I set my clocks early 'cause I know I'm always late.


It is harrowing for me to try to teach 20-year-old students, who earnestly want to improve their writing. The best I can think to tell them is: Quit smoking, and observe posted speed limits. This will improve your odds of getting old enough to be wise.
Barbara Kingsolver

Elmore Leonard’s Rules for Writers


Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.
André Gide

a thousand thousand slimy things

[Today is] the birthday of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, born in Ottery St. Mary in Devonshire, England (1772). He was a very ambitious young man, who lectured on religion, wrote journalism, and single-handedly tried to launch his own magazine. But he was exhausting himself and falling into a depression when he was introduced […]

Happy Birthday, James

“The demand that I make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works.” James Joyce February 2, 1882 – January 13, 1941 According to The Writer’s Almanac, Joyce, “was educated by Jesuits, first visited a prostitute at the age of 14, dropped out of medical school and aspired […]


History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.
George Santayana


“Then there is the other secret. There isn’t any symbolysm. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.”
Ernest Hemingway, 1952, in a letter to Bernard Berenson

Finding a Box of Family Letters

The poem featured in today’s episode of The Writer’s Almanac on NPR is Finding a Box of Family Letters by Dana Gioia. It’s so lovely that, like many of the wonderful things which I find on the web and fear may one day disappear, I’ve decided to copy it here.

Wonderful Phrases

Five Wonderful Phrases That I Resolve to Use More Frequently in Conversation soup to nuts by hook or by crook ass-over-teakettle dollars to doughnuts tits up

PicoPad Wallet Notes

The PicoPad® is pure genius. It’s a pad of sticky notes — with a tiny pen — in a case the size of a credit card that you can easily slip it into your wallet. The PicoPad and its refills are also incredibly inexpensive. I am always scribbling notes on the backs of business cards […]

Grammar Matters (Still)

Recently I saw a commercial for Sylvan Learning Centers. This is a company that is selling products to help your children do well in school. The ad showed a teenage girl gabbing on the telephone. The voice-over said, “Sally sure can talk fast. We can help her read fast,” or something like that. Apparently grammar […]

Grammar Matters (Again)

Last night I writhed in agony while watching the 11 o’clock news. The local NBC affiliate was running a story about the Sacramento disc jockeys that were fired recently. (The radio personalities had sponsored a contest which led to the death of a woman.) Behind the anchorman the screen displayed DJ’s Fired. I’m sure that […]

CRAM Magazine

Quite nifty! My mini-tutorial — Five Tips for Smarter Playlists — has been published in the second issue of the online pdf magazine CRAM. A few weeks ago I received an email from one of their editors requesting permission to republish the essay. I had actually forgotten all about it. Then this morning someone at […]

Levenger Gotham Pen Refill

About a decade ago I bought a Gotham model pen from Levenger. It is by far my favorite pen. This weekend I found it in the cigar box I use to hold all my “best” pens and was quite disappointed to discover that its ink had run dry. Levenger no longer makes this fabulous pen […]

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This is an essay I wrote a loooong time ago … I must have been 13 or 14 … good old St. Paul’s Catholic Elementary School in Daytona Beach, FL …

The Commonly Confused Words Test

Amazing! According to this test I am an English Genius. It was not a surprise to see that I scored a perfect 100%, actually, on the advanced sections. What was shocking was that I scored in the embarrassingly-low 80s on what were supposed to be the simple sections. That, and the fact that I could […]

Funny Stuff in My Inbox — High School Essays

These are from a joke email circulating that purports to be “ANALOGIES & METAPHORS FOUND IN HIGH SCHOOL ESSAYS”. I highly doubt that these were actually culled from high school essays. The main reason I don’t believe it is because there is no point of reference. There is no notation or source. The second reason […]

The “plural apostrophe” (e.g. no dog’s allowed, sofa’s for sale, UGH) is running rampant these days, and it’s not just my imagination. It’s so wrong that I can’t even begin to fathom how anyone could make such a mistake. I hate it when people dismiss it with, “Oh, not everyone’s a grammar freak.”

Grammar? You think it’s an issue of grammar? I hate to break it to you, but if you can’t spell “dogs,” you’re illiterate.
via strange brew

To Have and Have Not

Placing Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not in the 1930s – an essay by David Gagne

Thomas Hardy

On Thomas Hardy’s “The Self-Unseeing” and “The Haunter”