Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “writing”

A to Z Challenge Reflection and Celebration-My 100th Post

survivor_[2013]

Today is Double Whammy Day! I got my A to Z April 2013 Survivor badge, then wrote this reflection post to make my 100th post. Double celebration!

100posts[1]

I participated in the 2012 A to Z Challenge and loved it. I was a new blogger then and needed the push challenge that the A to Z gave me. I didn’t think I had twenty-six ideas to write about, and I didn’t think I could keep up the pace. But I did, and I did.

I continued blogging for six months after the 2012 A to Z ended, then took a break because of family health issues. When the 2013 A to Z Challenge turned up this year, I jumped in the deep end. I love the challenge to write on a regular basis, and the discipline keeps me going. I like this year’s theme focus and decided to write about a not-so-popular topic, grammar. I have always loved grammar and feel bad when people disparage it. I want to make grammar fun and powerful for writers. (This will take a while!)

Like many of us, I have met new friends through interesting blogs. I wish I had so much more time to read what everyone has to say. I love the travel and photography blogs, the cooking blogs, the nonfiction blogs, and the whimsical blogs. I read as many writing blogs as I can, and read through everything that appears in my WordPress reader based on my categories of interest. I love making new discoveries and meeting new people. And I love reading the wide variety of writing styles. Such talented people! I am impressed.

I commented on many posts, but “liked” a lot more. Commenting is good, but I also like to read widely, so I had to work out a compromise on how many comments I could write. Besides answering comments on my own posts took time, too.

New ideas for posts come floating at me as I read other posts. Now I have way more than twenty-six ideas to write about!

For my X post, I wrote “X is for X-It (exit) Strategy,” a reflection post on A to Z itself. I wrote out ideas for how to keep my blog going and how to clean-up my blog a bit.

Special thanks to the organizers of A to Z, Arlee Bird and assistants. I think you have helped a lot of bloggers move from being baby bloggers at the starting point to becoming more mature bloggers. We Are Not Alone (Kristen Lamb). We learn from each other.

Thanks to my new blogger friends. I hope we can keep in touch.

And now, care to join a new challenge?  My new friend at The Sock Zone posted about this one, The Blog Every Day in May Challenge, and I jumped right in.

BlogEverday[1]

Now for your bedtime reading, here’s a list of my 2013 A to Z Posts.

Bye for now. =<^;^>=  See you in the 2014 Challenge…and hopefully before!

V is for. . . Vampires Invade Grammar World

V-Day in the A to Z Challenge!a-to-z-letters-2013

Four days left in the challenge, but there are some tough letters yet to come: W, X, Y, Z.

Let’s have a go at V.

Karen Elizabeth Gordon, author of The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, loves vampires, demons, gargoyles, mastodons, and other dark creatures of the night.

Why? Because she thinks they can teach us about grammar.

001 (8)Originally published in 1984, a new edition of this book was released in 1993. Evidently there were more monsters to be found in the deep, dark, dank grammar cellar. Despite its age, The Transitive Vampire holds the number 53 spot of best selling grammar books on Amazon.com. Monsters do not slink away, it seems.

Gordon has a positive use for the gnarly “menange of revolving lunatics” that invade her book, and that is to teach grammar to the wary. Even her definition of grammar has demons in it.

Grammar is a sine qua non of language, placing its demons in the light of sense, sentencing them to the plight of prose.

And the lunatics? Their stories and digressions lead through a formidable labyrinth, through the dark tunnel of myths and mistakes to the light at the end of the tunnel: pure and lovely understanding of grammar. A feat not lightly accomplished.

The creatures teach about sentences. Here is a little tasty bite for your chewing pleasure. First subjects of sentences:

 There were fifty-five lusterless vampires  dismantling the schloss.

Predicates:

The werewolf     had a toothache.
The persona non gratia    was rebuked.

Gordon marches her vampires and demons through the parts of speech (“verbs are the heartthrob of sentences”) up through phrases and clauses, and ends with comma splices and the creation of sentences.

Go ahead. Get this book and keep it on your nightstand. Read some of it every night. The artwork and the characters will keep you turning the pages well into the witching hours, and you will have such pleasant dreams about grammar. *devilish laugh here* *wolf howls in the distance* *skeleton bones rattle*

001 (11)

Gordon also wrote The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, 19981 and 1993. This book is guaranteed to entertain as you review the rules of punctuation you learned in grammar school but promptly forgot.

