Monday, August 31, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Don't Let Summaries Make You Tense

Picture this. We're in Boston. It's a hot, muggy night, and all you want is a frothy brew to quench your thirst. You sit down at your favorite bar (pronounced bahr please), take in a Red Sox game, and meet a nice, recently graduated English major. Now here's a problem. What to discuss with someone you just met who has spent the last four years studying literature? Why the largest, most impressive book you've read of course!

So, you pull it out. Your crowning achievement. "I've read A Tale of Two Cities you know."

Now, inevitably, this nice English major may expect more information. She may even ask you summarize! Ack! What to do? What to include? Are those darn Yankees winning? Most importantly, what tense to use?

Glad you asked.

When summarizing a drama, you should always use the present tense. For a poem, story, or novel, it is advisable to stick to the present as well. If you do so, it is much more likely your listener will remain engaged. Remember, there is a Red Sox game on. However, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style notes, "you may use the past if it seems more natural to do so." Don't be concerned when you come across an antecedent action when using the present tense. In this case, simply express such action using the perfect; "if in the past, by the past perfect."

Above all else, stick to your guns (and your tenses). If you've begun your summary in the present tense, stay with it! After all, "shifting from one tense to another gives the appearance of uncertainty and irresolution." We can't have that, now can we? Dickens is not for the faint of heart!

This may come in especially handy if that nice English major asks for a critical essay on your favorite book. Hey, you never know. However, Strunk and White warn not to fall into summary too often. Instead, consider using evidence that adds to an "orderly discussion."

You could also just go back to watching the game. Apparently, Jacoby Ellsbury is quite a hunk, and that is hard to compete with.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Spotlighted Literary Events

Date: August 30th
In case you missed it the first time around, Burnside Review's second Oregon all-star reading will feature Henry Carlile, Zanni Schauffler, B.T. Shaw, Susan Denning, Henry Hughes, Monica Drake, Erin Ergenbright, Kevin Sampell, Stephanie Lenox, Maxine Scates, Patricia Staton, Carlos Reyes, Chrys Tobey, Endi Hartigen and Andrew Michael Roberts.
When: 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Where: RomToms, 600 E. Burnside, Portland, OR.
Cost: Free! Come ready to hear the cream of the Oregon crop!

Date: September 3rd
Celebrate Reading Frenzy's 15th anniversary with fifteen staff alumni who are creating a Show & Tell style exhibition of their recent artistic exploits! Attendees will enjoy features from "visual arts, literary creations, music, radio, and possibly film!" While there, enjoy free beer provided by the Eugene, Oregon brewery, Ninkasi. Sip on a Radiant Summer Ale and enjoy the creativity of the last days of summer!
When: TBA
Where: 921 SW Oak St., Portland, OR
Cost: Free!
For more information visit Reading Frenzy's website.

Date: September 3rd
Rhythmic Rhyme wants to keep poetry alive at Joanna's Soul Cafe and Jazz Club. Enjoy the famous Buchanan's sweet potato pie and be prepared to be pulled up on stage to participate in all the poetry fun! If you enjoy yourself, make it a tradition! The event goes on every Thursday night!
When: 8 PM
Where: 2514 E Cherry St, Seattle, WA
Cost: Free! Bring your poetry and your appetite!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Photo Story Prompt: Flowers for You

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: "Flowers for You" by AD-Passion

Monday, August 24, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Laughing Heartily, Running Swiftly, and Other Adverbial Pitfalls

Ah, the adverb; one of the many things in life that can be so good, yet so wrong. "It's so useful!" you might protest, when looking over your latest piece of fiction. Of course it is. Tacking on "ly" conveniently does all the descriptive work for you. All your character, let's call him Bryce, needs to do is "wink seductively" and we know there's a hot make out scene coming. What does that really tell us about him (save his participation in one of the cheesiest facial expressions known to humankind)? Wouldn't it be more interesting if your description of Bryce's attempt to flag down a female was a little, well, quirky? What if he attempted a slow, exaggerated wink while fingering the rim of his whiskey glass? Now, he may still be a cheeseball, but at least he's got a signature drink! If Bond taught us anything, it's that every man hoping to exude any sort of appeal needs one of those. Maybe as he slides his finger along the rim of the glass he becomes so absorbed in gazing at his new, um, beloved, he tips the glass over onto his new pink shirt (Don't hate too much, his mother picked it out). Now you have intrigue and a little disaster for our protagonist. See how much we gained when we took out the adverb and tried to imagine a little more? Think what you, the writer, can do with that.

