Category Archives: Wordy Awesomeness of the Day

Most Common Mistakes: Animate Body Parts – Helping Writers Become Authors

“What do we get out of this exchange, other than Elle’s stubborn resistance to having a catfish chew on her arm?”

OK, if the title didn’t, THAT little gem has to get you — how do you not click immediately to read the excerpt that inspired a glorious sentence like that? You don’t. I mean, you do. Click, that is…

Oh, just click already; it’s K. M. Weiland, how do you go wrong there?!

(You don’t!)

via Most Common Mistakes: Animate Body Parts – Helping Writers Become Authors.

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“It Writes the Words or It Gets the Hose” -OR- Why Kristin Lamb is Awesome

So, you know Kristin Lamb? I was just looking at…

No? No, seriously? Kristin Lamb? #MyWANA?

Oh, honey, you gotta get out more. Or stay in more. Or something.


Anyway, I was just  looking at a recent post, “Ten ways for an ADD writer to be… OOH! SHINY!… Productive.” Now, first of all, this is a great post. GREAT post. Something for everyone (at least everyone who doesn’t have iron clad focus, which is most of us to one degree or another.)  My favorite tip is her “Swiss Cheese Approach,” which is the same general idea as “Knock a Hole In It” — everything looks easier after you hack some chunks out of it. The really important point is this: once you have a solid sense of all the parts of a project, you do not have to start at the beginning. Unless you’re in construction — in which case yes, please, start with the foundation. But otherwise, if the very first part holds no appeal, by all means, knock a hole somewhere else. 

Then, somewhat by the way as a sort of We Are Not Alone inspiration, Kristin Lamb wrote:

“It writes the words or it gets the hose.”

OH MY GOD. See, this probably seemed like just a quippety quip to her, something the muses flang her way in a moment of schmabulosity, but you don’t understand.

This is a line from “The Silence of the Lambs”. It is said to a character named Catherine Martin (played by Brooke Smith).

Catherine Martin is my HERO.

Now, the movie is not for everyone — what with the kidnapping and murder and eating of body parts with fava beans and a nice chianti — but Catherine Martin is, and here’s why:

In a nutshell, Catherine Martin is every straight-up awesome friend you have, driving back to her apartment complex one night, singing along to Tom Petty: “Oh yeah, all right, take it easy baby, make it last (make it last all night), she was an American girl…”.

She is, in fact, an American girl. Thus, when she arrives home, she is a) helpful enough and b) strong enough to take one end of the couch for the guy with the full arm cast who is trying (and failing) to heft it into his truck.

But she is an American girl. So if the bad guy is clever enough to get her into his truck and slam the door and take her to his spooky-a$$ lair and drop her down a dry well, he ought to be clever enough to know that you really shouldn’t kidnap an American girl and drop her down a dry well because she will lure your fluffy little one-stomp dog down there and she will kill it if you don’t let her out.

Oughtn’t he? He ought.

Catherine Martin is why “it writes the words or it gets the hose” is so brilliant as a motivator. Because when Catherine Martin hears those infuriating words (which, in the film, are actually “it uses the lotion or it gets the hose” but that’s a whole other story) she does not cringe or cower. (Much.) For the most part, she’s just mad as hell. And she’s using all that anger as fuel while she plots her escape. Which involves a healthy dose of revenge, because guess what?

She keeps the bad guy’s dog.


So “it writes the words or it gets the hose” works for me. Not because of the hose. Because screw you, that’s why.

Oh, and, P.S.?

I’m keeping the novel.

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“We interrupt this grammar for an important message about words…”

Here’s the message: we invented words so we could communicate with ourselves and each other. That’s all. Everything else we do with words comes back either to exercising that principle or complicating the hell out of it and getting into such ridiculous arguments that we no longer wish to communicate at all! So let’s all take a step back and reconsider why we love these little nuggets of meaning.