The Last Meow.

monster catMonsters? Demons? Ha. We can play that game. Check us out!

Don’t mind that other kitty. She’s just a scaredy-cat.

Meow for now.  ={`;`}=

cat is it Friday

U is for Use, Usage, Utilize, and other Useful and Utilitarian Units

a-to-z-letters-2013What with all the rules about grammar, usage, and style, it’s a wonder anyone can get anything down on paper. Fortunately, native-born English speakers have internalized the rules and can speak and write from intuitive knowledge of how words work together in sentences. Any time we have a question about correctness, we can just pull our our handy reference manuals or go online to find the information we need. Or better yet, we can just let our editors fix the glitches in our writing.

What? You don’t have an editor?

Well, I don’t either, but my grammar-picky husband steps in and whacks at my writing. Sometimes he’s even right.

Grammar Reference Books and Textbooks

Good writers do use grammar reference books, and proofreaders and editors keep a large stock of them on hand. My own rather extensive collection starts with one first published in 1926. Here’s its classic opening sentence:

The Doorway to English is an outgrowth of a need of the classroom teacher of English who has been struggling long to achieve results in quality of speech from textbooks instead of making technique contribute to the quality of better speech. Almost any teacher of English can readily distribute the technique in orderly fashion through the respective grades, but few teachers are capable of allotting through a definite period of instruction the expanding qualities of good speech. L. Rader and P. Deffendall, The Doorway to English, Fifth Book, 1926.

What? Strunk and White, authors of The Elements of Style, would definitely not give this textbook writer an A for clarity.

Of course, some reference manuals vary in their pronouncements and create long-standing, hard-core devotees and crusaders, maybe even Grammar Police and Grammar Nazis.

One good example is the controversy over the serial comma, or the Oxford comma as the Brits call it. Do you use a comma after the second word in a series before the and?  Journalists frown on the use of the serial comma; academic writers adore it. Chicago Manual of Styles says yes, use it. APA says no, don’t use it. What’s a writer to do? Most writers follow what they were taught in junior high and high school, then look for evidence and authorities to support that position.

Usage and Style

Grammar and usage are different. Grammar: how words should be used in sentences. Usage: how words are used in sentences.

It’s Prescriptivist Grammar (this is the way it should be) versus Descriptivist Grammar (this is the way it is.)

Style is how an individual author puts together his or her knowledge of grammar and usage in writing.

A college professor, for example, would use a more formal, politically correct style in presenting his final report to the college president on, “The  Liberalization of the Humanities Department through the Utilization of Descriptivism in Chauvinistic Literature.”

The teenager writing on Internet uses a more informal style: mysterious acronyms that confound mature readers; pop idioms and slang; and improper spelling of there, they’re, and their, and your and you’re.

Here’s an example of a style suggestion from Strunk and White.

Avoid fancy words.

Although Strunk and White’s book does have it gallery of critics, it does offer helpful advice to developing writers. Their advice ranges from elementary rules of usage to the more hard-to-pinpoint style.

Why use a complex word when a simpler word will do? That college professor would do well to tone down his writing. The teenager will hopefully use a bit more formality in his academic writing.

The Last Meowcat editor

Hey, humans, why worry about all of this. We cats have our own grammar. The fuss that you make about these sticky details puts me to sleep. Get a life!   Meow for now.   =<^;^>=

And My Cat pic

L is for List of A to Z Challenge Posts, 2013, by Janice Heck

a-to-z-letters-2013This is a round-up of my posts in the 2013 A to Z Challenge (in progress). At this date, April 14, we are almost halfway to the finish line. At the end, all 26 posts will be listed here.

Updated May 1, 2013 at completion of A to Z Challenge.

