Friday, April 23, 2010

Spotlighted Literary Events

Apr. 23rd, 7:30 pm: Terry McDermont documents the true story of neuroscientist Gary Lynch's attempt to answer two questions: "What happens in the brain when a human being encounters a new experience so that he or she can recall it at will tonight, tomorrow, in 2025? And what goes wrong when we can't remember?" This event is co-sponsored by the OHSU Brain Institute and hosted at Powell's City of Books on Burnside (1005 W Burnside, Portland).

Apr. 24th & 25th: Stumptown Comics Fest 2010 is invading our town! Featuring everything from book signings to artist talks and DC to zines, this year's festival has something for anyone with a penchant for spandex or sharp writing. The festival costs $6 a day or $10 for a weekend pass. Visit the Doubletree Hotel (1000 NE Multnomah, Portland) to take part in the action!

Apr. 29th, 7:00 pm: Come celebrate in the release party for the Disappearing Book, a reflection on the fragile nature of our different environments. A collection of disappearing things, this book is the product of artist Melody Owen's collaboration with dozens of artists, writers, and musicians. The release party features an exhibit of some of the work documented in the book. This event is free and hosted at the Container Corps Headquarters (1322 N Killingsworth, Portland).

Picture Credit: Container Corps

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Photo Story Prompt: On the Railing

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!

"Madrid scenes de rue" by Ch. Chusseau-Flaviens
George Eastman House, Photography Collection [1975:0112:2678]

Monday, April 19, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: The Return of the Slash!

Slash ambiguous terms and sentences by examining the meaning of slashed constructions. As our Chicago Manual of Style posits, the slash has been a traditional way of signifying immediate alternatives, used as shorthand for and or or. We have already shown the valid and convenient uses of this sign, but the slash as a darker side steeped in confusion.

Consider the following slashed constructions:
and/or editor/publisher is/was side ponytail/tube top dress code

Although these constructions have the straightforward appearance of legal language, they exhibit an underlying confusion when closely examined. The Copyeditor's Handbook provides an excellent summary of the situation:

Today, the sleight-of-hand of "a and/or b" is usually interpreted to mean "a or b or both," but often the intended meaning is simply "a or b," or even "a and b."

Instead of forcing your readers to take a stab at your intentions, tell them by substituting the correct word or phrase for the construction.

Both editor/publisher and is/was suffer from similar ambiguity. When and author is looking for an editor/publisher, are they trying to find a company to occupy both roles? Do they need one or the other? Are they looking to fill two different positions? The slashed construction of is/was does no better in presenting the reader with an accurate picture. Try to avoid the slashed construction when a few words could make your meaning clearer. Consider the following interpretations of the slashed conjunction:

Justin is/was Emily's best friend.
Justin is or was Emily's best friend.
(We are unsure of the status of the relationship.)
Justin once was and now is Emily's best friend.
(They grew apart for a while.)
Justin continues to be Emily's friend.
(They have remained close.)

Another cause of confusion can be found when joining multiple-word phrases in slashed conjunctions. When I read about the side ponytail/tube top dress code, the ponytail/tube is scanned as the conjunction. Chicago recommends using a thin space before and after the slash to signify the use of multiple-word phrases, but ambiguities remain. Do we have to have both a side ponytail and a tube top to meet dress code? Can we have one or the other?

The slash is a useful shorthand when dealing with alternatives, but be careful to not slip into confused statements. Strive toward clarity in your writing. When in doubt, use your words.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spotlighted Literary Events

Apr. 17th, 3:00 pm: Come participate in another edition of the Mini-Sledgehammer Writing Contest presented by Indigo Editing & Publications. After a reading by Alan Dubinsky—the winner of last year’s contest—the audience will receive prompts and will have 36 minutes to write their own short stories. All entries will be judged on the spot and winners will take home prizes. The Mini-Sledgehammer Contest is free and open to the public—the event is hosted at Floyd's Coffee Shop in Old Town (118 NW Couch Street, Portland).

Apr. 20th, 6:00 pm: The New Oregon Interview Series is turning its eye toward the literature and arts in Portland. Join host Nora Robertson as she leads a discussion with artist/curator Nan Curtis, filmmaker/architecture critic Brian Libby, and writer Floyd Skloot. How is the Portland art scene in dialogue with other regions? How does our art allow us access to the outside world? The event is free and also includes an open wine and beer bar. Follow the discussion at White Stag Block (70 NW Couch Street, Portland).

Apr. 21st, 8:00 pm: Join the release party for Jeff Parker's latest graphic novel Underground. Parker, a local writer and comic book artist, twists the man versus nature story, moving the action to the caves of Kentucky. Parker has worked with DC, Dark Horse, Image, and Marvel. Celebrate this arrival of another great graphic novel at Things from Another World (4133 NE Sandy Boulevard, Portland).