Words are like seedlings: an NPR interview with  Iron and Wine‘s Sam Beam 

On the similarities between songwriting and making films

“There are definitely a lot of narrative elements, but I’m not worried about people understanding exactly what’s happening. I treat it more like a poem, and if there’s a certain feeling or a certain wordplay or some kind of cognitive tension, I’ll go for that.”

On the physicality of lyrical wordplay

“I think it’s important — the way that [words fall] out of your mouth. I find that a lot of times I’ll come up with the seedlings of a song just by fooling around with the guitar or the piano and muttering nonsense, you know, just syllables at random. Sometimes you stumble upon a word or a phrase, and it’s like a coat hanger. All of a sudden, you have something to start hanging other phrases and stuff on. But they’re all different. Sometimes you have a clear idea of what you’re getting into when you start, and sometimes you’re just fishing.”

via Iron And Wine: Words Like Seedlings : NPR.

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Filed under The Power of Language, Wordy Awesomeness of the Day

NERD Nerd o’ the Day

This little bit if awesome does not precisely fit the Word Nerd category, but I can’t help it. I heard an interview (NPR, natch) about this unbelievable event, and in honor of its gorious nerdosity, I nominate as Dispatches from Wordnerdia‘s NERDnerd O’ The Day… Former U.S. Attorney Patrick “Last Honorable Man” Fitzgerald!

(And why didn’t I nominate any of the other dudes involved in this thing? Because P. Fitzy is funnier than all of ’em combined. And also pretty easy on the eyes. What, he is!)

ANYway, what did Attorney Fitzgerald do to deserve this humbling honor?

Get this:

“Star litigators in Chicago are preparing to retry a controversial 2,400-year-old free speech case that famously resulted in the death of Socrates, now considered the father of Greek philosophy, when he drank a cup of poisonous hemlock.”

(Did you hear that? That momentary silence? That was the sound of a million nerdy hearts skipping a beat.)

This is a fundraiser for the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago, and popular demand for the event is such that they’ve already moved it to a larger hall. If you’re in Chicago and you have a spare $100 lying around… send it to me! Or, sure, I guess you could go to the trial. If you do, please congratulate Attorney Fitzgerald on his Major Award from Wordnerdia! (Leg lamp not included.)

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An article about publishing articles written the way articles should be written. Or something.

“Skeuomorphism is traditionally attached to design decisions. We bring the mechanical camera shutter sound to digital cameras because it feels good. We render paper page flips in our digital reading applications because it’s familiar.”

via Subcompact Publishing — by Craig Mod.

Read that over again.

OK, let me tell you two things about that short paragraph.

First, it does not come after a definition of “skeuomorphism”. It’s slung into the middle of the article without even a how-d’ye-do.

Second, it’s better than any dictionary definition.

Third… OK, I guess it’s three things.

Third, the mental exercise you’ve just gone through, figuring out what a ridiculous-looking word like “skeuomorphism” might mean based on what at first looks like zero evidence? And then feels like “more than ample” evidence? And then reveals itself as that elusively elegant “just barely enough” evidence that I’d kill to have written myself? Yeah, you have to do that for the whole article. Genius.

This is not the “tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em — tell ’em — tell ’em what you told ’em” essay we all learned to write in high school. This is something else entirely.

I used to tutor at the Northeastern University Writing Canter, one of my many duties as a graduate slave. I particularly liked this one, because I got to work with many EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students and learn how other languages arrange themselves. One student I worked with was Japanese, and was having trouble with the blunt, ham-fisted American thesis structure.

In Japanese writing, she told me, elegant prose does not just BLAH the main point right off the bat. Elegant writing speaks around the topic, leading the reader to a very satisfying “aha!” moment at the conclusion. And you’ve gotta admit — readers are far less likely to say “so what?” to a point they’ve seemingly arrived at themselves.

That’s what Craig Mod is doing here — leading us through examples that contribute to but do not entirely define the topic. Its up to us to build the thing as we go along.

Give yourself a treat — set aside some time to read this slowly, and truly appreciate the writing skill involved.

Oh — also you might be interested in the information about compact publishing. I guess.

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Ruth Carter: Amazon Best Seller!

Now, this is really exciting.

