Posted in Language, Literary Arts Series, Literature, Words, Writing

Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamps – Humorists Ogden Nash and James Thurber

What is the connection between Ogden Nash and James Thurber? Besides both being humorists, they published at The New Yorker during the same time period. In 1930, Nash’s first poem “Invocation” was published January 11.  Did you know Nash contributed 329 poems to The New Yorker between 1930 and 1971?

Meanwhile, the magazine ran a drawing by James Thurber for the first time in the February 22, 1930 issue. E. B. White had rescued Thurber’s doodles from being discarded, and encouraged the writer to publish his art work.

Ogden Nash 37¢
(1902-1971)

Ogden Nash.jpg

Issue Date: August 19, 2002
City: Baltimore, MD
Quantity: 70,000,000

American humorist and poet Ogden Nash wrote light-hearted, whimsical, and sometimes nonsensical verse. He often used an extremely large poetic license to create comical rhymes and puns. Ogden Nash is the 18th honoree of the Literary Arts Series.

An interesting couple of notes about the Ogden Nash stamp. It is the first time the word ‘Sex’ has appeared on a stamp; and probably also is the first time a limerick has appeared on a U.S. stamp.

U.S. Postal Service chief stamp developer Terry McCaffrey told CBSNews.com he expects to get complaints about “sex,” which is included in the six Nash poems in the background of the design: “The Turtle,” “The Cow,” “Crossing The Border,” “The Kitten,” “The Camel,” and “Limerick One.”

Nash poked fun at human foibles without cynicism. He wrote on many subjects, but all of his poems expressed his wry wit and demonstrated his playfulness with language. “I’m very fond of the English language. I tease it, and you tease only the things you love,” Nash reportedly said. He invented words and used puns, creative misspellings, irregular line lengths and unexpected rhymes to make his verse humorous and memorable. Because of his unique style, many consider Ogden Nash to have been one of the most accomplished American writers of light verse in the 20th century.

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times in 1969, Nash complained about stamps that would not stick to envelopes. He lamented, “The Post Office should supply a roll of Scotch tape with every 100 stamps, but mine won’t even sell me one. I’d like to go back to where I came from: 1902.”

Nash considered himself a ‘worsifier’. One of the most universally known verses is: “Candy is dandy/but liquor is quicker.” Others include: “If called by a panther, / Don’t anther,” and “In the vanities / No one wears panities.”

Did you know? Nash’s great-great-grandfather was governor of North Carolina during the Revolution, and that ancestor’s brother was General Francis Nash, for whom Nashville, Tennessee, was named.

James Thurber 29¢
(1894-1961)

James Thurber

Issue Date: September 10, 1994
City: Columbus, OH
Quantity: 150,750,000

One of the most popular humorists of his time, James Thurber celebrated the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people.  In Thurber-Land, the men are often sad, bewildered, and inept; the women are fierce and determined; and their dogs are indifferent to men a women alike, and are immersed in a fantasy world of their own.  Thurber is the author of The Secret Life of Walter Mittywhich portrays an oversensitive man who escapes from his nagging wife through his daydreams and the creator of numerous New Yorker magazine cover cartoons.  Writing nearly 40 books, he won a Tony Award for the Broadway play, A Thurber Carnival, in which he often starred as himself.

One of his books, My World and Welcome To It, was turned into an NBC television series in 1969-1970 starring William Windom. My World and Welcome To It, won best Comedy Series and Windom won Best Actor in a Comedy Series at the 1970 Emmys.

Thurber spent much time in and about the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.  Though never a formal member of the Algonquin Round Table, he was a favorite among many of its members including, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.

Thurber is the 11th honoree of the Literary Arts series. Read his “The Art of Fiction” interview the Paris Review by George Plimpton and Max Steele.

Did You Know?  As a child, Thurber’s brother shot him in the eye with an arrow during a game of William Tell. James Thurber lost his left eye, and the incident left his vision permanently impaired.


For the rest of the Give A Lick: Literary Arts series of blog posts, check out Dorothy Parker and John Steinbeck, as well as Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison.


For Further Reading & Source Material: 

A New Yorker Timeline

Eighty-five from the archive: Ogden Nash

PR Wire “Literary Arts series Continues with Issuance of Ogden Nash stamp”
*Note: The cool thing about this link is that it shows you the full verses of poems used on the Ogden Nash stamp.

Poetry Foundation / Ogden Nash

Thurber House

Ten Facts about Caldecott Winner , James Thurber

Thurber Prize for American Humor 
*Note: The Thurber Prize for American Humor is the nation’s highest recognition of the art of humor writing. 

