Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rewrite, Revise Pt. 2

In college courses, revision is particularly imperative. There are many great papers which were hurt by a lack of revision. The best protection for good ideas and high grades is revision. Revision begins down at the single-word level. This short essay will seek to explore how writers can begin to tackle these problems at the fundamental level of the word.

This method first involves combing through an essay to eliminate the useless words, redundancies, and other distractions. An earlier essay covered this issue.

Students have been known to use misuse words. This happens quite often in student papers and is not something to be ashamed of. Rather, it's something which can be corrected easily enough. 

Papers need to be combed through sentence by sentence. Where unusual or new words have been used, a dictionary can be consulted to check their meaning. Sometimes a word will sound familiar, but "doesn't look right?" Here, a writer may have homonym trouble.

Word processors are wonderful tools for writers to speed up their work, yet spell-check won't catch homonyms. Homonyms are words which sound the same but which have different meanings. Was a reference sited, or was it cited? Was the affair elicit or illicit? Here, a dictionary will help any writer clear up possible confusion.

There are often troubles with the forms of "there."

Their: possessive form of they
They're: contraction of they are
There: indicates a place in a literal or figurative sense - if you're unsure of your usage, consult a dictionary

Chances are that instructors will give students some leeway on these little foibles. It's hard to catch homonyms in particular. However, if the term is a main part of a thesis or otherwise pertinent to the central meaning of a paper, there could be points taken off.

Of course, many students will want to know how to possibly avoid some of these problems. One way is to constantly study words and to build one's vocabulary. Word-of-the-day  calendars can help. Extensive reading will help, as well. Reading more challenging novels or works of nonfiction is a good exercise, if the reader keeps a dictionary handy to look up the difficult words.

In everyday life, a growing writer can keep a small notebook handy for various words or phrases which are unusual, unknown, or simply interesting. Writing these items down will help instill them in the writer's mind and enable her to revisit them later with a dictionary to further study their meaning.

Finally, students need to make good use of the style guide recommended by their institution. These books are dry, boring, and catch a lot of dust. However, they are crucial for the budding writer who is seeking higher grades and more effective communication.

In conclusion, revision begins with the words. They form the basis for all writing and so writers must come to terms with the various trouble these words pose. Further, writers need to come to terms with the full meanings of words in order to fully convey the meanings of their theses.

It sounds simple, it is simple. It is not easy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rewrite, Revise

Writers, take a note. Once you have filled the page-count requirement of your professor's assignment, you are not done!

All good writing has been through multiple drafts. Yours is no exception.

Strunk and White's Rule 17 states, "Omit Needless Words." In fact, this is a great place to start any good revision.

Read through your work and search out those redundant words and phrases. I would start with adverbs. Any word ending in "ly" is a suspect here. What do adverbs do? Adverbs modify verbs and adjectives, among other things. They don't do anything. Adjectives do a bit more, but adverbs are like the guy who shows up two hours late to help you move. He carries a lamp and then sits down to have some pizza. Ask him to go home.

What you need to do when revising is to maximize the clarity of your ideas. When you ideas are clear, your professors will see them and give you credit for them. Plus, these poor souls are overworked in this abysmal economy. More students are heading to school, but there's less money to pay teachers - at least at public schools.

So, do yourself a favor and omit needless words. Clear the brush so that your professors might see your meaning. Your grades will see an improvement as a result.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Essay Writing

Essay writing doesn't come easy. It's a skill which many abhor and few master. Writers need a guide to help master essay writing. 

J.R. Trimble's Writing With Style is something of a classic, though few seem to know it. This book is one of the few books students keep handy from their college days. If you intend on being an effective communicator, this book is simply a must-have.

Trimble assumes a few things. He assumes good grammar and a general facility with writing. For those heading back to school, he may be a bit advanced

However, even the most novice writer can learn from Trimble's example. 

Trimble presents a case that writers write for an audience, that writers need to get out of their heads and show someone else what they're thinking. He argues against a self-centered sort of writing, saying, "Once you've finished writing for your self and begin writing for the reader, your mumbo jumbo will start turning into bona fide prose."

He makes the case for  revision, which is imperative. All writing is rewriting.