I had a blast working with Ruth, and the book, The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Fired, Sued, Arrested, or Killed, is really great.

And now it’s an Amazon best seller!

NOT only that, but Ruth put her editor and her cover designer in the meta data for the book! That’s super kind.

Mazel tov to Ruth!

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Word Nerd o’ The Day: Ed Norton!

Wordnerdians! Please join me in a collective “Squee!” for our Word Nerd o’ The Day, Mr. Edward Norton!

Norton, already a well-known Actor and Sexy Person, has revealed his Inner Nerd by organizing a Words With Friends Celebrity Challenge for Charity. Celebrity contestants include Ed Norton, and… whatever, some other people.

Now, I might or might not have a little thing for Ed Norton. Maybe. But even if he weren’t so sexy, he would still be nerdy — what kind of mind is settling back in First Class, getting a manicure and a foot rub (or whatever happens in first class) and suddenly thinks, “You know, I’d like to raise some money for charity. Hmm… got it! Words with Friends!”

I’ll tell you what kind of mind. A nerdy one. So congratulations, Ed Norton, for your generosity, ingenuity and, MOST important, your Word Nerd o’ The Day award* from Dispatches from Wordnerdia!


*Actual award not included.


Eva Longoria, Kristen Bell and more compete in Words With Friends Celebrity Challenge – Zap2it

Eight celebrities are taking on a cerebral challenge for charity by playing Words With Friends against each other. Organized by Edward Norton, the seven other celebs include NBA-er Paul Pierce, actress Kristen Bell, actor Jonah Hill, rapper Snoop Lion, actress Sophia Bush, singer John Legend and actress Eva Longoria.

You can help, by joining a celebrity team and playing Words With Friends now through Oct. 3. Each word you play gives your celebrity pick a chance to earn more money for their charity.

Charities include Harlem Grown, the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and several more. And in case you’re wondering why famous Words With Friends player Alec Baldwin isn’t participating, Norton tells the AP, “Next year, for sure, if I have any say in it. I’m going to win this year, so adding him to the mix next year will make it interesting for me.”

via Eva Longoria, Kristen Bell and more compete in Words With Friends Celebrity Challenge – Zap2it.


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Filed under The Power of Language, Wordy Awesomeness of the Day

Write like you’ve got a slow-mo bullet tumbling toward your head and you can’t get out of the way.

Okaaay… seriously?

Yes. YES! If you have never seen Ze Frank’s An Invocation for Beginnings, go watch that. We’ll wait.

(Jeopardy theme…)

OK, got it? Now go read Chuck Wendig’s 25 Of My Personal Rules For Writing And Telling Stories. And I will NOT wait. Because you won’t be coming back here, you’ll be racing to your writer’s bolthole to get all weird and writer-y and FINISH THAT STORY ALREADY.

After that, read everything Chuck Wendig has ever written because it’s awesome.

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Wordy Awesomeness of the Day

Today’s wordy awesomeness from Mike Reeves-McMillan, a writer from Auckland, New Zealand. Rumor has it he does the Haka (Maori war dance) off his front porch every morning. His neighbors declined to comment.


Mike Reeves-McMillan12:03 AM  –  Public
From the current WIP. A debate is going on about where to put some refugees.
“So the Tussocklands are unclaimed territory?”
“Completely unclaimed. Nobody wants them, and as at now, nobody has them.”
“They sound ideal.”
“Well, except for the tussock flies.”
“Tussock flies,” said the general.
“Yes, they bite, I’m told.”
“Bite? What do they eat normally?”
“Tussock birds, I imagine.”
“And could we eat these tussock birds?”
“They taste unpleasantly of tussock.”
“Wonderful. And, of course, the military are going to be encamped there longer than anyone.”
“I keep you around for your keen ability to predict strategic situations,” said Determined.
Got some Wordy Awesomeness you’d like to share? Click the “Contact” link and send it right along! Who knows, you might be awesome enough to be featured in a Dispatch from Wordnerdia!

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June 21, 2012 · 1:55 pm