Posted in Language, Literary Arts Series, Literature, Words, Writing

Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamps – Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison

Continuing on the Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamp week, today I will be featuring Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison. The connection between these two stamps is that they are the only two in the series that are intended for three-ounce letters.

Flannery O’Connor 93¢
(1925-1964)
Flannery O'ConnorIssue Date
: June 5, 2015
City
: McLean, VA
Quantity
: 20,000,000

Flannery O’Connor’s stamp is 30th in the Literary Arts Series, released in 2015.

Mary Flannery O’Connor was an American writer and essayist. An important voice in American literature, she wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. She was a Southern writer who often wrote in a Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters. Her writing also reflected her own Roman Catholic faith, and frequently examined questions of morality and ethics.

The stamp shows O’Connor surrounded by peacock feathers—an homage to O’Connor’s love for the birds that she cared for on her mother’s farm toward the end of her life. She wrote about peacocks in a 1961 essay called “The King of Birds.” Today, three of those peacocks that were her pets have been returned to her homeplace in Andalusia, which has become a visitor center.

All three birds are named after characters in O’Connor’s work. The strutting male bird is Manley Pointer, after the scheming Bible salesman from O’Connor’s story “Good Country People.” One of the hens is named Joy/Hulga, after the woman whose prosthetic leg Pointer steals in the same story. The second hen’s name is Mary Grace, the “raw-complexioned girl” from O’Connor’s story “Revelation” in her collection “Everything That Rises Must Converge.”

The setting of Andalusia, including the ever-present peafowl, figures prominently in her fiction. If it is true, as critics and scholars have noted, that Southern fiction is marked by the importance given to a sense of place, then a major force in shaping Flannery O’Connor’s work is landscape. Andalusia provided for her not only a place to live and write, but also a functional landscape in which to set her fiction.

While living at Andalusia, Flannery O’Connor completed Wise Blood, which was published in 1952. Then her highly acclaimed collection of short stories A Good Man Is Hard To Find was published in 1955. She also wrote another novel, The Violent Bear It Away, published in 1960. Her second collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge, was published posthumously in 1965. A collection of nonfiction prose titled Mystery and Manners, edited by Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, was published in 1969. The Complete Stories, edited by Robert Giroux, won the 1971 National Book Award for Fiction. Then Sally Fitzgerald edited a large collection of O’Connor’s letters, The Habit of Being, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award after its publication in 1979. O’Connor’s Collected Works was published in 1988 as part of the Library of America series, the definitive collection of America’s greatest writers.

 

Ralph Ellison 91¢
(1913-1994)

ralph ellison

Issue Date: February 18, 2014
City: Kansas City, MO
Quantity: 30,000,000

Ellison’s stamp is 29th in the Literary Arts series, released in 2014.

With his 1952 novel Invisible Man, a masterpiece of 20th-century fiction, Ellison drew on a wide range of narrative and cultural traditions, shedding vivid light on the African-American experience while setting a new benchmark for all American novelists.

The stamp art is an oil-on-panel painting featuring a portrait of Ellison based on a black-and-white photograph by Ellison’s friend Gordon Parks, a renowned staff photographer for Life magazine. The photo appeared on the back of the dust jacket of the first edition of Invisible Man in 1952. The background of the stamp art shows a Harlem street at twilight.

Drawing deeply on European and American literature as well as jazz, the blues, African-American folklore, and popular culture, Invisible Man won the National Book Award in 1953. Ellison’s nonfiction writing, especially the 1964 collection Shadow and Act, has also been praised for providing touchstones for black artists who loved American culture but often felt excluded by it.

In case you missed it, come and check out the rest of the “Give a Lick” Literary Postage Stamp series: 
John Steinbeck and Dorothy Parker
Humorists James Thurber and Ogden Nash
[Bonus James Thurber cartoon]

 

 

Posted in Language, Literary Arts Series, Literature, Words, Writing

Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamps – John Steinbeck and Dorothy Parker

Inspiration comes from many places. Today’s blog post inspiration came from the Richard Wright quote of last week, when I went looking for an image of Mr. Wright to use as the focal point. His postage stamp led me to wonder what other literary wordsmiths had been immortalized on postage stamps.

The USPS started the Literary Arts series in 1979.  According to the USPS, “These skillful wordsmiths spun our favorite tales — and American history along with them.”

The full list of Literary Arts postage stamps can be found on the USPS website. I will be highlighting two per day this week, with perhaps a second week to come later on.

