Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Photo Story Prompt: The Fine Art of Snow Men

Write whatever comes to you--short or long, fiction or truth.

We'd love to see what you come up with! Post your story in a comment below, or e-mail it to

Feel free to comment on each other's stories and just generally enjoy the process of playing with the written word and the world it creates.

Happy writing!

Photo: Illustrated Supplement from the New-York Tribune, January 22, 1905.
Library of Congress, Chronicling America.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Introducing...

Some sentences, like people, need no introduction. Others get by with a little help from introductory words or phrases. Whether they are direct addresses, transitions, or words and phrases describing context, there is a correct way to make introductions.

Adverbial and particpial phrases at the beginning of a sentence are generally followed by the use of a comma. After reading the note, Allison turned pale. These commas are especially placed after introductory clauses when a natural pause occurs. Single words or very short introductory phrases only need to be followed by a comma to avoid misunderstanding when reading. One particular rule is to not use a comma if the introductory phrase is less than five words. Also, a comma should not be used if the phrase immediately precedes the verb it modifies. For example, Out of the Mercedes stepped the woman we were looking for.

A comma also follows the introductory names or words in a direct address or in informal correspondence. Mrs. Jones, will you please take a seat. Or, Dad, this is my new boyfriend. Or the infamous Dear John,...

Similarly, a comma should always follow yes, no, well, and other words like these. Yes, I did empty the garbage can.

As explained in last week's tip, exclamatory phrases and interjections are often used as introductions; "oh" is very commonly used for this purpose and should be followed by a comma if a slight pause is intended.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Spotlighted Literary Events

Jan. 4th, 7:30 pm: "I See Rude People," presented by syndicated columnist, Amy Alkon. Reading from her book about the deterioration of manners and common courtesy. Powell's City of Books.

Jan. 5th, 7 pm: Jessica Morrell speaks on "Kill Your Muse, Pick Your Fights, Polish Relentlessly, and Keep Going...towards publication." Presented by Willamette Writers at the Old Church (SW 11th & Clay, Portland). $10 for non-members.

Jan. 8-15th, 7:30 nightly: Reading series in Seaside, hosted by the Pacific University M.F.A. program. Three readers a night (at the Best Western Ocean View Resort), including Bonnie Jo Campbell, Pete Fromm, Pam Houston, and more!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Photo Story Prompt: Macgregor the Ram

Write whatever comes to you--short or long, fiction or truth.

We'd love to see what you come up with! Post your story in a comment below, or e-mail it to

Feel free to comment on each other's stories and just generally enjoy the process of playing with the written word and the world it creates.

This photo story prompt was posted slightly late, but it will hopefully provide a gem for your stories. Happy writing!

Photo: "'Macgregor', owned by James R. Dempster, Ladyton" by Charles Reid.
National Gallery of Scotland, Accession Number PGP R 922.2.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Listen up! Interjections are strong!

Listen up!
You don't say!
Get out!

No, I'm not yelling; I'm interjecting! We do it all the time in speech, so why not include interjections in writing as well? An interjection (also known as an exclamation) is a word, phrase, or clause used to convey strong feeling. It has little or no grammatical function in a sentence, and is frequently allowed to stand alone as its own sentence. Interjections are actually quite natural in speech and so are often included in dialogue or even poetry. They can be used to imply a range of emotions such as humor, anger, annoyance or disappointment.

Most parts of speech may be used as interjections because they are grammatically independent of the rest of the sentence. If a word is classified as some other part of speech, but used with the same force as an interjection, it is referred to as an exclamatory noun (Idiot!), exclamatory verb (Help!), exclamatory adjective (Good!), exclamatory pronoun (Dear me!), and so forth.

Some words are used only as interjections and never serve any other purpose: ouch, whew, ugh, psst, and oops are examples. Introductory words such as well or why may also act as interjections when they are functioning as meaningnless utterances: well, I tried my best or why, I would never do that.

Most often an exclamation point will punctuate an interjection because it is used to convey a strong emotion: oh no! If the whole sentence contributes to the feeling, then the exclamation point will come at the very end of the strong feeling: Oh no, I forgot my appointment!

Clearly, oh is a very common interjection as it is used so often in everyday speech and written dialogue. According to Chicago, "oh takes the place of other interjections to express an emotion such as pain {Ow!}, surprise {What!}, wonder {Strange!}, or aversion {Ugh!}." Oh should be capitalized only if it starts the sentences; it is also typically followed by a comma in order to indicate a natural pause.