Week 1
A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks 2013/4/1
B is for Blogging Bliss, Boohoos, and Booyahs  2013/4/2
C is for Complements and Compliments. So what. Who Cares?  2013/4/3
D is for Direct Object or Happy Birthday  2013/4/4
E is for Eats, Shoots and Leave: Punctuation matters  2013/4/5
F is for F.A.S.T: Know the Signs of Stroke. It Can Become Personal in An Instant 2013/4/6

Week 2
G is for Great Gobs of Grammas’ Grammar Goodies and Goofs  2013/04/08
H is for Hyper-Hyphenated Words Make Surprising Adjectives 2013/4/9
I is for Invented Spelling of Kids and Cats 2013/4/10
J is for Jabberwocky and Invented Words 2013/4/11
K is for Kernel Sentences: Nouns and Verbs Control the World  2013/04/12
L is for List of A to Z Challenge Posts, 2013, by Janice Heck   2013/04/13

Week 3
M is for Marathon (Boston Marathon, April 2013)   2013/04/15
N is for Nora’s Ark: In Times of Trouble, People Help People  2013/04/16
O is for Ocean City NJ: Boardwalk Pizza, Saltwater Taffy, Frozen Custard, Caramel Corn  2013/17/13 
P is for Parades, Pies, Pain–Ocean City Doo Dah Parade 2013/04/18
Q is for Quirky Dreams, Susie Q, and Prepositional Phrases  2013/04/19
R is for. . .  Reflexive Pronouns Cause A Ruckus   2013/04/20

Week 4
S is for Stats and Milestones-10,000 Views Milestone. WooHoo.  2013/04/24
S  is for Saturday Silliness. Where Do Cats Sleep (Reblog from 2012)
T is for Tikki-Tikki-Tembo Needs a Pronoun 
U is for  use, Usage, Utilize, and Other Useful and Utilitarian Units  2013/04/25
V is for Vampires Invade Grammar World 2013/04/26
W   is for Whose Woods These Are  2013/04/27
X is for X-It Strategy 2013/04/28
X Bonus Xena Warrior Puppy Helps Autistic Boy 2013/04/28

Week 5
Y is for Your, You’re, Y’all, Ya’ll, Yall, You All, You Guys, and Yakety Yak  2013/04/29 
Z  is for Zoomorphic Architecture: Cats Immortalized 2013/04/30

The Last MeowMonday Cat

Did you say today is Monday? How many days ’til Friday?

=<^  _  ^>=      Meow for now.

J is for Jabberwocky and Invented Words

a-to-z-letters-2013J-Day in the A to Z Challenge. That means it Thursday! That’s cool.already Thursday cat

Yesterday I wrote about invented spelling of kids and cats; today I’m writing about invented words by poets. How are these similar?

Kids use their developing knowledge of phonetics to sound out words as they write. Before they become proficient in formal spelling, they write strings of letters to represent individual whole words. Of course, they can “read” their own stories back to listening adults who can’t quite comprehend this early genius.

Invented words, on the other hand, combine familiar sounds with familiar word parts and word meanings to form new words.  Invented words also follow grammatical rules. Nonsense nouns, for example, can have an article, be a plural and/or a possessive, or have a noun ending. Nonsense verbs show past, present, or future tense. Adjectives fall into their place just before a noun.jabberwocky_340x400

One fairly well-known nonsense poem, “Jabberwocky,” is a poem written by Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-1898) in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872).

Alice is none other than the major character in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, the little girl who fell asleep on a riverbank and journeyed to another world, a strange one at that. (And Alice, it turns out, was a real person, the daughter of Dean Liddell, dean of Oxford University, and friend of Carroll.)

Things seem to be backwards in this strange world, so when Alice finds a strangely written book, she holds it in front of a mirror, and lo and behold, a story appears. Or is it a story?

            Jabberwocky

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mom raths outgrabe.
***
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
. . .

What? Even Alice, wise little one that she was, could not understand the poem. Alice meets up with Humpty Dumpty who explains the meaning of the poem.borogoves

brillig (noun)….four o’clock in the afternoon (tea-time?)
(the time to begin broiling something for dinner)
slithy (adj)…..lithe and slimy
toves (noun)…badger/lizard creatures with corkscrew tails and noses that can dig holes
gyre (verb)…..  go round and round
gimble (verb)… make holes
wabe (noun)…   in the grass

mimsy (adj)…flimsy and miserable
borogoves (noun)…shabby looking birds with mop-like feathers
raths  (noun)……sort of a green pig
mom (adj)…..lost, away from from home
outgrabe (verb)….. bellow and whistle, shriek and squeak

Does it make better sense now?