Today’s highlighted Literary Giants are John Steinbeck and Dorothy Parker.

John Steinbeck 15¢
(1902-1968)

Steinbeck_15_1979
Issue date: February 27, 1979
City: Salinas, CA
Quantity: 155,000,000

John Steinbeck was the first to be honored on the Literary Arts series. Steinbeck’s novels mirrored America’s struggle and victory over the Great Depression. His most famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. Other Steinbeck novels include Of Mice and Men, The Winter of Our Discontent, The Pearl, Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat.

I love the Paris Review’s “The Art of Fiction” interviews. If you haven’t read them, start with Steinbeck, Interview No. 45.

Listen to Steinbeck read two of his short stories, “The Snake” and “Johnny Bear” in 1953.

Dorothy Parker 29¢
(1893-1967)

Dorothy Parker
Issue date: August 22, 1992
City: West End, NJ
Quantity: 105,000,000

Dorothy Parker is 10th in the Literary Arts series.  Famous for her verses and her stories, she worked for Vogue and Vanity Fair, becoming their drama critic. She was published in Vanity Fair, Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post, Life (when it was still a comic magazine), and The New Yorker, run by her old friend, Harold Ross.

American journalist Vincent Sheean said: “Among contemporary artists, I would put her next to Hemingway and Bill Faulkner. She wasn’t Shakespeare, but what she was, was true.” John Keats in his biography of her, You Might as Well Live (1970) stated: “She wrote poetry that was at least as good as the best of Millay and Housman. She wrote some stories that are easily as good as some of O’Hara and Hemingway.”

A founding member of the legendary Algonquin Round Table, she was best known for her wit. Among her more memorable quotes are, “I don’t care what is written about me as long as it isn’t true” and “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

Read Dorothy Parker’s Paris Review’s “Art of Fiction” Interview No. 13.

Have you heard Dorothy Parker’s voice? You can hear her reading 30 of her poems at The Dorothy Parker Society.


Note: Featured stamp collection image courtesy of Birmingham Coin & Jewelry.

Check out the rest of the “Give A Lick” series:

Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison
Humorists Ogden Nash and James Thurber
[Bonus: James Thurber Cartoon]

 

pr09_037
2009 Richard Wright Postage Stamp courtesy of USPS

The more closely the author thinks of why he wrote, the more he comes to regard his imagination as a kind of self-generating cement which glued his facts together, and his emotions as a kind of dark and obscure designer of those facts. Reluctantly, he comes to the conclusion that to account for his book is to account for his life.

– Richard Wright
Native Son (1940)

 

Many writers do feel the urge to write about what they see, what they know, what they’ve experienced, capturing the writer’s zeitgeist.   Are you writing about your experience or are you more interested in your imagination’s ability to create new worlds?

Born September 4, 1908 in Roxie, Mississippi, Wright came from a family of sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South.  He was the 25th inductee into the Postal Service’s Literary Arts series. Best remembered for his controversial 1940 novel, Native Son, and his 1945 autobiography, Black Boy, Wright drew on a wide range of literary traditions, including protest writing and detective fiction, to craft unflinching portrayals of racism in American society. Wright died in Paris on November 28, 1960.

‘Words Can Be Weapons Against Injustice’

Did you know? 

Wright’s Native Son was the first best-selling novel by a Black American writer. It was also the first Book-of-the-Month Club selection by an African-American writer.

Native Son sold 215,000 copies within three weeks of publication. The book made Wright the wealthiest Black writer in America at that time.

For further reading:

Joe Bunting’s Do You Write from Experience or Imagination? 

Richard Wright Immortalized on Postage

10 Amazing Facts About ‘Native Son’ Author Richard Wright

Quote of the Day: Richard Wright

Anton_Chekhov_with_bow-tie_sepia_image2

My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.

—Anton Chekhov


Anton Chekhov ( 1860-1904), was a prolific Russian  playwright known for The Seagull (1895),  Uncle Vanya (1897), The Three Sisters (1901), and  The Cherry Orchard (1904).

His overall body of work has influenced writers of all genres, from Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Henry Miller, Flannery O’Connor and Somerset Maugham.

Some consider Chekhov to be the founder of the modern short story. Ward no. 6 (1892), The Lady with the Little Dog (1899), A Dreary Story (aka A Boring Story) (1889), and perhaps his most well-known short stories, The Little Trilogy: The Man in a Case, Gooseberries, and About Love (1898).