Check Webster or Chicago for the spellings of some interjections, such as atchoo or pshaw! And if they are not found in either source, seek plausible spellings in literature. If all else fails, sound it out and invent your own!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Remember the Libraries in this Season of Giving

In this season of giving, we should strive to recognize and support organizations that constantly give to our community. The Library Foundation for the Multnomah County Library is one such nonprofit that has been working to provide a opportunities to improve literacy while developing a programs to aid our local library system.

As the Library Foundation announces on their website, they are currently:
  • Supporting teachers at a time when many school libraries are on the wane.
  • Inspiring students in our lowest performing schools through rousing “booktalks” and exciting books that they can take home and read.
  • Reaching vast numbers of children, through Summer Reading, at the time when low performing students are most likely to fall further behind.
  • Bringing books and reading into the homes of children at-risk for low literacy with the award-winning Raising a Reader program.
  • Reaching first-time parents with books, instructional tools on brain development and incentives that encourage them to visit the library with their new babies.
Libraries are particularly important in these periods of economic hardship. They provide a place for the unemployed to access the Internet. Families can enjoy both free educational opportunities and many events focusing on arts and culture. Libraries also offer a warm place for anyone to sit and read a book.

You can donate through the Willamette Week's Give!Guide, where you can also give to 78 other local nonprofits, or you can donate directly to the Library Foundation through their online donation system.

If you are interested in the impact of your donation, or if you would like to donate through other means, please read more information provided by the Library Foundation. As the season grows colder, stop by your local library to see what they have to offer, to warm up with a book.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Spotlighted Literary Events

Dec. 19th, 2 pm: Vitaly and Kimberly Paley, spouses, local Northwest chefs, and owners of Paley's Place, release their cookbook at the Clackamas Town Center Barnes & Noble (12000 SE 82nd Ave).

Dec. 20th, 1 pm: You'll never guess who is having a Christmas party. Fancy Nancy, that's who. You and one of your child-like friends can join the festivities by donning a gown from the dress-up box and celebrating Fancy Nancy's Splendiferous Christmas. The party is hosted at The Children's Place Bookstore (4807 NE Fremont) so expect stories, tasty treats, and other fun activities.

Dec. 20th, 11 am-6 pm: Dozens of Portland publishers, vendors, and printers are gathering their knowledge and newest works to share with you at the Publication Fair Holiday Extravaganza. The set-up is a cross between a book fair and the state fair (think festive goodies), at Ace Cleaners in Portland(403 SW 10th Ave).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photo Story Prompt: Inoculation

Write whatever comes to you--short or long, fiction or truth.

We'd love to see what you come up with! Post your story in a comment below, or e-mail it to

Feel free to comment on each other's stories and just generally enjoy the process of playing with the written word and the world it creates.

Happy writing!

Photo: "Dr. Schreiber of San Augustine giving a typhoid innoculation at a rural school, San Augustine County, Texas" by John Vachon.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction Number LC-USW36-828.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Calling all "Rising Stars"

If you are a "rising star" writer residing in Oregon, Washington, or Idaho, and between the ages of 15 and 25, Indigo has found the perfect writing competition, eager for your submissions. The Nature of Words, a premier literary organization in Central Oregon, is announcing the launch of its sixth annual literary contest with a call for submissions to the Rising Star Creative Writing Competition for young writers. Winners will be awarded at the festival, November 3-7, 2010, in Bend, Oregon, for fiction, literary nonfiction, nature essay, and poetry. All writers must fit into one of two age categories: 15-18 years of age or 19-25 years of age. Winners receive a cash prize, inclusion in an anthology, recognition at the November festival, and a scholarship to one of The Nature of Words workshops in their winning genre.

Poets may submit 2 unpublished poems; prose writers should submit one unpublished piece of no more than 3,000 words. "Unpublished" means the writing does not appear anywhere else, including Internet sources, with the exception of a blog. Entries should be accompanied by a separate cover sheet with the author's name, maling address, phone, email address, genre of the submission, and word count; this information should not be visible on the actual entry. Also, include a short bio that describes yourself and your experience and interest in writing.

Now, for actually submitting. Mail a $5 check (per entry) to The Nature of Words, P.O. Box 56, Bend, OR 97709, and note "Rising Star submission fee." Send all submissions electronically to All entries must be received no later than midnight, May 10, 2010, to be evaluated for the competition.