So many student essays start in a vague, aimless fashion and then figure out their main thesis on about page five of an eight page paper. Then, around page seven, the author realizes it's time to wrap things up so rushes through a conclusion which is just as vague and aimless as the introduction and then ends.

From that point, it's imperative to revise. Once the reader realizes her true goal with the paper, the whole thing needs to be retooled to fit that thesis.  Indeed, all writing is rewriting.

For a great primer on the art of writing essays, college-level writing, check out Trimble's book. Whether you're at a local university, or continuing education online, this book will be indespensible.

Radical Gratitude | One Life to Give

New Dimensions Media : THE BOUNTY OF A GENEROUS HEART with Andrew Bienkowski

Check out this interview. The book was co-authored by Mary Akers, a Queens U. MFA. The US title is One Life to Give.

The book details the journey of a man from Siberia finding Radical Gratitude and a better life.

“Like Viktor Frankl’s 1946 classic Man’s Search for Meaning, this book has a keen eye for spotting the best of human spirit and endeavor in the most trying of circumstances.”
ForeWord magazine

Sunday, June 13, 2010

MFA Graduate

So, I've completed my MFA. My thesis is all turned in and all is good in the world.

First off, my thesis was composed of 7 short stories and 7 flash fictions. The whole lot was linked by the 1995 Heat Wave in Chicago. I interchanged characters and scenes to accomplish the links. I was happy with it. So was my thesis committee.

Each member of my committee said that the manuscript was a "book." One called it a "novel." Of course all of them suggested changes, which I will work on over time. But, hey, a NOVEL! I was pretty jacked-up to hear that opinion from a well-respected professor and author.

So, life continues after teh MFA. I'm looking for writing/editing gigs, completing this novel, and hoping that I stay afloat long enough to see everything come to fruition.
I should mention that I did my MFA work at Queens University of Charlotte, NC. The instruction there was top-notch and the program was community based despite what I initially would have suspected.

Plus, the program is fully funded! I had student loans for the whole ride!

Market Ranking

I've been referring to Bookfox's list of literary journals lately to find markets to submit my most favorite short stories.

Check out the list: Here

Keep on submitting!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kick It

Hey, Please take a moment to check out my project on Kickstarter. I'm trying to raise funds to help complete my novel:

Again, for the First Time

Chicago Novel

Midwest Novel

It's a linked-short novel which is set in the 1995 heat wave which struck Chicago and the Midwest. Characters are shared throughout the book and scenes reoccur. It's been called "smartly written" and will be a great addition to the literature of Chicago.


Saturday, May 15, 2010


"Water Damage" by Meg Pokrass @ Thieves Jargon

Ahh... Another Meg Pokrass flash fiction found on the internets. It's always a pleasure to find one of her little gems, though certainly not hard. Pokrass is one of the more prolific and widely published authors of flash on the internets. I believe she has a few obscure chapbooks published, and has a real-life book coming out from Press 53 in 2011.

Here, in "Water Damage," published at Thieves Jargon, Meg gets raw in a narrative which starts in an uncertain place and ends in pity.

Her narrator seems to be visiting a drug dealer, but this is not entirely clear. He has something for sale, this is certain. The narrator, a woman, isn't easily swayed by his amateurish attempts at flattery, but finds the man's vulnerabilities, his feminine side.

The narrative moves smoothly and is able to give us enough description of the man - his hair, the baby shampoo - to illuminate the narrator's twisted desire to be with him. Or maybe, she's just trying to avoid paying for the drugs. Either way, we're left with the striking image of a water stain on the ceiling as the man-child pumps away on her unmoving body.

I highly recommend giving this piece a read. I give it a double iced americano on a warm Portland day.

Friday, May 7, 2010


If it Flashes, it’s not a Short Story « Flash Fiction Chronicles

Check out my blog entry over at FFC - it's similar to stuff I've written here, but perhaps a bit more polished.

I promise to blog more here. I'm looking for good pieces to critique...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hahvahd = Wicked Cool

Hey, if any of y'all are in Cambridge, check out Harvard Bookstore because they're printing a flash fiction anthology featuring yours truly.

I haven't received my copy yet, as they just announced the winners of the contest earlier this week.

I assume they're printing a few to put on the shelves or on display, but they're publishing it on an in-store bookmaking machine which they call Paige M. Gutenborg. Those Harvard kids are so clever.