Notes: 
Chekhov photo courtesy of Thinkit Creative

For summaries of Chekhov’s works, see AmericanLiterature.com

Anton Chekhov on Writing

oscar-wilde-green
Oscar Wilde

 There should be a law that no ordinary newspaper should be allowed to write about art. The harm they do by their foolish and random writing it would be impossible to overestimate—not to the artist but to the public. . . . Without them we would judge a man simply by his work; but at present the newspapers are trying hard to induce the public to judge a sculptor, for instance, never by his statues but by the way he treats his wife; a painter by the amount of his income and a poet by the colour of his necktie.

—Oscar Wilde, Art and the Handicraftsman

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was known as the “Apostle of Aestheticism”.  Wilde explained “Aestheticism is a search after the signs of the beautiful.  It is the science through which men look after the correlation which exists in the arts. It is, to speak more exactly, the search after the secret of life.” Wilde calls aestheticism a philosophy. “It is a study of what may be found in art and nature. Whatever in art represents eternal truth expresses the great underlying truth of aestheticism.”

Oscar Wilde Signature

 

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Notes:
Oscar Wilde photo courtesy of The American Reader

Wilde’s signature  courtesy of his official website

Title Quote from Oscar Wilde’s The Critic as Artist

 

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” Oscar Wilde

Posted in Editor's Toolkit, Language, Writing

The Editor’s Toolkit: OneLook Reverse Dictionary

typewriterquestions
Have you ever been stuck for a word?  The meaning is clear in your head, but you can’t grasp the word you want? I am sure you have said, it’s on the tip of my tongue. This happens to everyone at some point. As a writer, an editor, a student, or just in everyday writing — you get frustrated and start pulling out your hair.  This is where OneLook Reverse Dictionary can help you (and me, when I edit!)


How does it work?

OneLook explains it best, so I took this screenshot for you.

HowToUse OneLookReverse
How OneLook Reverse Dictionary works.


Editor’s Advice

Keep your search short to get the best results. OneLook indexes online dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, and other reference sites for your search term returning  conceptually similar words.  They suggest utilizing only the first few terms, since it comes back with hundreds sometimes, as seen in the screenshot below where I searched for urge to travel.

OneLook Reverse Dictionary
OneLook Reverse Dictionary search results on urge to travel”.

Pick the word you want, for example, Wanderlust. When you click on it, dictionary definitions from multiple sources will come up, including the  Online Etymology Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Oxford Dictionaries, UltraLingua English Dictionary, Mnemonic Dictionary, and RhymeZone.

Wanderlust-OneLook
Wanderlust definitions


Categories

The list you get back is broken up into Categories: General, Art, Business, Computing, Medicine, Miscellaneous, Religion, Science, Slang, Sports, Tech, and Phrases. I really like the Phrases category.

broburn
Broburn Wanderlust. Serial BAPC.233. Photo courtesy of The Museum of Berkshire Aviation.

Doing this search, I learned a phrase that includes wanderlust is Broburn Wanderlust  which was a small, wooden, single-seat glider designed in the United Kingdom just after World War II. Only one was built in 1946, and it flew in 1947.

 

 

 

The Wanderlust is a single seat sailplane of wooden construction, with a cantilever shoulder-wing. The wing is covered with ply from the leading edge as far as the spar, aft of which it is fabric covered. Fitted along the whole span are aerofoil section flaps, which are split at about half span so that the outer section scan act as flaps or drooping ailerons. Accommodation in the cockpit is roomy and the pilot’s head is raised well above the wings and fuselage under a Perspex hood. A seat type parachute is provided, with a radio as possible additional equipment. Novel use has been made out of a cut motorcycle inner tube encased in canvas to provide an inflatable shock absorber. 

– The Museum of Berkshire Aviation

Be sure to check out the other Editor’s Toolkit posts including The Punctuation Guide, and the Hemingway App. Hope you will come back for what’s upcoming the rest of the week, as I highlight what else is in my Editor’s Toolkit.

Know of other useful writing apps that aren’t included here? Let me know about them on Twitter!

url.jpg

“Characters are not created by writers. They pre-exist and have to be found.”

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973)

What does this mean? 

Writers may come to know their characters as they create them. Perhaps they are ‘found’ by slowly revealing themselves to the writer. If the writer comes to know their characters as they write, perhaps the writer’s perception is also from the reader’s perspective.