Around dinner time, all kinds of crazy things started happening! Weird-looking animals (toves, borogoves, and raths)  began doing strange things like digging holes and making a lot of noise. Maybe they sensed the frightful Jabberwocky lurking nearby!

So what. Who cares?

Nonsense poems have a long history. Some say they have been around since Aesop’s fables and early folk tales.  The writers play with words and present humorous scenes to stimulate the imaginations of readers. Sometimes hidden meanings lurk behind the words, as when jesters make fun of the ruling powers that be, when double meanings hide the true intent of the words. But as often as not, the words just tell a silly story. The words flow in a rhythmical and pleasing way and provide entertainment for listeners.

The Last Meow

Jabberwocky. Smabberwocky. Enough of that nonsense. How about getting me a snack? All this educational stuff tires my brain.

Meow for now.   =<^-^>=weekend cat

C is for… Complements and Compliments: So What? Who Cares?

a-to-z-letters-201326 letters of the alphabet, 26 days, 26 posts (Sundays are freebee days. *clap* clap* clap.*)

My theme for 2013: Writing PLUS Grammar You Can See

A strong knowledge of grammar helps writers produce more effective writing; more effective writing improves communication.

Each post will feature one aspect of writing with a grammar connection. Most posts will include a “So What? Who Cares?” section and a “Goals/Suggestions” section.  The goals won’t be to just write more; anyone can do that. The goal will be to write better.

Along the way, I plan to throw in a cat or two. Sorry, they just have a way of sneaking into my blogs.

C is for Complements and Compliments:  So What? Who Cares?

Complements and compliments often get mixed up in writing; in fact, these two words are on many common error in writing lists. This is a usage problem, not a grammar problem. Personally, I prefer compliments, but complements can be very effective in writing when used wisely.

Usage: complement and compliment

Usage is the customary way we use words in Standard Written English. Unfortunately, we sometimes switch words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings. Complement and compliment are two of these commonly confused words. The chart below summarizes definitions, examples, and memory tricks to help avoid this mix-up.

001

Grammar: Complement

Everyone loves compliments, but the word compliment is not a grammatical term, so we can drop that word from our discussion.  Complement, on the other hand, is a much more functional term. It is a grammatical term, and it has the power to improve your writing skills.

A complement is a word or group of words that, with the verb, complete the structure and meaning in the predicate of a sentence. (Webster’s) Complements take two forms: predicate nouns and predicate adjectives. Both give more information about the subject of the sentence. Both fall in a common sentence pattern:  S  +   LV   +   C.

001 (2)

Just as little children learn language patterns through listening and speaking without ever learning the grammatical terminology, we have learned about subject complements without having to memorize the terms.

So What? Who Cares?

You already know about complements intuitively from using our language for so many years, so why bother to review this?  Why? Because complements affect style in writing, and style sets you apart from other writers.

 Style

Everyone learns about basic sentence structure in the elementary grades. Even with snow days, field trips, bomb scares, and tie-dying days thrown in to interrupt the teaching schedules, everyone seems to learn about the basic sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Students and writers use these types of sentences in their writing without even thinking about the terms. Yet those writers who do know these terms and how they function learn to manipulate their sentence structure and vocabulary to have a stronger impact on their readers. Here is how you can do this, too.

1.       Count your izzes and wazzes, then exchange these weak verbs for stronger ones.

Complements require the use of linking verbs, thus these verbs become very repetitive. Because they are so overused, they are weak. Count how many times you use linking verbs in your sentences, and you will discover an opportunity to sharpen your writing.

Bliss in blizzardMr. Terry is a hiker.

Mr. Terry hikes on the Appalachian Trail even when a blizzard swirls around him.

2.        Choose more specific adjectives. Add specific detail.

“Show, don’t tell” is a common piece of advice for writers. When we replace weak adjectives with stronger verbs and add more specific detail, we strengthen our writing.

Mr. Terry is tired. He is stumbling through the deep snow.

Mr. Terry trudges through the deep snow of the Appalachian Trail, moving only a few yards before he has to rest on his walking poles.

3.         Introduce word pairs and trios in place of vague adjectives and try them in different places.

Mr. Terry is tired.

Mr. Terry is stumbling through the snow, breathing heavily, and mumbling to himself. He is panicking because the storm has intensified, and he cannot see the next trail marker.

