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Long before I ever wrote a word of Coupon Girl, I knew the title. I sold direct mail advertising to small business owners in Worcester. Buy one, get one, baby. Pizza guys, dry cleaners, wallpaper hangers, chiropractors--all of them were my customers. An old boss of mine said getting a mailing together was like ushering a herd of cows through a doorway. At ten in the morning, I might have been helping a pet store guy clip a parrot's toenails. By eleven I might have been shivering in the bowels of a car wash, taking a look at a defective pump, and by two, giving a formal sales presentation in a stockbrokers' boardroom. Don't wear your bathrobe under your coat is my best advice.

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Blog Excerpts

Pain in the English

Billing itself as a "forum for the gray areas of the English language," Pain in the English tackles such conundrums as, "Why is the word 'quarters,' to mean a place of residency, plural? When we say, 'I'll show you to your quarters,' we mean a room. So, why don't we simply say, 'I'll show you to your quarter,' without the 's'?" To find out the answer, click here.
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My favorite bon mot on writing comes from a former editor of the LA Times: "There are only two kinds of writers, bad ones, and the ones trying to get better." If you aspire to the latter group, you must pick up Roy Peter Clark's newly-released Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. How essential? Well, let me offer my own humble testimonial: Nothing I've ever read has helped me sharpen my writing as much as this collection of tools. I think about strategies like "gold coins," "word space" and "the name of the dog" (not to mention the "power of three") every time I sit down to write a piece. I first came across these tools, by the way, on the website of the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists where Roy's the vice president and senior scholar. Now that Roy's mojo is in book form, you got it made! I called Roy to talk to him about his tools. -- Editor

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Roy Peter Clark, the journalist, writing coach and scholar we interviewed for our latest "Word Count" section, recommends these books about writing:



A Writer's Coach: An Editor's Guide to Words That Work by Jack Hart



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Blog Du Jour

Writing Blog

Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, says "my colleague Chip Scanlan publishes wonderful pieces on writing for the Poynter website." To read Chip's blog please click here.
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When last we sunk premolars into chewy bagel, we talked about the "controlling idea" in composition with playwright and creative exec Clark Morgan. In this installment of our ongoing conversation about writing, we look at what happens once you nail your main theme. In a word, rhetoric. Yes, old-fashioned rhetoric. Let Clark explain:

VT: Okay, I've got my controlling idea. I've written for a while, I've generated a bunch of things I want to say. Now what?

Clark: Now you're looking at it thinking, what have I wrought? How do I make sense of this?

VT: Yes, how? It seems like you could arrange it any number of different ways. How do you know what's the right way to organize?

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In 1999, my wife, Allison, and I were traveling throughout India during the midst of a four-month backpacking trip in Asia. We spent several days in northern India at the Taj Mahal. Our time left there an indelible mark on me and spurred me to dedicate the next five years to writing "Beneath a Marble Sky," a novel based on the story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal.

By luck rather than design, we arrived at the mausoleum early and were the first visitors onto the grounds. Stepping through the vast sandstone gate was like immersing myself into a photo. The Taj Mahal glistened in the light of dawn, glowing like a sculpted ember. The day was still, the only movement from birds wheeling about the tear-shaped dome.

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1 2 3 4 Displaying 1-7 of 25 Articles