Check out one of Elizabeth Bowen’s best-known works, The Death of the Heart, published in 1938.  It demonstrates her debt to Henry James in the careful observation of detail and the theme of innocence darkened by experience. The novel is noted for its dexterous portrayal of an adolescent’s stormy inner life. Its three sections—“The World,” “The Flesh,” and “The Devil”—refer to the baptismal rite in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

For Further Reading:

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Elizabeth-Bowen

Victoria Glendinning on the love affair between Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie

Rabelais and Panurge: A Psychological Approach to Literary Character by Mary E. Ragland

‘Elizabeth Bowen’: A Fan’s Notes

Thursday Quote: Elizabeth Bowen

Posted in Language, Word Wednesday, Writing

Word Wednesday: Words Spied

acroname n. A name that is the acronym of a longer name. [Deseret News]

ambidisastrous adj. Equally ruinous or calamitous in two ways or along two fronts. (ambi- [“on both sides”] + disastrous).  [Twitter @DesolateCranium]

bro-liferation n. The increased prevalence of young, aggrieved white men. [The New York Times]

diskiness n. A measure of how much the shape of an elliptical galaxy resembles a disk as opposed to a box. [Astronomy @ CalTech]

shadow impact n. The effect that a shadow cast by a tall building has on the surrounding area. [Inside Toronto]

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Posted in Editor's Toolkit, Language, Writing

The Editor’s Toolkit: Hemingway App

hemingway
Ernest Hemingway photo courtesy of Yousuf Karsh

Ernest Hemingway‘s writing style is known almost instantaneously by most readers. It is distinctive, recognizable, and influential. Critics believe his style was honed during his time being a cub reporter in Kansas City.  Using short, rhythmic sentences, and selecting only those elements essential to the story, he created a clean style that works with having a journalistic background.

Featured today in my Editor’s Toolkit, the Hemingway App.

hemingway app
The Hemingway App

The Hemingway App shows you what is wrong with your writing in a clear and easy-to- follow method. Overly long sentences show up in yellow. Adverbs appear in blue. Words or phrases that can be simplified, purple. Green indicates passive voice. And red sentences are very hard to read.

Writer Ian Crouch of The New Yorker took Hemingway’s own writing and put it through the Hemingway App.  The opening paragraph from Hemingway’s short story,”A Clean, Well-Lighted Place“, only scored Grade 15 (OK).

It was very late and everyone had left the cafe except an old man who sat in the shadow the leaves of the tree made against the electric light. In the day time the street was dusty, but at night the dew settled the dust and the old man liked to sit late because he was deaf and now at night it was quiet and he felt the difference. The two waiters inside the cafe knew that the old man was a little drunk, and while he was a good client they knew that if he became too drunk he would leave without paying, so they kept watch on him.

 

Hemingway_A Clean Well-Lighted Place
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” opening paragraph on Hemingway App. Image courtesy of Dara Rochlin Book Doctor.

I hope this allows you to see how you can utilize different tools and websites to make your writing stronger and more concise.  Be sure to check out the other Editor’s Toolkit posts including The Punctuation Guide and the OneLook Reverse Dictionary. Come back for what’s upcoming the rest of the week, as I highlight what else is in my Editor’s Toolkit.

Feel free to let me know what is in your Editor’s Toolkit in the comments and I will mention you if it becomes part of the series.

Know of other useful writing apps that aren’t included here? Let me know about them on Twitter!

Posted in Character Development, Writing

“Them’s Fightin Words”: Fighting and Combat

 Fight. (v)

Old English feohtan “to combat, contend with weapons, strive; attack; gain by fighting, win” (intransitive; class III strong verb; past tense feaht, past participle fohten), from Proto-Germanic *fehtan (cognates: Old High German fehtan, German fechten, Middle Dutch and Dutch vechten, Old Frisianfiuhta “to fight”), from PIE *pek- (2) “to pluck out” (wool or hair), apparently with a notion of “pulling roughly” (cognates: Greek pekein “to comb, shear,” pekos “fleece, wool;” Persian pashm “wool, down,” Latin pectere “to comb,” Sanskrit paksman- “eyebrows, hair”).

Spelling substitution of -gh- for a “hard H” sound was a Middle English scribal habit, especially before -t-. In some late Old English examples, the middle consonant was represented by a yogh. Among provincial early Modern English spellings, Wright lists faight, fate, fecht, feeght, feight, feit, feyght, feyt,feort, foight.

From c. 1200 as “offer resistance, struggle;” also “to quarrel, wrangle, create a disturbance.” From late 14c. as “be in conflict.” Transitive use from 1690s. To fight for “contest on behalf of” is from early 14c. To fight back “resist” is recorded from 1890. Well figt þat wel fligt (“he fights well that flies fast”) was a Middle English proverb.


