On Writing

Romantic Movie Quotes

The Notebook1. “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.” ~ Moulin Rouge 2. “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” ~ When Harry Met Sally 3. “To me, you are perfect”…

via The 30 Most Romantic Movie Quotes Of All Time — Thought Catalog

Human Issues

‘She Who Tells a Story’ Highlights Contemporary Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World — Flavorwire

The Arabic word “rawiya” translates to “she who tells a story,” which also happens to be the name of a new exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, opening April 8 and running through July 31. She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World…

via ‘She Who Tells a Story’ Highlights Contemporary Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World — Flavorwire

On Writing

On Swearing

A couple times in grad school, we had quite serious conversations about swearing in our writing class. I don’t mean swearing in class – I mean swearing in our writing. It seemed we had stumbled upon a trend whereby writers appeared to use swear words to shock and awe so often that, much like the overuse of the exclamation point or bold font, they eradicated its effectiveness completely.

Writing, much like cooking, needs the right balance of flavors, and profanity is a powerful seasoning. A Psychology Today article from 2012 describes several good reasons for swearing. Many people I know would completely agree. However, using swear words comes at a cost. A 2015 Forbes article cites a CareerBuilder.com study that states 81% of employers surveyed believe swearing at work “brings an employee’s professionalism into question.” What does what you write say about you?

Image credit: SodaHead

Having grown up in the North where swear words pretty much equated with punctuation, swearing didn’t bother me all that much at the time. I remember my first week on campus at the very Southern University of Tennessee attending a welcome reception to meet our professors. At one point during a circle of small talk, I casually dropped in an “F bomb,” which caused, I kid you not, a moment of complete silence before chatter resumed. Just like a scene in a movie.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize a gaffe of that magnitude and I became acutely aware of a great many cultural differences. While, despite having spoken in what felt like the loudest voice ever used indoors in the history of man, I am sure no one remembers that moment–certainly not the way I do, I am very certain that a whole heap of perceptions occurred…whether the witnesses realized it consciously or not.They likely categorized me as one of “those Yankees” (bless her heart). It’s possible they questioned my intelligence, despite the competitiveness of the program, because fairly or unfairly, swearing is often considered a sign of questionable education and upbringing.

Now don’t think for a minute that Southerners don’t swear. They do. Oh yes ma’am and/or sir, they do. But instead of using words as punctuation, like a Northerner, they choose exactly the right word at exactly the right moment for effect. Should the timing be off or the setting wrong, as in my faux pas, the words are met with the slight downward cast and almost imperceptible disappointed shake of the head. Used properly, the word crafts paragraphs worth of meaning and shared understanding. Swearing for style. The key to the effect is to use the words ever so sparingly. And rather than string several together, Southerners simply stretch a single syllable word into two, sometimes adding a leading word, as if they’re setting up a tee. For example, “shit” might become “well, shee-ut.”

swearing-jpgBack to writing. Does it make sense to use swear words in writing? My opinion is Yes! and NO! I think there is a right (stylish) way to do it and a wrong (people gonna think you’re kinda dumb) way to do it.**

I’ve seen profanity used very well. If one of your characters swears regularly, it can become part of the persona. If none of your characters swear regularly, but one drops just the right word in the perfect moment, you’ve painted the most wonderful dramatic picture. However, I’ve also seen profanity go horribly wrong. If every character swears all the time, not only is it unrealistic, the reader can’t easily tell the characters apart.

Interested in reading some more? Here are a couple resources for profanity in writing:


[**editorial note: if you’re constantly swearing on Facebook or other social media, newsflash: YOU’RE IN PUBLIC. The room is silent and everyone is staring at you. Your readers are judging you without mercy and you’re proving them right. You come off as an unkempt, uncouth moron with an extremely limited vocabulary, so just stop now.]


On Writing

The Lovely Mrs. Tucker

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Tucker, passed away recently. Everyone adored her, myself included. Like other losses suffered by the close-knit community in which I grew up, her passing sparked a series of nostalgic Facebook posts and animated phone calls of remembrance. I hadn’t really pinpointed before, but I realized talking through memories that Mrs. Tucker was the first adult who encouraged me to become a writer.

That was one of the years I missed a lot of school. The blizzard of ’78 took everyone out for a while, but the chicken pox followed up with a bad upper respiratory infection stretched my absence to nearly a month. One of my make-up assignments from Mrs. Tucker, an “essay” on how the blizzard affected us, only needed to be a paragraph or so – typical of what one might expect from 7 year olds. Bored as I was from being home and confined to my room much of the time, I wrote a series of little stories. I wish I had them now. I remember one was about my mom’s cousin delivering groceries on a snowmobile and having to transfer them through my brother’s (2nd floor) bedroom window, which actually happened. Another one involved hooking up the neighbor’s dogs to a sled and assisting in a search and rescue, which happened only in my imagination.

Mrs TuckerOn the day I finally returned to school, Mrs. Tucker asked me to stay at her desk as the other kids left for lunch. I can’t recall exactly what she told me, but I do remember a funky warm sensation of bashful mixing with pride as she walked through my stories and pointed out things she felt were especially well done. I don’t believe she ever came right out and said ‘you should become writer’ or anything like that; rather, I think the time she took and the attention she gave encouraged me produced a much larger spark.

She had done something similar with reading, too – convincing me to take on my first chapter book earlier that school year (Charlotte’s Web) by telling me the ages on the shelves in the school library were simply ridiculous and I shouldn’t pay them any attention at all. That I do remember word-for-word because ‘simply ridiculous’ became my go-to phrase for quite some time.

Teachers, especially elementary school teachers, tend to be such lovely, wonderful people. It takes a special heart to be one and take on the responsibility of someone so very important in the lives of children. Mrs. Tucker, especially. Such a nice, nice lady.



On Writing

Heroes and heroin – writing a character who has an addiction

Writing characters with addictions.

Nail Your Novel

joplinwritingcharacters Pic of Janis Joplin from Wikepedia

You might remember the terrific question Adam Nicholls asked me about daily wordcounts and now he’s sent me this: May I pick your brain about fleshing out a character? I’m struggling with someone who’s addicted to heroin.

What a challenging subject. It’s daunting to portray a character whose experience is well beyond your own, especially to such an extreme. Here’s where one of my day jobs comes in handy. My freelance gig on a doctors’ magazine means I’ve edited a lot of pieces by people who help addicts. So this is my checklist for creating a plausible, three-dimensional character in the grip of a demonic addiction, whether illegal drugs, alcohol or a habit such as gambling.

Choose your poison

The addictive drugs have different effects. Adam has already decided his character uses heroin but you might want your character speeded up, slowed down, made…

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On Writing

Top 10 Issues for Project Managers

Everyone where I work admits that PMs have the hardest job in the whole company. But if it was easy, everyone would do it 🙂

Kelly's Contemplation

For this week’s post,  I tapped into a dozen project managers representing approximately 150 years of experience with companies such as HP, IBM, Schering-Plough (now Merck), Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Lenovo, Siemens & consulting gigs at dozens more.  There has been a lot of discussion on project management in the past year…PMI & APM membership is growing, the US Government has called out project/program management in a 5 part IT Improvement strategy, and so on.  With all this focus, I wanted to ask my colleagues what they would tell an aspiring Project Manager or what issues they would like their managers to assist with.

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