Stumbling through the snow, breathing heavily, and mumbling to himself, Mr. Terry panics when he can’t locate the next trail marker.

4.       Use comparisons: similes and metaphors.

Initially students write common comparisons, but we can encourage them to use original comparisons.

Mr. Terry is as tired as an old man after working all day.

Mr. Terry feels as tired as a hiker on Mount Everest without a Sherpa to carry his overstuffed backpack.

Feeling as tired as a hiker on Mount Everest without a Sherpa to carry his overstuffed backpack, Mr. Terry falls into a deep sleep in a mountain shelter near the trail.

Half the fun of writing is manipulating words and sentences to make them more interesting. Have fun with complements. I’m sure you’ll do a good job. That’s a compliment!

The Last Meow

And My Cat...in the snowHere’s a little kitty that loves the snow.

Writers and cats go together like chocolate and peanuts. Here’s a link to a post I wrote last year entitled, Cat-A-Log of Cat Crimes against Writers. You might enjoy reading about these crime perpetuators. https://janiceheck.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/a-to-z-c-is-for-cat-a-log-of-cat-crimes-against-writers/

Alison at alisonamazed likes kitties, too. Her post has a neat video of a cat leading a dog on a leash back to their home.

http://alisonamazed.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/a-z-gratitude-c-is-for-cats/

A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks

a-to-z-letters-2013

Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Challenge where bloggers write a series of 26 posts during the month of April.
This year our faithful organizers encouraged hope-filled A-Z participants to develop a theme for posts rather than posting on random topics as many of us did last year.
My theme for this year is . . .

Writing PLUS Grammar You Can See.

Through the month of April, I plan to give examples of how a strong knowledge of grammar can help writers produce more effective writing. More effective writing improves communication.

Along the way, I plan to throw in a cat or two. Sorry, they just have a way of sneaking into my blogs.
And now with a *blast of the trumpet* and a *roll on the snare drum*, we begin with . . .

A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks

Pigs Little Three
Bad Wolf Big
Little Hood Riding Red

Did you grimace when you read these familiar characters?
Take a common phrase and mix up the adjectives, and it sounds like an off-key prima donna singing an aria at the Met. Our ears tell us something just isn’t right.

Parents read nursery rhymes and classic stories to their wee ones over and over and over and over, a trillion times in parent-count, to calm them at bed-time. At the same time, they unwittingly teach their little sponges unspoken rules for how our language works. Diaper-wearing toddlers learn the order of adjectives as they babble away practicing their early communication skills.

three pigs LGBMom reads The Three Little Pigs.
Rule: Adjectives come before nouns. (They can also be in two other places, but that’s for another post.)
Rule: Number adjectives come before size adjectives

Pattern: Adjective, adjective, adjective noun.

Dad reads Little Red Riding Hood.
Rule: size comes before color.

little-red-riding-hood-ladybird-book-first-favourite-tales-gloss-hardback-1999-1553-pChildren learn these rules seemingly by osmosis so teachers never have to teach about correct order of adjectives in school. Adjective order flows naturally in their speaking patterns without ever having to learn the official linguistic rules.

Order of adjectives is generally only a problem for non-native English speakers whose own language may have a different word order.

And yes, there is a prescribed order for adjectives. If you think about it for a bit, you can probably come up with the rules. But I’ll save you some time and give the order to you here:

1. determiners: a, an, the this, that, these, those his, hers, ours, yours several, ten, some
2. judgment (opinion, observation): beautiful, delicious, obnoxious, immature
3. physical description (fact: size, shape, age, color): small, round, ancient, golden
4. origin: Greek, Italian, Chinese, Mexican
5. composition: cotton, silk, metal, wooden
6. other specific qualifier related to the function or purpose noun . . .men’s clothing, children’s shoes
and finally, ta dah, *drum roll*, the NOUN.

Teacher-pleasing elementary students love to write lengthy sentences loaded with adjectives. Let them have their fun.

