t explain and can’t explain now, that comma suddenly made sense. Made perfect, why-didn’t-I-ever-see-this-before sense. And I’ve been using it ever since. (Somewhere, my 6th grade teacher is pointing, laughing, and saying, “I told you so!”)



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices

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¹ This wacky-grammarians-on-my-friend-list business did not extend to the guy who came to a party I threw years ago … who smugly diagrammed the sentences of the people who spoke to him. You may think this is a clever party trick. Trust me when I tell you that it really isn’t.

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(While it would be nice to think my Impostor Syndrome was cut down in the Senate chamber today, I’m pretty sure what I’m about to describe is but a temporary leave-taking. Hope your Ides of March passed smoothly!)

I realized in a conversation today that the other person was trying to impress me, was actually a little nervous talking to me. Me. And at first that made me want to laugh … because … well, you know, it’s me.

But then a thing happened.

I realized he was right: he should want to impress me. Because … well … it’s me. And I thought yes, he should be a bit nervous, too. There was no telling how I might respond to what he had to say after all.

That has certainly not happened before, that kind of all shall love me and despair moment. 😉

In truth, I think where I’m aiming is somewhere between the poster child for low self-esteem and the beautiful and terrible queen. But perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to walk around believing I’m stronger than the foundations of the earth. And all that.



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices

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Unexpected Pi(e)

For the first time in … ever … I made a pie to honor the day. Our storm that turned out not to be a blizzard meant I had to work with what I had in the house, so no apples, no berries, no any of the kinds of pie I might actually have imaged myself making. No. But I did make that pumpkin soup not long ago, and I still had a can of pumpkin, so …

Happy Pi Day, everyone !

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I don’t know if I’ve ever been a particularly spontaneous person. I’ve had moments here and there, but mostly not so much. Not an impulse buyer. Not a pick up and fly to Tahiti in the middle of a quiet Tuesday traveler. Not.

And I started out writing this because I was going to talk about my extremely mild run at spontaneity today — suddenly throwing out a dinner invitation and meeting up with a dear friend instead of heading home — but then I got distracted by “spur of the moment.”

What an odd thing to say: on the spur of the moment. And I went to The Google to find out the origin, and got this:

Spur of the moment is in the OED along with other definitions of the word “spur”. The first recorded usage was in 1801. Spur also means at haste so perhaps spur of the moment – something done impromptu or with out deliberation grew out of spur in that sense, as in a quick decision.

Something in the moment (the brief period of time when a decision is made or an action is begun) acts as a spur-an incentive, an impetus-much as the literal spurs impel a horse to go. What motivates a “spur of the moment” decision arises quickly, as opposed to long forethought.

And that’s all well and good, but Google gave me something much better. “Spur of the Moment” is, it turns out, the name of one of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone, an episode I’d only seen once but thought was really clever. In my head, it’s always been the “Face of Fear” episode, but that would have been way too heavy-handed as a title. Good thing Rod and Richard didn’t ask 18-month-old me!

“Spur of the Moment” was Season 5, episode 21, originally aired on February 21, 1964. As soon as I saw it in the search results, I set my slice-writing aside, went to Hulu and watched the episode. It holds up well enough, I guess. It’s not “The Invaders,” or “Eye of the Beholder” or anything, but it works. As was true when I saw it the first time, what really stands out for me is the repetition-with-a-twist of the opening scene. I like that shift in perspective, like using the same image to say something very different.

Ending my unplanned evening with an unplanned re-acquaintance with some classic TV. My variety of spontaneity is pretty seriously boring! But it pleases me.

Are you a “spur of the moment” kind of person? What things have you done spontaneously? Is your history with spontaneity as undramatic as mine? Do tell!



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!

Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

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My introduction on Saturday to erasure poems has spawned an obsession. At our pair session yesterday, my mentee and I — in between lots of storytelling and laughter — tried our hands at it again. And then I went home and “wrote” another. During the pair session, I used an article about Brazil from a travel magazine. My night time source text was the editor’s note in the Family Circle magazine that showed up in my mailbox.

I neglected to say what an erasure poem is when I wrote about them on Saturday. Here’s the definition we were given to work from (which I realize as I look at it now that I haven’t actually followed at all!):

Erasure poems use a source text that is already written. For example, you can take a page of a book, and that would be your source text. You would then “erase” by crossing out the words you don’t want in your poem. Poems are created with what’s left after the words are erased without adding to it or rearranging parts of it. We preserve some phrasing, but we form new images, ideas, and meanings.

That makes more sense than what I did! I only used individual words, no phrases. That surely explains why my poems make no sense. But I still like them!

Here’s the one I “found” from the travel article:

Between the summer
sprawling, isolated miles
far beyond this coastline.
A tiny village
slice of perfect peace
an adventure
a boat ride
a room.
Beyond days
colorful, turquoise footpaths,
waterfalls.
Remote home.
Protected.
Wild.

I’ll try another now that I’ve actually read the instructions properly. We’ll see what emerges.