Fighting and Combat

If you are writing a novel that has fighting and combat scenes in it, it is important to consider what the reader will take away from it. Will they skim the every-last-detail and skip to the character-driven scenes and dialogue? How does a writer entice the reader to stay on the page and understand the character development that you have put hours into creating?

Think about Word Selection and Wordsmithing

Your choice of words can provide a crucial element or hint to the reader of what is happening in the story going forward, or bring it back to a certain point in a previous chapter. The way the protagonist fights, walks away, or uses dialogue to convey what they are thinking at that moment will keep your reader wanting more.

Also consider what the supporting characters in the room are doing during the fight. Are they chatting quietly, egging on the fighters, or placing bets on who will win while drinking whiskey?

What happens to that quiet character you’ve been showing on the page, does he get excited by the blood flow? Maybe that is a hint to your reader that there is more than meets the eye.

Who comes to help in the fight? Who stays out of the way? Maybe your character that everyone thinks would jump right in, will stay on the sidelines. The female at the bar, who one would not expect to help, will be fighting right alongside with her weapon that she has hidden on her at all times.

“Even if you’re not all that interested in firearms and knives, it’s worth getting them right because of how stories can hinge on the way characters use them. Did that revolver hold six shots or only five? In a critical scene, that could mean the difference between a character being alive or not. Are you sure that knife is legal for your character to carry? If it’s not, the knife might not match the character’s profile.”

– Benjamin Sobieck, The Writer’s Guide to Weapons

On my Pinterest Word List board, I have this pinned. I think it is a good reference when you find your fight scenes are lacking some color or action words.  If you are trying to craft the write (right) scene to jump off the page,  and have your readers thinking about the scenario and what happens next.

tumblr_nfxqnkCtOu1sg5bnlo1_1280

Fulfill the promise of your book

Carefully research your weaponry and your fighting styles are true to your era to ensure you don’t break suspension of disbelief. Think about King Arthur and the Medieval setting  — broadswords, flails, chain mail, halberds, and horsemen’s axes.

Now consider a story set in a more contemporary era. What would be the weapon of choice? Guns.

A Civil War era novel would have the Henry lever-action rifle, the Spencer repeating rifle, or a Smith & Wesson Schofield.  But you would want to use AK-47s, or M16 rifles, if you are writing a novel set in post-World War II, for infantry combat.

In This Kind of War, historian T.R. Fehrenbach’s seminal work on The Korean War, he wrote:

“You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life—but if you desire to defend it, protect it and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men in the mud.”

Here are 21 words that are obscure and may lead you down a different path in your writing. Did you know the suffix machy is Greek, from -mache, to fight?

Word Definition
alectryomachy cock-fighting
batrachomyomachy battle between frogs and mice; a burlesque poem attributed to Homer
cynartomachy bear-baiting using dogs
duomachy duel or fight between two people
gigantomachy war of giants against the gods
hieromachy fight or quarrel between priests
hoplomachy fighting while heavily armoured
iconomachy opposition to the worship of images or icons
logomachy contention about words or in words
monomachy single combat; a duel
naumachy mock sea-battle
pneumatomachy denial of the divinity of the Holy Ghost
poetomachia contest or quarrel among poets
psychomachy conflict between the body and the soul
pygmachy boxing; fighting with clubs
pyromachy use of fire in combat
skiamachy sham fight; shadow boxing
symmachy fighting jointly against a common enemy
tauromachy bullfighting
theomachy war amongst or against the gods
titanomachy war of the Titans against the gods

Hope you enjoyed “Them’s fighting words…”

For Further Reading:

Kyle Misokami’s The 5 Deadliest Guns of Modern War

The Middle Ages, Chivalry and Knighthood

Five Essential Tips for Writing Killer Fight Scenes 

Writing Tips: Guns, Bullets And Shooting With J. Daniel Sawyer

Benjamin Sobieck’s The Writer’s Guide to Weapons

Top 12 Western Classics

Word Chart courtesy of The Phrontistery

‘Fight’ definition courtesy of Online Etymology Dictionary

The Internet Movie Firearms Database

 

Posted in Language, Science, Word Wednesday, Writing

Word Wednesday: Dord, the mysterious ghost word

The Mysterious “Dord”

dord.jpg

 

In 1934, the word Dord appeared in the Second Edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary on page 771, between “dorcopsis” (“a genus of small kangaroos of Papau”) and “doré,” (“golden in color”).

It was defined as a noun meaning Density in Physics and Chemistry.