Since this is feeling a bit preachy, let's take a brief moment to visit our Chicago Manual of Style. Hold on while I grab it from its hallowed place of reverence.


"An adverb is a word that qualifies, limits, describes, or modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. An adverb may also qualify a preposition, conjunction, or a clause."

Now I know what you're thinking, and I admit it's true. The adverb can be quite helpful, but it can also be a swift push onto the slippery slope of telling instead of showing.

Finally, as the title of this week's post exemplifies, the adverb can also foster redundancy. You don't need to tell us your character is laughing heartily. Do you want to get across just how darn funny your character finds life? Envision something interesting and show, show, show! There are loads of embarrassing things people do on a day to day basis, don't let the adverb take away those moments from you!

Remember, just because JK Rowling uses it doesn't mean it's gold. Create an imaginary world filled with unforgettable characters that turns into a multi-million-dollar franchise and then come talk to me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Our phone is down!

Our phone service is down for a few days, so if you need to reach us, please call us on our cell phones:

Ali: 503-593-4258
Kristin: 503-250-2670
Andrea: 503-473-1647

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Spotlighted Literary Events

Date: August 22nd
Feeling the summer doldrums setting in? Fight them off at the Crossing the Blues Summer Arts Festival! The festival will feature a reading by Pendleton, OR native Shaindel Beers. Her fiction, poetry, and nonfiction has graced the pages of several anthologies. I can think of no better way to celebrate art and summertime than with Eastern Oregon's biggest festival complete with music, a mini-triathlon, art, and a Farmer's Market! Events for writers include: author's fair, writing marathon, and open mike. Local and guest vendors will provide delicious treats to get your creativity flowing!
Where: Small Stage, the corners of Adams and Chestnut Streets, La Grande, OR
When: Featured writers at 11 AM and 2 PM with writing activities 10 AM to 4 PM
Cost: Free
For more information visit the event website.

Date: August 23
Elliot Bay Book Co. presents its Tenth Annual Staged Play Reading Series with a performance of Dinner With Friends at the React Theater. The book, by Donald Margulies, is an American Pulitzer Prize winner. It's honest depiction of the effect one couple's breakup has on their circle of friends is sure to entertain!
When: 2 PM
Where: The Repertory Actors Theater, 1122 E Pike Street #1111, Seattle, WA
Cost: Suggested donation $5 at the door. Elliot Bay recommends making reservations early to ensure a good view of all the drama!

Date: August 26
Hopleaf Bar will be featuring a reading by Matthew Gavin Frank. Stay awhile and enjoy brews and beverages from the bar's extensive wine and beer list (there are about 200 beers). While drinking and merrymaking in the Belgium inspired tavern, enjoy readings from Matthew's debut collection, Sagittarius Agitprop.
Where: 5148 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL
When: 7 PM
Cost: Free, 21 and over only

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Over the past four years, thousands of Northwest book lovers have discovered new writers and celebrated books and stories at the Wordstock festival. This year's festival is is right around the corner, and we need volunteers! Volunteer opportunities include escorting authors to their readings, assisting with book signings, staffing information booths, and selling merchandise!

If you would like to help us put on a great event, click on the following link to fill out the volunteer application form. (You can also access the form through Wordstock's website. Click on the "Get Involved" tab on the right of the hompage, and then click on the "Volunteer Signup" tab on the left-hand side of the page.) Feel free to sign up for more than one shift, a whole day, or the entire weekend.

Without volunteers, Wordstock would not be possible. We hope to see you this year. If you have any questions, e-mail the volunteer coordinators at

Wordstock is Portland's annual book and literary festival, one of the city's most high-profile cultural events and the biggest celebration of books and literature in the Pacific Northwest.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: It's Hip to be a Square Bracket

Although often upstaged by the more commonly used parenthesis, the square bracket is a handy writing tool. Perhaps you are quoting material that needs more information; there's a square bracket for that. "'They [the free-silver Democrats] asserted that the ratio could be maintained.'" Maybe you want to use the bracketed material to replace the author's original words; there's a bracket for that. When there is a pesky word within a quotation that you need to eliminate or change, the square bracket may just come to your rescue. When used correctly, the quotation "He gave an inspirational speech" becomes "[The President] gave an inspirational speech."

