Monday, December 29, 2008

Editing Tip of the Week: All the Right Words

Sometimes the easiest words confuse us. We say them all the time, but when we write them down, the words don’t look right. Is already one word or two? While we’re on the subject, is all right two words or one?

According to the Chicago Manual of Style, there are uses for both already and all ready. Already refers to time, as in Did you already buy the tickets? All ready refers to preparation, as in Are those documents all ready? But Chicago states that all right is the correct use, and urges us to avoid alright.

This all makes sense when we take the time to think about it, and these are easy rules to remember. A simple rule also applies to the use of altogether vs. all together. Altogether is used to mean entirely or whollythe show was altogether disastrous. All together is used for the unity of time or place, as in We were all together for the celebration.

If we take a moment to think about what we’re really saying, we will avoid misusing some of the more basic words. That leaves a lot more time to focus on the bigger words.

And yes, a lot is two words, not one.

For more tips, visit

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Spotlighted Literary Events

Date: Monday, December 29
Take a break between holiday celebrations and have a Mellow Monday at Seattle's Bai Pai Thai. Enjoy poetry, music, and happy hour as you prepare to say good-bye to the snow and hello to 2009.
Where: Bai Pai Thai, 2316 NE 65th St., Suite 101, Seattle, WA 98115
When: 8:00pm
For more info, visit or call 206-527-4800

Date: Wednesday, December 31
Celebrate New Year's Eve with the whole family. Many Borders Bookstores in the Portland area are hosting a New Year's Eve Kids Party that's sure to entertain every family member. There will be games, crafts, and a special parade to countdown to 2009.
Where: Borders Downtown Portland, among other locations in Tigard, Beaverton, Gresham, and Vancouver
When: 2:00pm
For more info and locations, visit

Date: Saturday, January 3
The Green Lake Branch of the Seattle Public Library hosts the Poets West Reader's Choice event where participants choose reading from works of poetry, prose, or concerning a public issue. Featured readers will read in five-minute segments, and open mike readers will read in three-minute segments.
Where: Green Lake Branch, 7364 E Green Lake Dr N, Seattle, WA 98115
When: 4:00pm
Cost: Free
For more info, visit or call 206-684-7547

Monday, December 22, 2008

Editing Tip of the Week: Avoiding Misplaced Modifiers

We all want to produce clear, concise writing. We spell check, read out loud to catch poor sentence structure, ask others to proofread, and then go through it all again. But sometimes there are mistakes that go unnoticed. One of the most common mistakes involves misplaced modifiers. The simple rule of placing modifiers with the words they modify is not easily followed, according to Sharon Schuman at the University of Oregon. In her Top Ten Tips for Effective Writing, she refers to an example from Strunk and White that illustrates the problem. In the sentence He only found two mistakes, the meaning is ambiguous. Does the writer mean that there were more than two mistakes? It’s unclear. By moving the sentence around to read He found only two mistakes, the sentence leaves nothing to question.

If a sentence sounds unintentionally ambiguous or just plain awkward, it could be due to a misplaced modifier. It could be an adverb like only, just, merely, nearly, or almost. Or it could be a misplaced phrase or clause that changes the intended meaning of the sentence. I found one of the funniest examples of this on Towson University’s online writing support site. In the sentence The waiter served the dinner roll to the woman that was well-buttered, it appears that the woman is well-buttered, not the dinner roll. Although the roll is the more obvious choice for being the buttered subject, the phrasing is still awkward. Changing it to The waiter served the well-buttered dinner roll to the woman erases any chance of confusion or laughter.

To avoid writing humorous sentences when none are intended, make sure modifiers go with the words they are meant to modify. This may require more than simply moving the modifier. You may need to restructure the whole sentence to make it clear and concise.

For more information, visit for Strunk and White’s tips; ;

Monday, December 15, 2008

Editing Tip of the Week: Simple Solutions for Bloated Sentences

Chicago Manual of Style continues to surprise me. I just read that the word till is perfectly acceptable to use in a sentence, as in The cafe is open till midnight. But till is not the conjunction of until and shouldn't be written as 'til. I am guilty of writing it as such, and I'm enjoying this moment of awakening. Sometimes the seemingly more complicated word usage is wrong. That should make any writer feel a bit of relief.