For more details and to double-check the submission guidelines, please visit before submitting.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: De-Clutter Your Writing

I know people who are pack rats, and I must admit a small tendency toward this unfortunate characteristic myself. I keep freshmen composition papers as humble reminders that I was a rampant comma abuser once. I keep sociology class notes even though I'm not a sociologist, because they may help me imagine a character someday. I keep jewelry from junior high even though the "silver" is tarnished, because I intend to polish it and wait for it to come back in style eventually. What if someday I miss these items and regret tossing them in a feverish need to clean out the closet? Clutter, clutter, clutter is all these items are. Writing gets cluttered as well, usually due to too many prepositions or prepositional phrases. These little words we think will make our sentence better are really just a nuisance to readers.

So when editing, feel free to toss out the unneeded ones; I guarantee nine and a half times out of ten, you won't miss them once they're gone. Chicago admits that prepositions can easily be overused and presents a ratio to consider when writing sentences: one preposition for every ten to fifteen words. If you find yourself overdoing it and keeping too many prepositions stuffed between your nouns and other parts of speech, here's how to re-evaluate and do some spring cleaning!

Start by cutting prepositional phrases that are just extra words. If a particular passage gives enough context, eliminating the prepositional phrases is often possible. "The most important ingredient in this recipe" can be cut down to "The most important ingredient," as long as the rest of your passage focuses on that recipe.

Here's another way to cut the prep: "A noun ending in ance, ence, ity, ment, sion, or tion, is often formed from a verb...These nouns are sometimes called "nominalizations" or "buried verbs," and they often require additional words, especially prepositions." So, when possible, use the verb form of a noun rather than adding prepositions. "During her performance of the concerto" is the same as "While she performed the concerto," but the reader isn't suffocated by prepositions.

Other times strong adverbs can replace a weaker prepositional phrase. See how "the cyclist pedaled with fury" is strengthened by adding an adverb: "the cyclist pedaled furiously." Possessive may serve this same purpose, especially when using of-phrases. "I was dismayed by the complexity of the street map" can become "The street map's complexity dismayed me."

Lastly, prepositions can almost always be limited by activity (as opposed to passivity)! Isn't that the truth? Now I'm really talking about using the active voice, which we already know is the higher road. But let's apply it to our clutter as well. Swing open that closet door, gather what you know is really junk, and throw it out! And then sit down to your writing and de-clutter each sentence with the same zeal.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spotlighted Literary Events

Dec. 12th, 2-4 pm: Mini Sledgehammer features a 36-minute writing contest and a reading from last summer's Sledgehammer winner, Alan Dubinsky. St. Johns Booksellers, 8622 N. Lombard, Portland.

Dec. 12th, 6 pm: Stumptown Underground releases its 4th anthology, Terrible Lizards. It's all about dinosaurs, so dress to impress! Hosted by Guapo Comics & Books in Portland (6350 SE Foster Rd)

Dec. 13th, 1-4 pm: Steve Williams and Constance Hall lead "Mapping Your Childhood" workshop, helping you put the pen to paper and conjure past memories of adolescence and earlier. Cost is $25 and proceeds benefit the 100th Monkey Studio (workshop located at the 100th Monkey Studio: 110 SE 16th Ave)

Dec. 18th, 6:30 pm: Write Around Portland celebrates its 10th anniversary with the release of a fall anthology. Workshop participants will read at the First United Methodist Church in Portland (1838 SW Jefferson St). Write Around Portland creates community-building workshops for individuals living in poverty, dealing with illness, facing isolation or experiencing other barriers.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Photo Story Prompt: Building the B-25 Bomber

Write whatever comes to you--short or long, fiction or truth.

We'd love to see what you come up with! Post your story in a comment below, or e-mail it to

Feel free to comment on each other's stories and just generally enjoy the process of playing with the written word and the world it creates.

Happy writing!

Photo: "Part of the cowling for one of the motors for a B-25 bomber is assembled in the engine department of North American [Aviation, Inc.]'s Inglewood, Calif., plant" by Palmer, Alfred T., photographer.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction Number LC-USW36-453.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Those Ambiguous Compounds

Writers and editors alike dread one thing perhaps more than any other. Compound terms play the part of Scrooge in a writer's attempt for perfectly crafted sentences. No one wants the embarrassment of hyphenating two terms when it's unnecessary, or forgetting a hyphen when it's called for. To understand compound terms and how to approach them in writing, Chicago suggests going to the dictionary to see how terms are listed. It is also helpful to first know some definitions and the differences between compound terms.

Open compounds are spelled as two words (such as high school), hyphenated compounds are spelled with one or more hyphens (mass-produced), and closed or solid compounds are spelled as a single word (notebook). "With frequent use, open or hyphenated compounds tend to become closed (online to on-line or on line)."