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, the square brackets "are used mainly to enclose material—usually added by someone other than the original author—that does not belong in the surrounding text. In quoted matter, reprints, anthologies, and other non-original material, square brackets enclose editorial interpolations, explanations, translations of foreign terms, or corrections."

Square brackets can also be useful when translating material. If a word causes ambiguity, a translator can use square brackets to avoid misrepresentation. For example, "the differences between society [Gesellschaft] and community [Gemeinde] will now be analyzed." However, Chicago warns to use the "device sparingly" in this manner.

When you're quoting, writing, or editing don't forget about the square bracket. Don't count it out just because it's a little "edgier" than it's parenthetical counterpart. It could just be your punctuation equivalent to Wonder Woman.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spotlighted Literary Events

Date: August 17th
La Pregunta Arts Cafe: a Cultural Social Club is hosting a reading/performance entitled La Menta Collective's Inaugural Junta with special guest Bonafide Rojas author of "Pelo Bueno: A Day in the Life of a Nuyorican Poet" and bandleader for the poetic rock project The Mona Passage. The event will also feature writer and blogger Glendaliz Camacho. While listening, enjoy artisan coffees and teas, delicious sandwiches and pastries, or an exotic salad!
Where: 1528 Amsterdam Ave. & 135th St., New York, NY
When: 6:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Cost: TBA. Wise to bring some cash, questions, and a healthy appetite!
For more information about the venue visit La Pregunta's website. To learn more about Bonafide Rojas project, visit their myspace or watch them on YouTube here.

Date: August 19th
Heavens Tea and Sacred Arts Center invites you to "celebrate the spiraling joy of life" while drinking "heady rare teas" and reading poetry from the ecstatic traditions of Asia. This is a unique opportunity to experience both tea and poetry in a completely new way.
Where: For information and location
When: 7 - 8:30 PM
Cost: $35 per person
For additional information visit their website.

Date: August 20th
Come support creativity in Oregon with The Burnside Review's Oregon Issue as they feature an all-star reading with writers from around the state. From brilliant descriptions of the Northwest to shared commiseration about the rain and our love for temperate weather, this is certain to be a fantastic event! All proceeds from the event will benefit the Oregon Literary Fellowships. Munch on complimentary snacks and wine while listening to the featured readers: /Vern Rutsala, Michele Glazer, Mary Syzbist, Anthony Robinson, Floyd Skloot, David Axelrod, Cecilla Hagen, Anmarie Trimble and Paulann Petersen. You will also get the chance to hear the musical stylings of Willy Vlautin!
Where: Weiden, Kennedy Atrium, 224 NW 13th Ave, Portland, OR
When: 7 PM
Cost: Suggested donation of $5

Monday, August 10, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: Dying to Dye and Other Troubling Words

"I'm nervous," Charlie said, as his mother strapped on his small soccer cleats.
"Ask your father for some ideas on how to steel yourself before the game," his mother replied, patting him on the head.
Charlie nodded seriously and ran out of the room.
"Hey, Dad," he called into the den. "Mom said you'd teach me how to steal!"

Although Charlie's mistake represents the problem with homophones that can often be funny or entertaining, sometimes using one word in place of another can cause you a lot of trouble! Sure, people love to laugh at typos and word usage problems. But you most likely want to avoid that laughter (and let's be honest, judgment) from being directed at you. Even The Chicago Manual of Style looks harshly upon those who use one word in place for another. Chapter 5 states, "What is sensual involves indulgence of the senses—especially sexual gratification. What is sensuous usually applies to aesthetic enjoyment; only hack writers imbue the word with salacious connotations." There you have it. If you want to avoid being labeled a "hack writer" by the grammar powers-that-be, it may be wise to brush up on your word usage.
Here are some common problems, listed in Chicago, to get you started on "de-hackifying" yourself. Since it's August, and all of the retailers are already advertising for pencils and binders, we'll call this the back to school edition.

cite; site. The word cite when used as a noun means a citation or source of information. The word site "is a place or location." This may come in handy when you must cite a source about a historical site for your Global Studies class.