Words and phrases that sometimes complicate and jumble our sentences are broken down by Chicago. The manual refers to the term numerous as a bloated way of saying many. The long-winded due to the fact that is dismissed with the instruction to use because instead. Chicago even dislikes the phrase in excess of, preferring the simple more than or even over.

These are examples of phrases that we tend to use to overcompensate for our uncertainties in writing. You may roll your eyes at the mantra less is more, so try remembering that sometimes when you write more than is necessary, readers may read less and only skim for the true point in your work. And no writer should settle for that.

Visit for more solutions.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Spotlighted Literary Events

Date: Wednesday, December 17
Spitfire Grill in Seattle hosts the Seattle Poetry Slam's Women of the World Finals with featured poet Taalam Acey. There are weekly poetry slams featuring some of the best spoken word artists, some of whom have gone on to the National Poetry Slam contests. Each Wednesday night, join the supportive atmosphere for open mic, a featured poet, and of course, a poetry slam.
Where: Spitfire Grill, 2219 4th Ave.; Seattle, WA 98121
When: 8:00pm
Cost: $5 cover charge; 21 and over; ID required
For more info, visit

Date: Wednesday, December 17
Celebrate the successful publication of San Francisco State University's Fall 2008 literary journal, Fourteen Hills, at the Bollyhood Cafe in San Francisco. Reading their works from the journal are contributors Barbara Jane Reyes, Craig Santos Perez, Michael McAllister, Dustin Wells, and Jeff O'Keefe. Enjoy food, beverages, and a raffle throughout the evening of poetry, non-fiction, fiction, plays, and literary non-fiction.
Where: Bollyhood Cafe, 3372 19th St. (at Mission); San Francisco, CA 94110
When: 7:00pm
Cost: Free
For more info, visit

Date: Thursday, December 18
In Other Words Bookstore hosts a night of reading entitled West Meets West. Portland poets Heather Lane and Franciszka Voeltz share the stage with Vancouver B.C. poets Jen Curin and Christine Lecleic. After the readings there will be an acoustic performance by Pelican Ossman.
Where: In Other Words Bookstore, 8 NE Killingsworth; Portland, OR 97211
When: 7:00pm
Cost: Free
For more info, visit

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Help! Save In Other Words Bookstore

The last non-profit feminist bookstore in the country, In Other Words is also facing the devastating possibility of closing its doors due to the harsh economic situation. While losing another local bookstore would be heartbreaking, In Other Words does more than sell books. It provides a place for community events, resources for networking and connections, and is home to voices of change. Please read the call for help from the bookstore's program director:

Dear friends,

In Other Words, like so many of our fellow bookstores, has fallen upon incredibly hard financial times. With the decline in our current economy, we have experienced severely decreased revenue. If we are unable to raise $11,000 by the end of December, In Other Words will have to close its doors.
We desperately need your help. We are confident that if everyone who cares about In Other Words makes a contribution, large or small, we will meet our goal. Please give as generously as you can to save the last remaining non-profit, feminist bookstore in the country: the place where so many Portland artists, activists, organizers, readers, writers, political thinkers, musicians and poets find their voice, their power, their community, and their political home.
Our community cannot afford to lose In Other Words, please help us save her!
You can make your tax-deductible donations on the In Other Words secure website, or by stopping into the store (8 NE Killingsworth).

Sincerely,The Board, Staff and Volunteers of In Other Words

-- Program Director,
In Other Words 503.232.6003

For more info, visit

Monday, December 08, 2008

Editing Tip of the Week: Cliches to Nip in the Bud

Last week’s tip was about choosing words carefully, and cited five words to look for that tend to clutter sentences. But sometimes it’s not just a pesky extra word that threatens the quality of your writing. Sometimes overused phrases creep in your sentences. It is easy to fall back on clichés when you’re writing. One reason is that they work, for the most part. But how do you avoid using clichés when they are right at your fingertips?

Remember that you are writing something original, a piece that should display your unique writing style. Inserting cliched phrases like smooth as silk, sweet as a rose, or the ultimate it was a cold, dark night only diminishes the outstanding writing you’re capable of.

There are also overused phrases that are nonsensical, but due to their constant use, have become bad clichés. One example is staring blindly in the face. Although this is used often, it doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. Another one that newspaper journalists use all the time to conclude their reporting is the outcome remains to be seen. This not only states the obvious but reveals lazy writing. It’s the equivalent to ending a story with the cliché that it was all a dream.