Knowing when to hyphenate, if at all, can be tricky and tedious. Chicago has a rather lengthy guide to hyphenation; however, this guide illustrates general patterns, rather than hard-and-fast rules. So, with that freedom also comes lots of responsibility to choose the best type of compound term. In general, compound terms should be expressed logically and for enhanced readability, but many times hyphens are also used purely due to tradition.

No need to bog you down with a long list of rules for using and not using hyphens; the rules are not that clear. I'd rather hand you over to my trusty friends with all the answers, Webster and Chicago. But a golden rule in using hyphens is to question the readability and clarity of a compound term with or without a hyphen. If the meaning of a term is ambiguous without a hyphen (like the difference between recreation and re-creation), then don't hesitate to add the extra punctuation.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Spotlighted Literary Events

Dec. 5th, 2 pm: Introduction of Lawrence Halprin's Where the Revolution Began, with live music and a screening of the documentary The City Dance of Lawrence and Anna Halprin. Portland's Ziba Design, 1044 NW 9th Ave.

Dec. 5th, 5 pm: Writer's Block mixer on curing "blinking cursor paralysis" led by authors Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton. Hosted at Cover to Cover Books, 1817 Main Street, Vancouver, WA.

Dec. 6th, 12-4 pm: Celebrate Oregon authors with the 42nd Annual Holiday Cheer. Features Sarah Baker Munro, Brian Booth, George Byron Wright, and dozens more, at the Oregon History Museum.

Dec. 7th, 7 pm: Local author Tommy Gaffney releases his second collection of poems and stories, entitled Whiskey Days, with a reading and concert (accompanied by Splashdown) at the Alberta Street Public House (1036 NE Alberta).

Dec. 9th, 7 pm: Poetry reading by Scot Siegel, part of the 3rd season of the Milwaukie Poetry Series, at The Pond House, 2215 SE Harrison.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Photo Story Response: Central Park

Fit for a King (or Queen, Rather)
By Laura Daye

Last time I was in Central Park, it was March, and very cold. The sky was white and threatening the full five days. I neglected to bring a scarf, which I really regretted. I was in a disintegrating relationship; five+ years and I was bored and decided to throw it away. I was staying in a hostel on Amsterdam with my boyfriend and three other friends; two of the friends were part of a couple. Even though we were staying in a dormitory of bunkbeds, the two friends that were a “couple” shared a little top bunk made for one person. I didn’t even bother to climb into my then-boyfriend’s bunk. I had no interest. I wanted space. I was cold as the New York sky.

I have photos from that trip. I was in Central Park with my boyfriend and the one accompanying friend who wasn’t part of a couple. We wandered around, and took photos of each other sitting in a throne-like seat built into a castle-like building that housed specimens of the park’s history.

The single friend is no longer a friend; I saw her a couple of years ago, and what I thought was going to be a fun reunion ended up being an outing with five other snotty, bitchy people I had never met before who threw me dirty looks and refused to engage in conversation with me. Each one, part of a couple, possessively grabbing their downtrodden boyfriends at lame Dragonfish, sipping neon-hued cocktails or water (because they seemed to anal-retentive to actually let loose with a little alcohol), thinking they’re the height of maturity. Yeah, whatever. I have no patience for that bullshit.

The then-boyfriend I trod down in New York, in Central Park, in the hostel, in the financial district, on Madison Avenue, at the Indian restaurant, is now a best friend. He is a specimen of my past, but an integral part of my present. We don’t place each other on pedestals or thrones anymore: we know all of our bad sides (and good).

And the friends that were part of a couple in New York? Long since broken up, on to the umpteenth boyfriend or girlfriend, in one case possibly THE girlfriend to last through all forthcoming seasons. I hope, I hope! I’m not entirely a pessimist, you see.

The day after we all returned to Portland, a big snowstorm hit New York. Central Park, and the city at large were coated in white. The airport shut down. Everyone was stuck. But we made it home.

This story was written in response to this photo story prompt. Please check this website every Wednesday for new prompts. We'd love to see what you come up with! Post your story in a comment on the post for the prompt, or e-mail it to

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Photo Story Prompt: G. Washington's Teeth

Write whatever comes to you--short or long, fiction or truth.

We'd love to see what you come up with! Post your story in a comment below, or e-mail it to

Feel free to comment on each other's stories and just generally enjoy the process of playing with the written word and the world it creates.

Happy writing!

Photo: "G. Washington's Teeth" of the George Grantham Bain Collection.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Reproduction Number LC-B2-2241-4.