Before it came into the everyday lexicon, however, it was removed in the 1939 Edition. Why? It was found out to be a typist’s error, and not a real word, by an editor who noticed that it was missing its etymology (origin) and decided to follow up.

The following is an excerpt from The Story of Webster’s Third: Philip Gove’s Controversial Dictionary and Its Critics (Herbert C. Morton, 1994):

The lack of an etymology for dord, meaning “density,” was noted by an editor on February 28, 1939, when he was perusing the dictionary. Startled by the omission, he went to the files to track down what had happened and what needed to be done. There, he found, first, a three-by-five white slip that had been sent to the company by a consultant in chemistry on July 31, 1931, bearing the notation “D or d, cont/ density.” It was intended to be the basis for entering an additional abbreviation at the letter D in the next edition. The notation “cont,” short for “continued,” was to alert the typist to the fact that there would be several such entries for abbreviations at D. A change in the organization of the dictionary possibly added to the confusion that followed. For the 1934 edition, all abbreviations were to be assembled in a separate “Abbreviations” section at the back of the book; in the previous edition words and abbreviations appeared together in a single alphabetical listing (which is how they again appeared in the Third Edition.) But after the original slip was typed for editorial handling, it was misdirected. Eventually, it came to be treated with the words rather than with the abbreviations.

The editorial stylist who received the first typed version should have marked “or” to be set in italics to indicate that the letters were abbreviations (D or d). But instead, she drew a continuous wavy line underneath to signify that “D or d” should be set in boldface in the manner of an entry word, and a label was added, “Physics & Chem.” Since entry words were to be typed with a space between letters, the editorial stylist may have inferred that the typist had intended to write d o r d; the mysterious “cont” was ignored. These errors should have been caught when the word was retyped on a different color slip for the printer, but they were not. The stylist who received this version crossed out the “cont” and added the part-of-speech label n for noun.

“As soon as someone else entered the pronunciation,” Gove wrote, “dord was given the slap on the back that sent breath into its being. Whether the etymologist ever got a chance to stifle it, there is no evidence. It simply has no etymology. Thereafter, only a proofreader had final opportunity at the word, but as the proof passed under his scrutiny he was at the moment not so alert and suspicious as usual.”

The last slip in the file – added in 1939 – was marked “plate change imperative/urgent.” The entry was deleted, and the space was closed up by lengthening the entry that followed. In 1940 bound books began appearing without the ghost word but with a new abbreviation. In the list of meanings for the abbreviation “D or d” appeared the phrase “density,Physics.” Probably too bad, Gove added, “for why shouldn’t dord mean density?”

 

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For further reading: 

“The History of Dord,” in American Speech, 29 (Philip Gove, 1954)

http://www.fun-with-words.com/websters_dord.html

This Day in History : February 28, 1939

The greatest scientific typo in history

Posted in Books, Writing

“The Life of a Book” by Don DeLillo

 

Don DeLillo is the National Book Foundation‘s 2015 Medalist for Distinguished Contribution To American Letters. The Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters recognizes individuals who have made an exceptional impact on this country’s literary heritage.

He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize for his complete body of work, and the William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2010, he was awarded the PEN/Saul Bellow Prize. The Angel Esmeralda was a finalist for the 2011 Story Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. In 2012, DeLillo received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award for his body of work.

In the video clip above, you can hear Don DeLillo’s speech that he gave on the evening of November 18, 2015, at the National Book Awards Ceremony. I have transcribed it below.

Books.

This is why we’re here this evening.

Lately I’ve been looking at books that stand on two long shelves in a room just down the hall from the room where I work.

Early books, paperbacks every one, the first books I ever owned, and they resemble some kind of medieval plunder.

Old and scarred, with weathered covers and sepia pages that might crumble at the touch of a human finger. I’m the human in the story, and when I lift a book from the shelf, gently, I understand again the power of memory that a book carries with it.

What is there to remember? Who I was, where I was, what these books meant to me when I read them for the first time.

The House of the Dead. Dostoyevsky. First Dell printing, June 1959. Fifty cents.

Adventures in the Skin Trade. Dylan Thomas. Badly bruised copy. First printing, May 1956.

Cover illustration includes a woman wearing black stockings and nothing else. There are numbers scrawled on the inside of the front cover. Did I writes these numbers? Do I remember the naked woman more clearly than I recall the stories in the book? A Signet book. Thirty-five cents.