So here’s some craziness: I go on and on (and on) about poetry, about my inability to think of myself as a poet, of how self-conscious I am about writing poetry. Then how to explain the fact that I came very close to applying for a poetry fellowship this week? I found out about it only a few hours before the deadline, and that’s the only reason I didn’t apply. I didn’t have enough time to find folks to be my references and to write my letter of intent. That’s all that held me back. Not my terror of poetry or of calling myself a poet. What was I thinking? How weird is that? I honestly don’t know what to make of my actions. What will I do next?

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This past April, I didn’t write a single poem. And maybe that doesn’t matter, but it does, too. Every April since 2008 I’ve written poems. Every April since 2009, I’ve done a poem a day for the month. But this year I couldn’t make it happen. My poetry brain shut down. Part of that, surely, was rustiness — for writing in general, but definitely for poetry. I kicked myself over it. A lot. But I finally had to just let it go. It was clear that I wasn’t going to produce any poems, and I needed to move on. I had another knee surgery looming on my horizon, and I had work to do. So I moved on.

But it still ate at me.

And then today, for our third Girls Write Now genre workshop, we wrote poetry. Specifically, found poetry. No matter how many poems I write, writing poetry scares me. Always and always. And, at the close of a year in which I failed to meet my annual poetry challenge, I was more scared than I would usually be. But I have such a good time working with my mentee*, I was looking forward to today’s workshop, despite the looming threat of poetry. Our guest presenter was the amazing poet, Rupi Kaur, and she led us through the creation of our first poem of the day. She wanted us to respond to a series of questions … from the point of view of wallpaper. When she said it, my brain immediately relaxed. Because I could write anything, right? As wallpaper, there was no pressure. I didn’t need to make sense, didn’t need to be clever or “right,” I could just go with whatever came into my head. She asked questions such as, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” and “How do you feel?” And I tried to just write my answers, not worry overmuch about the line that came before or whether or not the end result would amount to anything. And the end result gets weird in places, but it works, too:

In Situ

I am thick with dried glue, stuck fast to plaster
I am lonely — who looks here? Who really sees me?
To flap free in wind, a flag proclaiming a nation …
instead, here — these dry frames blocking the sun, nails in my eyes.
I could have wrapped novels, embraced classics.
Where will I go when the family leaves, the renovation begins?
If only my stripes and curves had value, were valued —
if only I hadn’t bent to the axe blade, given myself to the pulper.
There was shine and power in that new roll,
but that doesn’t excuse bringing my sisters with me.
My sisters, who could have made their own choices.

And then moonlight drapes over me, a silver renewal, washing clean.
I feel myself then — all adornment, all quiet civility —
here, gilding these walls, creating comfort, home.

It’s weird (and that title is annoying), but there are bits that I like. And overall, I like the reminder: that I can put words together however they come together, that I don’t have to agonize over everything all the time, that I am allowed to write things that don’t work and don’t make sense and won’t stand the test of … well … anything. And it doesn’t matter. I can write nonsense and move on to the next thing. I’m amazed at how easily and often I forget that, how adeptly I construct barriers between myself and my writing.

After the wallpaper musing, we worked on erasure poems, taking texts and “finding” our poems within them by crossing out (erasing) the words we don’t want in our poem. And I found a magazine article about making cheese … and created two poems that make no sense at all but which I like very much.

(Untitled 1)

This story, perfect storm.
Community, all, fair weather,
able.
Now made the bargain
opportunities
independent,
opportunity learned.
You —
with specifics,
craft.

(Untitled 2)

I came one day —
delicious-looking.
I asked. He said.
Continued making, starting,
following, famous.

I didn’t know our privilege.
I found minutes
realized opportunity,
a hands-on reality.

She agreed.
They would.
I needed, I could.
I worked truly,
indirectly,
next.

A fun day for this rusty, gun-shy girl. Before leaving the workshop, I grabbed an article about Brazil from a travel mag … I feel more erasure poems coming on!

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* I have a new mentee! Naima, who I had the absolute pleasure of working with these last three years, graduated in June and is now off in college. So, in September, I was paired with Sara … and I completely adore her.

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I had a ridiculously late lunch yesterday, walking out of my building at 3:15 to find something I could buy and eat quickly enough to be ready for a 4pm meeting.¹ I walked outside, turned the corner and immediately saw a man coming up the block. It took a nanosecond for my brain to do the processing:

I turned the corner and immediately saw a good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

familiar good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

familiar-because-he’s-famous good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

IT’S NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON!

Seriously. Neil deGrasse Tyson, in all his smooth-walking, self-assured glory. Dr. I-Make-Astrophysics-Crazy-Cool. Dr. I’m-in-a-Superman-Comic Tyson.²

Oh, do I need to tell you I am a science geek and Tyson fangirl?

But I was calm. Ish. I neither stopped walking and pointed frantically nor threw myself at him. Sadly, however, I couldn’t quite function well enough to either take out my phone and snap a pick, or better still, take out my phone and ask to take a selfie with him. Alas. All I could do was stare (yes, very cool). He gave me a knowing smirk and kept it moving.

Neil deGrass Tyson, people!

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”

Is it any wonder I was starstruck? As Dr. Tyson so grandly informs us, he’s made of “star stuff.”


 

It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

SOL image 2014

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¹ Ha! As if I could kid you that I had anything in mind other than pizza!

² No, really. He charted the location of Krypton for the Man of Steel.

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