When you read through your work for grammatical errors and unnecessary words, you should also check for clichés. If you stumble upon one, take time to think of a more original description. There is nothing wrong with reaching in your back pocket for a cliché now and then, but keep in mind that if you’ve heard it all before, it’s been read all before.

Dave Stein at mentioned The Cliché Finder at to hunt down cliches. If you have a suspicion that you’re using clichés, use this as a way to check your writing.

Fishtrap Summer Fellowships Application Deadline January 31, 2009

Each year, Fishtrap, Inc. awards up to five Fellowships valued at $1000 for Summer Fishtrap Workshops and Gathering, held every July at Wallowa Lake, Oregon. Awards are made on the basis of writing submission only, and are not limited to any one genre. Submissions should follow the Fishtrap mission, which is to promote "good writing in and about the West." Therefore, applicants should be from the West, or writing of the West. Fellowships cover the cost of a workshop, registration for the Gathering, and food and lodging for the week. A small travel stipend is also included.

Because we now receive a high volume of Fellowship applications, we are unable to accept applications that don't follow the guidelines stated below. PLEASE NOTE THAT WE DO NOT ACCEPT ELECTRONIC SUBMISSIONS. Thanks for reading these guidelines carefully.

Here's what to include in your Fellowship application:

A writing sample:

• Material can be published or unpublished but MUST be in manuscript form, typed or printed– double-spaced for prose.
• Writer's name MUST NOT appear anywhere on the manuscript.
• Prose –fiction or non-fiction– 2500 words maximum; poetry 8 pages maximum.
• If the work is from a book-length manuscript, you may send a half-page introduction in addition to the 2500 word selection.
• DO NOT FOLD. Please use a 9" x 12" envelope to mail your manuscript flat.

Brief author's bio:
• The bio is not used in judging, but in publicizing winners.

Other optional enclosures:
• Self addressed stamped postcard if you'd like to be notified upon reciept of your manuscript. If you include an email address, this is the default method for receipt notification.
• SASE if you want your manuscript returned to you. Make sure it has sufficient postage. If you do not provide a SASE with sufficient postage we'll dispose of the manuscript.

Fellowship applications must be postmarked no later than January 31, 2009. Awards will be made by March 27. Mail your application to: Fishtrap Fellowship c/o Fishtrap, PO Box 38, Enterprise, OR 97828

All applications will be read by a preliminary judging panel of current and/or past members of the Fishtrap Board of Directors. Final judging will be done by 2009 faculty members. None of the judges will see any information about the applicant, only the manuscript.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Spotlighted Literary Events

Date: Tuesday, December 9
Sign up to participate or just kick back and listen to Broken Word Poetry at the Alberta St. Pub. The weekly series has amassed a following of performers and spectators. And it has turned the spoken word into the written word by publishing anthologies of past performers. Every week offers entertainment and inspiration. 21 and over only
Where: Alberta St. Pub, 1036 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR 97211
When: sign-up for performing is 7:00pm; show starts at 7:30pm
Cost: Free
For more info, call 503-284-7665

Date: Wednesday, December 10
The Mission Theater hosts Back Fence PDX, a storytelling series featuring true, unmemorized 8-minute stories told by musicians. This round is based on the theme "Rock the Bells", and performers include Gideon Freudmann of Portland Cello Project, Adam Shearer of Weinland, and Menomena's Danny Seim. Lend your ear to these musicians telling stories, and enjoy the full bar and menu at the Mission.
Where: The Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan, Portland, OR 97209
When: doors open at 7:30pm; show starts 8:00pm
Cost: $10 at the door; $9 online
For more info, visit

Date: Wednesday, December 10
At Looking Glass Books, the late writer and activist Grace Paley will be celebrated on the eve of what would have been her 86th birthday. Paley's friend, Ursula LeGuin, and biographer Judith Arcana (Grace Paley's Life Stories, A Literary Biography) will read along with other Portland writers. There will be good food, good drinks, and good memories to share.
Where: Looking Glass Books, 7983 SE 13th Ave., Portland, OR 97202
When: 7:30pm
Cost: Free
For more info, visit or call 503-227-4760