Giant, bushy-tailed anteaters with long, sticky tongues and elongated snouts vacuum up their mid-day snack of crunchy, tasty, black ants.
giant anteater
Toothless, armor-plated, Texan and South American armadillos roam around in the pitch-black, moon-less nights but roll up into balls when threatened by ravenous predators.
armadillow
That chunky African aardvark with the round, stubby, pig-like snout, catches ants with its long, inelegant sticky tongue.
aardvark

Bierce cover largeFor additional thoughts on order of adjectives, read all about “Frozen Yogurt with Adjectives on Top” by Jan Freeman, author of Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic’s Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers. http://throwgrammarfromthetrain.blogspot.com/2012/08/frozen-yogurt-with-adjectives-on-top.html

So what? Who cares? Why do writers have to think about order of adjectives?
Writing instructors say, “Show, don’t tell,” encouraging writers to give more detail in their writing, but writers need to use adjectives more selectively than those eager-beaver elementary students.

Zinsser, On Writing WellWilliam Zinsser, author of On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, says this about adjectives:

Most writers sow adjectives almost unconsciously into the soil of their prose to make it more lush and pretty, and the sentences become longer and longer as they fill up wih stately elms and frisky kittens and hard-bitten detectives and sleepy lagoons. This is adjective-by-habit — a habit you should get rid of.

Goals for Using Adjectives in Writing
1. Use adjectives selectively. Piles of adjectives bore your readers. They skip over them to get to the action in your story or to the gist of your article. Don’t be like those adjective-abusing, but fun-loving elementary students.  Use fresh, original, surprising adjectives in your writing.
2. Get rid of common adjectives (nice, pretty, lovely, romantic, exciting). They have no place in your writing because they show nothing. Instead practice writing original similes and metaphors. Look for posts on S and M, oops, I mean similes and metaphors in the future. In the meantime, Catherine Johnson posts metaphors and metaphor-generating pictures on “Metaphor Mondays.” Look there for fresh ideas.

The Last Meow

And now a word from Grumpy Cat. Too bad the meme writer didn’t go to school on the day the teacher taught about apostrophesGumpry Cay-meme-wrong apostrophes and contractions. Oh well, there’s  always room for another blog post on the proper use of these elementary, confounding constructions.

Oh great. Now the Three Little Kittens are fussing because I haven’t given them any airtime. Sometimes you just can’t win.

N is for Newsletter

Once every three months, I publish a twelve to fourteen page newsletter for our 55+ community.  I have been working on the current edition for the past few days and hope to finish it tonight before midnight, my self-imposed deadline.

When I work on the newsletter, I have to set everything else aside, and that includes writing blogs for the A to Z Blog Challenge, reading blogs, Tweeting, house cleaning (good excuse for a not-so-neat house, yes?), cooking, and socializing. However,  tonight I took a break for dinner and went to Chili’s for fajitas with my down-the-street friends. Delicious.

One proofreader, my picky husband, has already had his chance to catch errors on the first draft of the newsletter. My second proofreader will get the newsletter in her mailbox in the morning. I’ll do corrections tomorrow, then take it to the printer on Thursday.

I enjoy working on MS Publisher to produce this newsletter, but every time I think I have mastered the software, I run into a new problem. (Something like blogging, I think.)

For this issue, one advertiser sent her ad as an Adobe pdf file. Try as I might, I could not save that ad to the right folder in my pictures files. When I finally found it lurking in another folder, I couldn’t get it to budge out of there to go to the spot I had selected in the newsletter.  After thirty minutes of frustration, I realized I could just scan a print copy of the pdf and insert the ad using my normal procedures. There’s more than one way to place an ad!

Now, in the final production stages of  this issue (Vol 6, Issue 2), I can begin to think about other things coming up: a visit from my brother and sister-in-law this weekend. Dang, I’d better get back to the house cleaning. What? Dear husband, you did it already. Awww, aren’t you the sweet one!

Oh, now my blogger buddies tell me I am one day behind on the A to Z bit? Oh dear. Oh my. What will I write for the letter “O”?  Don’t worry, I have been saving a special “O” for the challenge. Maybe I’ll even catch up by midnight. Or maybe not.

YOUR TURN

How are you doing on the A to Z Blog Challenge? Are you able to keep up the blog-a-day challenge?

Writers at Play: The Lucky 7 Meme

I mentioned in an earlier blog (They Laughed When I Started to Twitter) that writers have fun tweeting and blogging. Of course, sometimes these distractions keep us from doing what we should be doing.  Or maybe we just, plain and simple, procrastinate. Whatever.