Words on paper, books as objects, hand-held, each wrinkled spine bearing a title. The lives inside, authors and characters. The lives of the books themselves. Books in rooms. The one-room apartment where I used to live and where I read the books that stand on the shelves all these years later, and where I became a writer myself.

Many of these books were packed in boxes, hidden for years. Maybe this is why I find myself gazing like a museum goer at the two long rows in the room down the hall.

Reflections in a Golden Eye. Carson McCullers.

The margins of each page resembling the nicotine stains on a smoker’s hand back in the time when the book was written. Bantam Books, fourth printing, 1953. Twenty-five cents.

Are any of the writers of these old frail volumes still alive? I don’t have to study the authors’ names to think of recent departures. Friends: Gil Sorrentino and Peter Matthiessen and Edgar Doctorow. Others I did not get to know nearly as well. Bob Stone and Jim Salter.

Book. The word. A set of written, printed or blank pages fastened along one side and encased between protective covers. An old definition, needing to be expanded now in the vaporous play of electronic devices.

But here are the shelves with the old paperbacks, books still in their native skin, and when I visit the room I’m not the writer who has just been snaking his way through some sentences on a sheet of paper curled into an old typewriter.

That’s the guy who lives down the hall.

Here, I’m not the writer at all. I’m the grateful reader.

Thank you for this honor.

In The Paris Review interview, he explained why he became a writer:

Maybe I wanted to learn how to think. Writing is a concentrated form of thinking. I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them. Maybe I wanted to find more rigorous ways of thinking. We’re talking now about the earliest writing I did and about the power of language to counteract the wallow of late adolescence, to define things, define muddled experience in economical ways. Let’s not forget that writing is convenient. It requires the simplest tools. A young writer sees that with words and sentences on a piece of paper that costs less than a penny he can place himself more clearly in the world. Words on a page, that’s all it takes to help him separate himself from the forces around him, streets and people and pressures and feelings. He learns to think about these things, to ride his own sentences into new perceptions. How much of this did I feel at the time? Maybe just an inkling, an instinct. Writing was mainly an unnameable urge, an urge partly propelled by the writers I was reading at the time.

Don DeLillo’s Backlist
Americana, 1971
End Zone, 1972
Great Jones Street, 1973
Ratner’s Star, 1976
Players, 1977
Running Dog, 1978
Amazons, 1980
The Names, 1982
White Noise, 1985
Libra, 1988.
Mao II, 1991
Underworld, 1997
The Body Artist, 2001
“Pafko at the Wall” (novella), 1991
Cosmopolis, 2003
Falling Man, 2007
Point Omega, 2010
The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories, 2011

For Further Reading

The 2015 Medalist for Distinguished Contribution To American Letters

The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Adventures in the Skin Trade by Dylan Thomas

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers

Gil Sorrentino

Peter Matthiessen

Edgar Doctorow

Bob Stone

Jim Salter

Posted in Writing

Colors Around the World

Happy May everyone. I am sitting here in Starbucks, perusing Pinterest boards. I came across this infographic that I pinned a while ago, and it sparked an idea I wanted to share with you.  Writers, and editors for that matter, need to know the meanings behind what colors they use, especially if you have a manuscript that is set in a different culture.

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Color plays an important part in writing, as it can evoke emotions, bring life to the scene, and help the reader see the imagery you are portraying in their minds with perfect clarity, as well as signal your character’s personality.  Writers can labor for days on the right choice of colors to bring forth the spring meadow or the shipwrecked boat.

Hallie and Whit Burnett expound on this idea in their Fiction Writer’s Handbook.

Actual emotions are helpful in expressing emotions, placing emphasis where human behavior becomes exceptional. The use of redred face, fire in the eyes, and the like—will express anger, or possibly embarrassment. Green is a color which tranquilizes on a summer day; and the late Louis Bromfield, in a long-ago novel, spoke of an aura of color around the heads of his characters, which somehow added to their individualization and gave clues to their behavior. Research has been done by experts to determine moods expressed in colors, the various results being used in advertising to attract the eye of a buyer. So the novelist may add depth and convey meaning if he himself sees a scene as natural as the life before him, contrasted in tone and shade and values of the color spectrum.

I hope you enjoyed this, and learned something as well. Join me again as I will be revisiting this topic and bringing you more information that you can use in your writing in regards to Color.

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Stories move in circles. They don’t move in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is the getting lost. And when you’re lost, you start to look around and to listen.

— Corey Fischer, Albert Greenberg, and Naomi Newman of A Traveling Jewish Theatre, Coming from a Great Distance
Light Trails image courtesy of Jon Fletcher

Story Circles