Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Serious Writers Wanted

 I would like to start a new writing group populated with serious writers.

I am willing to meet on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday evenings; or the group could meet mornings, afternoons or on weekends.

By serious writers, I mean people who write on a regular basis and think carefully about what they write, as well as what they  read.  Serious writers read widely.  Serious writers write regularly.  Serious writers welcome critique, listen to it despite the pain - and then decide thoughtfully what to do with the critique.  Serious writers write from the heart, but don't end up with Roses are red poetry.

Serious writers do not need to be specifically educated or trained in writing.  Nor do they need to be professional writers.  They do not need to be any specific age or gender.  Serious writers do not need to write only in prose.  Or in fiction.  All genres are welcome.

I have been in groups with well-intentioned writers who don't take time to write, and who think anything - Anything - someone else writes is good.  Comments that involve the sentences, "Oh, that's really good.  I like it" are not really helpful to any writer. 

More helpful are comments like, "That character is well written, but is almost too good to be true.  What flaws does s/he have?"  
or  "I think you have too much explanation at the beginning.  Look at the paragraph that begins, 'She stepped from the bathroom with the towel held in front of her.  The lights came on and twenty acquaintances screamed, "Surprise!"  The towel fell from her . . .'  Start there.  It really pulls me in."  Or,  "You end this too quickly.  It's almost as if you got tired of writing.  If you draw the ending out by adding . . ."  Or, "The fight scenes are clear and have great energy, but the love scenes feel as if you're embarrassed to write them.  They need more authenticity."

Critique does not mean focusing only on the negative.  Good writers need to hear what they are doing well too.  In the examples I provided above, I tried to show the positives.

I have, of course, a selfish reason for wanting to start a writing group:  I want clear, thoughtful feedback on my own writing, and I'm willing to provide the same kind of feedback to my compatriots.

A writing group provides discipline, something most writers - including me - need.  Having a monthly meeting with a deadline keeps us honest.

Writing is a lonely occupation.  We sit by ourselves with our computer or typewriter or pad and pencil.  The blank screen or page stares at us, and we strive to fill it.  We write, we rewrite, we edit, and we rewrite yet again before we are satisfied we have a worthy first draft.  Then the work begins.

If you'd like to be a part of a writers group, pleas 
comment below or contact me at the bottom of my LINKS page.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Most of the people I know speak in shorthand.  We use inside jokes with our close friends or turn a person's name into an act, like pulling a Brenda, whatever that means.  In our texting, something I haven't mastered yet, writing emails or on social networks we use computerese shorthand.

Often we use acronyms without even knowing it.  An acronym is a word formed with the first letters of the phrase it stands for.

AIDS is Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome, radar stands for RAdio Detection And Ranging, scuba stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus and snafu, originally a military term, stands for Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.  Pardon my crudity, but them's the facts, ma'am.

Lately, we have been inundated with a "new" language that I'm dubbing computerese shorthand.  Groups of letters like 
OMG (oh, my God!), C U (see you),  and lol (laughing out loud; this comes with many variations like rotflmao) are merely groups of letters and don't create words - at least not words generally pronounceable in English.

I hear from employers and teachers that computerese shorthand is ruining the language, that because of it no one can spell any more and that the art of writing is lost.

What tripe they spout!  I taught high school English for thirty-three years beginning in 1968, and found that writing and spelling have never been easy disciplines, especially in English, since printing began in England in 1476.  (The first Western movable type was used by Guttenberg in 1450, but the Koreans used it in the Thirteenth Century.)  In English to use George Bernard Shaw's famous spelling example, 
ghoti spells fish.  GH as in enouGHO as in wOmen, and TI as in acTIon.

Computerese shorthand is nothing new.  I used to teach my students what we called notehand back when I taught, and earlier I used it when I was in college in the middle Sixties.  I'm sure I was not the first.  It was a pretty simple alternative to Gregg shorthand, which requires specialized training.  In fact, I can remember when I was in high school and riding the city bus seeing ads for business schools that used notehand to attract riders' attention.  
F U cn rd ths, U cn gt * jb S * secrtry.  These days we don't have secretaries; instead we have executive assistants.  These days, notehand abounds on license plates.  Seven letters maximum send a message like my friend Wanda's plate:  WNDAFUL.

Simple abbreviations like using an 
x instead of writing times, or B4 instead of before, or a vinstead of of were part of the lessons.  At one point I could take practically verbatim notes of meetings or lectures.  My notehand is really rusty at this point, and there's little I need to take notes of.

But back to acronyms.  We seem to be inundated with them lately.  One of my favorites is BUDWEISER:  Because You Deserve What Every Individual Should Ever Receive.  Karma rules and this could be a blessing as well as a curse.  I suspect it's used as a curse most frequently.

PETA seems to govern everything we do, although pet ownership in the United States is at an all time high.  AIDS ended the first phase of the sexual revolution.  And a whole lot of people I know have BLOGS.  MADD helps SADD in its anti-drinking and driving mission.

I'm sure you can think of many of them, and here's an assignment, should you choose to take it:  In the 
comment box below, please tell me your favorite acronym, what it stands for, and where you found it.  If you made it up, so much the better.