I don't know any of the other writers, but here's the list of selected contributors:

Microchondria (the title):

Hobie Anthony
Anar Badalov
Shira Li Bartov
Nancy Brewka-Clark
Edmond Caldwell
Mike Campbell
Caryn Carpenter
Paula Carter
Ryan W. Cohen
Catherine Flora Con
Jennifer Carol Cook
Jane Dykema
Katherine Farrior
Nicole Fernandez
Leslie Fincke
Alex Freeman
Alayne Freidel-Sobel
Marc Goldfinger
Eiriki Gumeny
Liana Hershey-Nexon
Liana Jahan Imam
Michelle Labbe
George Lausch
Mia Lazarewicz
Melina C. McTigue
Yvonne Ng
Lauren Inness Norton
James Scott
Amy Stewart
Hillary Stringer
Cody Walker
Claudia Ward-de Leon
Adam Waterreus
Ben White
Laura Whitney
Melanie Yarbrough

Anyhow, if you see it, drop a line with your impressions!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Can Haz Published Now?

Worried Note | GwI

Yup, yours truly gets published every now and then.

This is a non-fiction piece about my early days in Chicago when I lived in the notorious Uptown neighborhood amongst crackheads, crack dealers, prostitutes, and murderers. My block (Malden between Montrose and Wilson) was home to 10 murders one summer. That was the highest concentration I could find in all of Chicago in my analysis of a Chicago Tribune map.

Anyhow, I hope you read and enjoy the story.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Flash Review - Alan Michael Parker Takes a Meeting

THE COLLAGIST: Report from the Committee on Town Happiness by Alan Michael Parker

The pond. Still water, fed from beneath. Possibly fed from an underground source, if we could ever find someone to go check. Perhaps then the pond might be reopened to the town.

It remains a 3, better than two, as deigned by the Committee on Town Happiness, a collective of 7 individuals. Yet it remains closed, though they open their hearts, though they never truly share with one another.

I really like Alan Michael Parker's writing here. I've appreciated his poetry since i heard him read a few years back and now I'm pleased to find him in prose.

I must say that this flash remains somewhat of a mystery to me. Still water running deep, beneath a veneer of sheer, clear prose. Focused, engaged, prose, which I find necessary for the best flash. Even for good flash.

Anyhow, it's always a pleasure to find a great flash. It's rather like finding a pure diamond.

I give this one a tall glass of fresh spring water.

Comments are open. What do you think of, Report from the Committee on Town Happiness?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Redneck Zen - Poetry Corner

Piano by Patrick Phillips

I re-read this poem again the other night and was blown away all over again.

The first time I read it, I was taken by the image of the piano itself, the brokenness. I really didn't get much past that.

But, the poet is an old friend and the poem was made famous by Garrison Keillor, so it stayed in my brain.

The leaves and trash built up, blew away, returned.
Then I read it again.

The cracked harp began to sing at the end. I always knew it held music, but I never quite heard it. Yet, like any good piece of music, my appreciation for it had grown in the interim between first reading(s) and this most recent encounter. I'd gotten the wax outta my ears. A high wind, howling, had come past to take the mess away.

I'm glad that Mr. Keillor posted the text of, Piano, on his website so that it could be shared easily with you. I recommend listening to him read, as well. I recommend the whole collection, Boy, a fine collection of verse and a great addition to any library.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Smooth Landing

Sampsell: 'The Parachute'

What do we say to someone who knows not what we are saying? Why do we even try? Is our message that urgent, that dire, that we must tell even someone totally illiterate in our language?

I think so. I talked some poor bastard's ear off in Prague. I can't remember what I told him, or why, but only a few seconds of intelligible communication passed between us there in the lobby of that hostel. It was late. I was drunk.

Sampsell presents us with a scene, a simple scene, which is often the best place for a flash to occur. Single setting. Two characters. Simple, compressed.

We feel the narrator's bafflement in the face of a non-English speaker. He searches for "handles" in the language, words or phrases to hang onto. "Parachute" is what he finds. The man lands in his brain. A story is told, contact made.

A story within a story. Metafiction? Perhaps. But, the story-within is told in one word, "Parachute." That's compression!

Lots of fun. I recommend reading this Flash for yourself. Report back, tell me what you think. Really.