The Lucky 7 Meme is one good example of the fun we have. Well,  Elaine Smothers (www.elainesmothers.wordpress.com) calls the Lucky 7 Meme a zombie virus, but no matter. And though this is supposed to be lucky, my personal Writer Troll thought otherwise. (Read more about the Writer Troll on Myndi Shafer’s blog- www.myndishafer.wordpress.com.) With the Troll’s help, WordPress hiccupped and produced seven non-identical draft versions of this post on my dashboard! Lucky me. I had to sort through the unlucky seven to find the latest version. Fooled him though. I found it.

Special thanks to Judythe Morgan (www.judythewriter.wordpress.com)  for the Lucky 7 Meme nomination!

Here are the game rules for Lucky 7 Meme:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP.

2. Go to line 7.

3. Copy the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.

4. If your WIP doesn’t have 77 pages, you can post 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs from page 7.

5. Tag 7 other writers and let them know.

So far in the Lucky 7 Meme event, I have read well-written, attention-getting excerpts from novels of my writer friends. But alas, I do not write crime novels, murder mysteries, historical fiction, memoirs,  romance, westerns, YA, or kidlit.

I write nonfiction about (are you ready for this?) teaching writing and grammar to struggling and unmotivated students! How’s that for excitement, mystery, intrique, danger, romance, inspiration, or whatever?

Yes, I teach students with learning disabilities, behavior and emotional problems, and even drug and alcohol problems. Some of these students are high school dropouts. Some have zero or less interest in education and routinely challenge the purpose behind assignments. “Why do we have to do this?”  Others don’t mind writing; it’s the revising and editing they don’t like.

Some want to take the GED (General Educational Development-high school equvalency test), and for this they must write an essay and complete a multiple-choice test on writing conventions. They must also take tests in reading, math, science, and social studies. By the time they get ready to take the GED, they know they need help!

The pages of my WIP are not numbered yet. Rather I have them in chapters printed out in notebooks. Here is an excerpt that comes from page 7. The working title is Grammar You Can See: Strategies for Helping Struggling and Unmotivated Students. My sister, Judie Rush, my biggest fan and director of a local GED program, keeps bugging me about when “The Book” will be finished, but I manage to avoid commitment each time she asks. One of these days, I promise. But right now I have to break up this nasty argument between the Lucky 7 Meme and my Writer Troll. Why can’t they get along?

***

“Noun? What’s a noun?”  Paul asks.

Paul, a thirty-year-old high school dropout, drifted through elementary and junior high, then quit high school at his first opportunity. Now, as an adult with young children of his own, he is determined to give himself (and his children) a better life, so he has enrolled in a school district-sponsored GED prep program that’s hidden in the dimly-lit basement of the local library. He meets almost daily with twenty or more dropouts (some teens, some adults in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, and one in his 60s!) to work individually or in small groups on basic reading, writing, and math skills.

Some of these students come voluntarily, eager to improve their skills, to advance their educational and professional goals, and to obtain better paying jobs. Others attend because they must: the local judicial court system and social welfare services require their attendance. Regardless of their reason for joining the GED program, these students works quietly and independently, making gradual, but steady improvement in their academic performance–a total contrast to the time they admit they wasted in high school.

The GED writing test is a major hurdle for Paul whose simple, bare-bones paragraphs have so many sentence fragments, run-ons, verb tense agreement errors, and misspellings that his good ideas get lost in the jumble. To make matters worse, he has no interest in revising any of his work. “One and done” is his motto. And the multiple-choice questions related to writing conventions? Forget it!

***

Now to name seven other Lucky Memers:

M. J. Monaghan      www.mjmonaghan.com

Linda Adams          www.Linda-Adams.com

Helen McMullin    www.conantstation.com

S. J. Driscoll             http://sjdriscoll.com

Emmie Mears          http://emmiemears.com

Jacqui Talbot              www.justjacqui2.com

Lanita Bradley Boyd     http://lanitaboyd.com

Have fun meeting these bloggers. I have already enjoyed reading their blogs!

The Naming of Blogs Is A Difficult Matter

Poet T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), author of Old Possum’s Book of Practical CATS, thought the naming of cats to be a difficult matter, but I dare say the naming of blogs is harder.