Picture Credit: Cover of Underground #3 by Steve Lieber and Jeff Parker

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Call for Submissions: Sixth Annual Ooligan Editors' Choice Fiction Contest

This just in from the Ooligan Press:

Portland State University's Publishing Program and Ooligan Press are sponsoring the Sixth Annual Ooligan Editors' Choice Fiction Contest. The Advanced Book Editing class wants your stories!

Submit your original short story on the theme MAKING MONSTERS.

The Ooligan Press Editors will carefully select and professionally edit the five entries that best exemplify originality, reader appeal, and writer's craft. The winning stories will receive the Ooligan Editors' Choice Award and will be published in Ooligan's Best Short Stories of 2010 (our annual electronic journal).

  • Stories must not have been previously published
  • Maximum of 4,000 words
  • One story per person
  • Authors will retain copyright to their writing
To Enter:

Send a Word document, double-spaced and formatted in 12-point type, as an e-mail attachment to Include the title of your story. In the body of your e-mail, include your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

All submissions are due by May 1st, May Day.

Read past winners at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Photo Story Prompt: Planes from the Ceiling

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!

"Chicago, Illinois. Model airplanes decorate the ceiling of the train concourses at Union Station" by Jack Delano
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USW3-015950-D]

Monday, April 12, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: Cut the Dangling Participles!

Participial phrases often add excellent descriptions to sentences, but writers should be careful to make sure the intended meaning is clear. Dangling participles loom in the margins of sentences and twist the writer’s words. While these dangling phrases are incorrect, they can be found in the copy of careful writers. When you come across participial phrases in your work, make sure that phrase connects to the intended subject.

But let’s review our terms before moving toward certain grammatical edicts.

The Chicago Manual of Style never hesitates to offer precise definitions. The fifteenth edition notes, “A participial phrase is made up of a participle plus and closely associated word or words, such as modifiers or complements.” It’s easy to spot the participle. You have to look for a modified verb stem, usually ending in ing for present participles or ed for past participles. Participial phrases come in two forms: they can function as an adjective to modify a noun or pronoun, and they can function as an adverb to modify the predicate or part of the predicate. Participial phrases modifying the subject of the sentence are the most problematic for writers, so we will focus on these phrases. Here are some examples of participial phrases to show how they work in sentences:

Snuggling into my blankets, my cat purred in the dark.
Running from the cops, the robber tripped over the curb and dropped the stolen money.

In the first example, Snuggling is the participle for the phrase into my blankets. The participial phrase Snuggling into my blankets modifies the subject cat, showing what she was doing as she purred in the dark. The second example modifies robber through the participial phrase Running from the cops. Participial phrases tend to be at the beginning of a sentence; they are usually very close to the subject being modified.

The participial phrases begin to dangle as they become disconnected from the proper subject. When the independent clause following the participial phrase does not begin with the subject modified by the participial phrase, the reader can quickly become confused. For example:

While pumping my gas, my car began to roll backward.

It seems that the car is both beginning to roll and pumping my gas. Rephrasing the uncanny ability of my car to pump my gas, I have two easy alternatives that offer more clarity. I can use the correct subject in the participial phrase, or I can begin the independent clause with the correct subject. Here are the two corrected versions of this sentence:

While I was pumping my gas, my car began to roll backward.
While pumping my gas, I noticed my car was rolling backward.

These introductory phrases clearly express that I—and not a futuristic car—was pumping the gas. We have cut the dangling participles!

There are two types of sentences prone to creating dangling participles. When using participial phrases, you should not start the independent clause with there is, there are, or it is. The Copywriter’s Handbook also notes, “Dangling is also inevitable when the independent clause is headed by a verb.” Here are a few examples of these dangling participles:

Reading the reports from the front line, it is unsafe for our army to advance any more.
Awakened by the thunderstorm, there is no chance of me going back to bed.

Watching the sunrise, getting up early was her greatest pleasure.
While eating the chocolate bar, trying to drive was very difficult for Paul.

These phrases can be corrected as easily as our first examples. We can either insert the correct subject in the first clause, or we can begin the independent clause with the proper subject. Here are two corrected versions of these examples:

After I was awakened by the thunderstorm, there is no chance of me going back to bed.
While eating the chocolate bar, Paul found driving to be very difficult.

Always pay attention to the participial phrases in your writing. Although the concept may make sense in your head, you should be sure that your sentences clearly communicate your thoughts.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Spotlighted Literary Events

Apr. 10th, 7:00 pm: Tangent Press hosts a multimedia poetry event featuring poets David Buuck and Arnold J. Kemp reading alongside video artist Jennifer Hardacker. With a background in performances on the street and in the theater, these three should put on quite a show. The event will be held at the Clinton Corner Cafe (2633 SE 21st Avenue, Portland).

