Life, Life, LIFE!

Whether the words, spaces, and punctuation marks appear in The Iliad or Don Quixote, a fluffy sportswear catalogue or a dense computer manual, the goal of all writing is to get some tiny bit of the gargantuan energy we call life onto the page so that other humans can read it and say, "Yes, that writing describes the life I know."  Continue reading...
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My 20-year-old son, who's studying to become an opera singer, last year gave me a complaint he'd written about one of his professors. He wanted to know if it was "too harsh." More importantly, because the complaint was to be anonymous, he wanted reassurance it couldn't be traced back to him.  Continue reading...
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Jan Schreiber, a noted poet, critic, and translator, notes that traversing the border between American and British dialects of English can reveal unexpected complexities. "The challenge, if we choose to pose and accept it, is to translate one into the other," he writes.  Continue reading...
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Years ago John Lennon declared the Beatles "more popular than Jesus"; he could have more accurately expressed their impact had he said they were more popular than Charles Dickens. Popularity on the Dickens/Beatles level means to be loved by virtually everyone in one's own and subsequent eras with heartfelt admiration and respect.  Continue reading...
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Like most writers, I'm an omnivorous reader. Friends ask me, "What are you reading now?" and I have a hard time answering because when I stop to think, I realize I'm reading a dozen books at once, dipping into this one, skimming through that one.  Continue reading...
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Some people see me as successful. I don't think I'm the least bit talented at anything apart from organizing. (My idiot-savant ability at taking chaos and transforming it into order is useful but in the talent department it kind of sucks. It's like being spectacularly good at checkers or vacuuming the living-room.) But I have one other useful attribute. Grit.  Continue reading...
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"Let the facts speak for themselves" — for writing non-fiction, that's as good a single rule as any I know. If Bobby did ride his bicycle to the store, the strongest, clearest, and plainest way to put that fact into words is: Bobby rode his bicycle to the store.  Continue reading...
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