Even though I dearly love cats and would love to have a cat’s name in my blog title, I can’t use such clever names as Jennyanydots (the Gumbie cat), Growltiger (the one-eyed, one-eared cat), or magical Mr. Mistoffelees (the original conjuring cat). No, with Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical production of CATS (www.catsthemusical.com), these feisty felines have become too famous to be ordinary blog cats. And anyway, they would not fit my blog on serious topics (education, books, writing, grammar, spunky seniors) or occasional frivolous topics (a cat-a-log of cat-antics and maybe a cute puppy or two).

No, I have to be more practical.

My Twitter and blogging friends have already taken names I fancy: Cat’sEyeWriter, Kitty_writer (and all of its various permutations), bloggingcat, catgossip, ittybittykitty, SassyCat, catblogosphere (Blogging Cats Unite!), littlecatdiaries, and even ThePsychoKittySpeaksOut. Who could top this last one? “Blogging isn’t just for humans anymore.” (Squidoo.com).

My serious writer friends have taken DailyWritingTips, writingwarriors, TheWritePractice, TerriblyWrite, ThePassiveVoice, copyblogger, GhostWritingonWriting, WriterGranny’sWorld, judythewriter, TheFridayBookReport, TheQuivering Pen, and MessyThingswithWords, and so many more.

My eagle-eyed grammar-loving friends sign on as GrammarGirl, Grammarsnark, GrammarMonkeys, Dr.Grammar, or Grammarly. A few of these even sound a bit…ummm…scary: GrammarPolice, GrammarRevolution, Confessions of a Grammar Nazi, The GrammarVandal, the Blood-RedPencil, and the MightyRedPen. (Say this last one with your deep announcer voice!)

In fact, hundreds of blogs by poets and writers can be found listed at http://NewPages.com. And WordPress claims that 415,524 bloggers have posted today just on WP alone (on thousands of topics). Astounding. But now it’s MY TURN! I just need a blog name.

Fortunately Internet advice for naming blogs proliferates faster than a Google spider hatching babies.  How about using the Blog Name Generator or the Amazing Meganame Generator?

Jane Friedman, now e-media professor (http://janefriedman.com) advises a blog name that has a very specific angle, topic, or audience focus that tells people why they should read your blog. Sounds reasonable.

Dan Blank (http://WeGrowMedia) emphasizes the need to focus on your target audience and what they need and want. Yes, of course.

But Kristin Lamb, (http://warriorwriters) the social media guru from the great state of Texas, tells her #WANA friends (that includes me!): “Use your own name as your blog title in order to ‘brand’ your blog.” Sounds good to me. (Type in #WANA112 or #mywana on Twitter and see what comes up!)

Who knows, if I use my own name as my blog title, I could be discovered in the blogosphere and end up with a book and movie deal! Julie Powell did it (Julie on Julia, http://juliepowell.blogspot.com). Why shouldn’t it happen to me? Why not Janice Heck and The Grammar Connection? That’s compelling and maybe even a bit intriguing, you know, almost like The French Connection! No? Hummph.

So what should I call my blog? Which blog title will entice Google spiders to crawl all over it and give it high exposure on search lists?

After numerous messy lists (on my own lo-tech paper blog name generator) and many false starts, here’s what remains:

1. Janice Heck, On Education and Writing (Too broad!)

2. Grannie Jan’s Grammar Goodies (There’s a story behind this one!)

3. Janice Heck, Grammar Connection (Too narrow?)

4. Cat-A-Log of Cat-Antics (Too frivolous?)

5. Grammar-You-Can-See (What?)

6. GED Writer (Tried that-didn’t work! Way too narrow!)

7. Janice Heck

Oh heck, I think I’ll stick with Kristen Lamb’s advice and just use my name and forget the clever cat names, alliterative names, and other snarky titles.

Oh. Wait? What?

Kristen says I need a log line? Oh. (*hums* Whatever Kristen wants, Kristen gets!)

Well, ummm, what would T. S. Eliot say? This? “A blog’s a blog; a CAT’S A CAT. And that’s enough of that!”

YOUR TURN: How did you decide to name your blog?

Tags: Janice Heck, teaching, education writing, grammar, grammar-you-can-see, GED, cat blogs,

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