Apr. 14th, 7:00 pm: Eileen Garvin will read selections from How to Be a Sister, her candid memoir documenting the struggles and triumphs in her relationship with her autistic sister. Garvin will be sharing her stories at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing (3415 Cedar Mills Boulevard, Beaverton).

Apr. 15th, 7:30 pm: It's the end of the world as we know it, and Sharan Newman is here to teach the different theories of the apocalypse. Her latest book, The Real History of the End of the World, examines society through our concepts of the end. Newman will be speaking at Annie Bloom's Books (7834 SW Capitol Highway, Portland).

Also, be sure to plan ahead for the Mini-Sledgehammer writing contest at Floyd's Coffee Shop in Old Town on Saturday, Apr. 17th.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Photo Story Prompt: A Soldier's Good-bye

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

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!

"Soldier's goodbye & Bobbie the cat, ca. 1939-ca. 1945" by Sam Hood
Collection of the State Library of New South Wales

Monday, April 05, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: Count me in!

Numbers (and their sibling, mathematics) can be the bane of any writer. When should a writer use numerals and symbols? When should a writer spell the number out? The rules for writing numbers can be vague and tend to vary from source to source.

When writing a technical or scientific piece, it is often necessary to use numerals to convey the data clearly to the reader. In most journalistic writing, the space on the page is given the highest priority. The style of the Associated Press dictates that journalists spell out both cardinal and ordinal numbers one through nine while suggesting that the writers use numerals in other cases.

A writer must strive for consistency and readability when dealing with numbers. The Chicago Manual of Style, fifteenth edition, offers wise words for writers struggling with proper usage. Chicago structures its conventions around one general rule: “whole numbers from one through one hundred, round numbers, and any number beginning a sentence” should be spelled out. Others should be written using numerals.

Two hundred and twenty-one rabbits were found living in the abandoned house.
Seventeen of the students were twenty-two-years old.
There were nearly two thousand people in the coliseum.
We’re going to party like it’s 1999!
I counted 3,397 bricks in the pathway of our neighborhood park.

The round numbers of Chicago are hundreds, thousands, millions, or higher round values. These round numbers should be spelled out. When a writer wishes to express a very large number (usually in the millions, billions, or higher), a combination of numerals and spelled out numbers is recommended for readability.

Recent research suggests that the Big Bang occurred around 13.3 and 13.9 billion years ago.
As of the 2000 census, there are an estimated 1.2 billion people living in Mainland China.

Simple fractions should be spelled out. Numbers involving whole numbers and fractions are often written in numerals, but may be spelled out if they are short. Percentages should always be written in numerals. As Chicago is quick to note, the word percent should be used in humanistic writings.

I finished writing two-thirds of my essay before falling asleep.
I woke up the next morning with 33 percent of my work left to do.
She took meticulous notes her 2½ x 4-inch index cards.

As a general rule, strive toward consistency and readability when using numbers. These conventions should provide some support when using numbers, but there will always be traditional exceptions. It’s much easier to tell someone to pick up a 60-watt light bulb than a sixty-watt light bulb. It makes more sense to use a 12-point font than a twelve-point font. If you consider your reader as you write, using numbers will be as easy as one, two, three.

For more information on using numbers when dealing with money, please read Martha's tip.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Spotlighted Literary Events

Apr. 3rd, 4:00 pm: A reading by Andrew Michael Roberts, a 2009 Oregon Book Awards finalist in Poetry, will be followed by a few readings from other new writers. Roberts has published two award-winning chapbooks of his poetry. The event is free and open to the public—come hear the new works of poetry at the Corvallis Public Library (645 NW Monroe Avenue, Corvallis).

Apr. 6th, 7:00 pm: Come participate in the latest Mini-Sledgehammer Writing Contest! Indigo Editing & Publications presents a miniature version of the annual Sledgehammer Writing Contest. After a reading by Alan Dubinsky—the winner of the last year’s contest—the audience will receive prompts and will have 36 minutes to write their own short stories. All entries will be judged on the spot and winners will take home prizes. The Mini-Sledgehammer Contest is free and open to the public—the event is hosted at Blackbird Wine Shop (3519 NE 44th Avenue, Portland).

Apr. 8th, 7:00 pm: Peter Rock will be reading from his most recent novel My Abandonment, an account of a father and daughter who spend four years living in Portland's Forest Park. Based on a true story, Rock's novel focuses on this life on the fringe of society—the father and daughter who disappeared only days after being brought from the woods to the city. The reading is free and open to the public—Rock will be reading at Broadway Books (1714 NE Broadway, Portland).