can; may. This word usage problem is the bane of existence for children with full bladders. Like our teachers told us while we squirmed and danced miserably in front of them, can means "to be able to." Conversely, may "suggests possibility" or the need for permission.

principle; principal. Principle typically means a fundamental truth that serves as a foundation for a belief system. Principal, as a noun, means the person with the most authority or highest position in an organization. If it wasn't for this common mistake, we may never have heard that wonderful phrase while stuck in the office for chasing boys on the playground. "Now, don't cry little Judy, everyone knows that your principal is your pal.

dying; dying. While dying means "to cease living," dyeing means "to color with a liquid." Both are present participles of die and dye, respectively. Example: The cheerleaders are all dyeing their hair red for the big game, but stopped tanning to avoid dying from skin cancer.

odious; odorous. Odious "means 'hateful'" while odorous means "'detectable by smell for better or for worse.'" When little boys come in from recess, they may be odorous, but only a bully is odious.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Spotlighted Literary Events

Date: Sunday, August 9th
Bluestockings Bookstore is hosting a reading/signing by Ankur Shah, author of Sometimes We Walk Alone. His striking and deeply spiritual story depicts his 2006 recreation of Mahatma Gandhi's pilgrimage from Ahmedabad, Gujarat to the ocean at Dandi protesting the British tax on salt.
Where: 172 Allen St., New York, NY
When: 7 PM
Cost: Free

Date: Monday, August 10th
Show and Tell Gallery and Three Friends Coffee House presents the 3 Friends Mondays: Caffeinated Art. On August 10th, attendees will enjoy readings by award winning authors Evelyn Sharenov and Megan Kruse. For your listening pleasure, Beet Roots, the self-proclaimed 100% organic girl duo, will play guitar and mandolin!
Where: Three Friends Coffee House, 201 SE 12th and Ash, Portland, OR
When: 7 - 8 PM
Cost: Free! Just bring your love for caffeine, literature, and great music.
More Info: Visit the Show and Tell Gallery's website and click "Upcoming Events."

Date: Tuesday, August 11th
Books and Bars book club is hosting a lively discussion, led by comedian Jeff Kamin, of Audrey Niffengger's The Time Traveler's Wife at The Soap Factory. While at the event, you can create a paper sculpture just like Clare and pay homage to Henry through a group-made card catalog. Great brews and wine will be available and may even bring out your competitive side for the one-on-one writing contests!
Where: Common Room, The Soap Factory, 518 and St. SE, Minneapolis, MN
When: 6 - 10 PM
Cost: Suggested donation of $5. All are welcome, even if you haven't read the book!
For more information about the Books and Bars club visit their website.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Photo Story Prompt: Ahhh, Vacation.

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: "Praia do Forte" by Anselmo Garrido

Monday, August 03, 2009

Editorial Tip of the Week: To Be and Me, Me, Me

Face it; people love to talk about themselves. The to be verbs allow us to do so with ease. The Chicago Manual of Style notes that individuals use the to be verb as a linking verb "that connects the subject with something affirmed about the subject." This form gives us the chance to discuss that special subject in depth. You can establish a need {I am hungry}. You can proclaim your own greatness {I am AWESOME!}. You can even use it to praise someone else {He is so dreamy}. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
According to Chicago, there are two other very special uses for the eight forms of the to be verbs (is, are, was, were, been, being, be, and am). Chapter 5 states, "it is sometimes a sentence's principal verb meaning "exist" {I think, therefore I am}." After all, what better way to stroke one's ego than to ponder the beauty of our very existence? You can also use it as an auxiliary verb {I was born under that bridge yonder}. Depending on the information, this could be a great conversation starter. When teaming up with a verb's present participle the to be verb has the power to indicate "continuing or progressive action" {I was working out everyday to tone my fantastic abs}. Of course, you may find a bit more humility goes a long way. Your choice.

Buyer beware: when joining the to be verb with a past participle you are entering passive voice territory {your phone was broken}. When you find yourself caught in the realm of passivity, always ask who or what is doing the action so the sentence "can be advantageously changed to active voice" {I broke your phone}. What's that you say? This might put your favorite subject in a bad light? Keep it honest, keep it active. Then you can talk about yourself all you want, and people may just keep listening!