Date: Saturday, December 13
Celebrate the opening of Guapo Comics and Coffee's new location in conjunction with a graphic novel release party. Joining Guapo in the event are Capacity's Theo Ellsworth, Invincible Summer's Nicole Georges, and The Night of Your Life's Jesse Reklaw, all of whom will read from their works. There will also be other cartoonists and multimedia comic readings, as well as refreshments. In the words of Guapo's blogger, the party will be an adventure in the "everyday fantastic".
Where: Guapo Comics and Coffee, 6350 SE Foster Rd., Portland, OR 97206
When: 7:00pm-10:00pm
Cost: Free and open to the public
For more info, visit or call 503-772-3638

Friday, December 05, 2008

Support local businesses this holiday season

It all started a few years ago in my sixteen-member nuclear family. The holidays were quickly approaching, and my step-mom had finally had enough. Shopping for her ten children and their significant others had become a nightmare. In this way, the Amazon Wish List was born. We were encouraged to put things on our Amazon lists that we wanted, and this way she knew we were getting exactly what we asked for, which would make everyone happy.

Sounds like a good idea, right? I must say, updating my wish list soon became an addicting hobby, particularly when Amazon has enough item categories to stock a small city. I began to feel like I did when I was a kid with the Sears Wishbook. Nothing was too small to be circled! Of course the ever staple, socks, made it on my list, but I also found myself trolling for things I didn't really need, like a complete Atari video game set that magically loaded onto your computer and a pair of painfully expensive designer boots. True, there were a few books on my list, but more often than not I found myself tempted by electronics and designer apparel.

This marks my fourth holiday season with my Amazon Wish List, and I'm beginning to wonder, what's missing here? Is this the future of shopping? It's no wonder that with sites like Amazon, small, independent stores are having a harder and harder time competing, especially in this economy. And it's families like mine that have the power to change that. So this season, before you drive out to the Jantzen Beach Target or go to Barnes and Noble for that book your loved one has to have, think about going to local bookstores or shops like Presents of Mind on Hawthorne or Twenty-Third Avenue Books in Northwest. Not only will you be keeping your money in your community, but you will be truly impacting the lives of your business-owning neighbors.

For more local holiday gift ideas and businesses, check out Eat.Shop.Portland by Kaie Wellman or the Willamette Week 2008 Gift Guide at

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Call for Help

A note from one of Portland's beloved independent bookstores:


January 1, 2009, will mark Twenty-Third Avenue Books' 29th anniversary. But instead of celebrating, we are wondering if that date will be the final closing of our beloved shop.

We've all been affected by the current state of the economy, and Twenty-Third Avenue Books is no different. We are behind in our rent and facing eviction. With no funds to relocate, this sounds the death knell for us. UNLESS, we can find a buyer, an angel investor, or somehow rally the community to SAVE OUR SHOP!

Do you know of another shop on 23rd willing to share our space? Someone looking to purchase a NW Portland fixture? Someone looking for a tax write-off? :-) We welcome any serious suggestions and offers (all confidential, of course)! Time is of the essence, so please, if you have any ideas contact us immediately. Our email address is

Monday, December 01, 2008

Editing Tip of the Week: Choosing Your Words Carefully

Writers are always told, Show, don’t tell. Sometimes this results in clumsy writing, such as two adjectives where one would do, or redundant descriptions. Chicago Manual of Style cites the example of he ran quickly as one phrase that could use more editing. The other mantra often repeated to writers is that less is more.

One of the ways to put this into practice is to cut unnecessary words that don’t add substance to the writing. The Daily Writing Tips web site suggests five words to look for that can be eliminated, making your piece clearer and more concise. The five words are just, really, quite, that, and perhaps. There are cases in which any of these five words can be used, but more often than not, they weigh down the writing. Here is a sentence for example:

I just thought that perhaps it would be really quite helpful to discuss the plans before the meeting.

The extra words in the sentence decrease the impact of the suggestion. By cutting out the unnecessary words, the sentence is more decisive: I thought it would be helpful to discuss the plans before the meeting.

Many editors and teachers suggest reading out loud to catch grammatical mistakes. This helps to catch the use of unnecessary words, and will also prevent making the mistake of deleting one of them when it’s vital to a sentence. If you were to delete the word that from I want to see that movie, it wouldn’t be clear which movie you were talking about.

Choosing your words carefully is important. But eliminating some of those words carefully can also strengthen your work.