On Writing

“We Lived, Felt Dawn, Saw Sunset Glow”

3 Min read Memorial Day Vietnam War Toolbox: Speech writing and public speaking Creative nonfiction / True story Poetry for Emergencies * Last fall I received a request to be the speaker for Memorial Day. I was surprised and then I let it sink in. Me? The Local VFW...

That Teacher, You Know the One

5 Min read Poetry for Emergencies: E.E. Cummings On music: J.S. Bach Commencement speech * * Let's take a moment for teachers. That teacher, you know the one. Because, I have a confession to make. In the lottery of life and learning, if you're lucky then you have one,...

On Poetry, Spring, and Transition

4 Min read Poetry for emergencies 2 Poets Mary Oliver on things Lao Tzu on excess * When I moved from one house to anotherthere were many things I had no roomfor. What does one do? I rented a storagespace. And filled it. Years passed.First lines of "Storage" by Mary...

How to Improve Your Writing – Part 1: from Tolstoy to Grohl

9 min read 1 English textbook 1 Book rec 1 Style Guide 4 Writers: Tolstoy to Grohl (of Nirvana and Foo Fighters) Improve writing immediately, ages 9 to 99 Toolbox AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify * I doubt whether we are sufficiently attentive to the importance of...

An Alabama Road

3 Min read Music Writing for the senses Songwriting AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY Each singer stepped towards the front of the stage, put a hand on the mike, and burst into five-part harmony. There are stars in the southern skySouthward as you goThere is moonlight and...

Town Mouse and Country Mouse

9 Min read 3 book recs 1 film rec True story: Coffee with "Josh" The Music in Prose: Willa Cather on town and country Wordnerd special AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify * The town mouse and the country mouse. Distress and agitation of the town mouse. Meditations, Book...

Living Outside the Page

5 Min read Pickleball 3 short books by prize-winning authors Historical fiction, fiction, nonfiction AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY * If I don't write things down, they haven't been carried through to completion, they have only been lived. Annie Ernaux * Happy 2024! I...

Books for the Casual or Serious Reader

7 Min read Gift list 15+ Books Contemporary Fiction and Nonfiction Books on Writing Classics AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify * I read because to not read is to live one life. To read is to live many lives. Then, I ask, what should I read and with whom should I spend my...

Involved and Implicated: Narcissism and Poetry

6 Min read Poetry on a December afternoon 1 Book rec Word nerd special AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify If you're like me, you can use a bit of poetry. I've had a few days to consider this collection, its after shocks, surprised at my evolving response. Tony Hoagland's...

On Flesh-Eating Beetles and Sins of the Mother

7 Min read Sense writing: traditional five plus two more 2 Reading recs: historical novel and story 1 Writing guide Improve writing immediately Toolbox, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify * Writing Through the Seven Senses When I'm working on an aspect of my...

Spooky Hour with Spirits of the Dead

6 min read Word Work 2 Lexicons: Webster's NID 2nd Ed and Shorter OED 1 Book rec Halloween, All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day Fall mocktail, easy and delicious AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY Lakeview Cemetery next to my father's grave * No pressure but what are you doing...

What’s in Your Trunk?

5 Min read New England's largest flea market* Poetry for Emergencies--on the folly of fame, legacy, empire Sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley Book rec on writing song lyrics Toolbox, use 7 senses to improve writing** Texan king in a cow pasture AVAILABLE ON PODCAST...

Fall is Like a Country Music Song

3 Min read Music and memory Norman Blake, Colter Wall Poetry for Emergencies * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY iTunes * I'm listening to Colter Wall, titles like Corralling the Blues, Sleeping on the Asphalt, and The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie. I'm a late-comer to new...

Trailway to Heaven

3 Min read Poetry for Emergencies Autumn Farewell to a friend AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY * Fall is my favorite season and I suppose it has something to do with trees. Today I walked through the cool, damp woods to my mother's house, listening to gentle rhythms in...

Confusables, Contronyms, and Jane’s Potato Salad

2 Min read Word Nerd special Humor and the paraprosdokian Usage manual rec - The authority on grammar, usage, and style Essay rec - DFW on assignment to research the above lexicon and the Usage Wars AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY * The limits of my language means the...

The Music in the Stories: Pavan on Borges

7 Min read Book rec, three Borges stories Argentine composer and guitarist Carlos Pavan Literature: song and story Perfect memory Music in Prose * AVAILABLE NOW ON PODCAST SPOTIFY * Probably you were expecting a young and handsome Argentine, but then here I am, the...

The Master Sentence and the Centenarian

5 Min Read One book rec Punctuation guide Sentence construction Language Lover and Word Nerd Special Toolbox, ages 9 to 109 * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * A master sentence tends to be long though length is not its sole characteristic, nor is it a sign of a...

Three Days in Sun Valley and the Best Writing Teacher

5 Min read Book rec Photo journal Ernest Hemingway Pioneer Cabin Trail hike Foodie highlights Toolbox, to improve writing for ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST SPOTIFY iTunes * All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know. A...

Classic Prose: Thought and Presentation

4 min read 2 Book recs Toolbox, improve writing immediately Music in Prose, Ocean Vuong * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * In the classic stand on the elements of style, writing is neither a way of thinking something out nor an art that exists for its own sake....

Goggins, Pushup Yoga, and the Art of the Paragraph

5 Min read 2 Book recs, memoir and writing craft Forty percent rule Pushup Yoga Toolbox, improve writing immediately AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * [Wordnerd alert: pay attention to the numbers at the end of each for the types of paragraphs. Spoiler alert: pay...

Degree of Separation

5 Min read Social connection on Earth in 2023 Network theory U.S. Army and Armed Forces Math geek special, logarithm AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Thought exercise for the day. How many friends between you and anyone on the planet? In popular culture this...

What Makes a Speech Great?

2 Min read Admiral McRaven Operation Neptune Spear Toolbox, Speaking skills AVAIlABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Admiral 'Bill' McRaven spoke at the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment event to commemorate Operation Neptune Spear. He started by saying he was...

Weasel Words

3 Min read 2 Book recs on grammar, usage, and style Toolbox, ages 9 to 99 Improve writing immediately AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called weasel words. When a weasel sucks eggs it sucks the...

What Makes a Single Person’s Death Feel Large?*

4 Min read 2 Book recs, on writing and on jigsaws Toolbox, the Eulogy 1 Elegy, What is Dying? for the bereaved * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY iTunes * Four friends died recently and three were my age: one from acute liver failure, one from Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS),...

Today is a Numeric Palindrome

1 Min read Word Nerd Alert Toolbox * * Today has a date format which is a numeric palindrome. Or, a palindromic number. Or, a palindromic number sequence. Fun, if you're in to such things as I am, sequences and syntax and such. Or alliteration. Or sentence fragments....

The Edgeless Sound and the Night Owl

2 Min read Poetry for Emergencies Leonard Cohen Roshi's Poem The Poe Arch - Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Gateway AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY iTunes * TreeHouse view of dawn * The book falls open to Roshi's Poem. Though I had already read it, in my hurry up the stairs I...

Belief Is a Powerful Elixir

4 Min read 1 Essay collection, Maya Angelou Music as a gift AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY iTunes * Believe in me and I can do anything. It's a powerful thing, belief. If a person believes in you, you can move mountains. As a child when I asked why I had bent fingers,...

Prescription for Life and Rumi’s Cow

2 Min read 1 Memoir, Short Take Poetry for Emergencies Rumi, Mystic Poet * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY iTunes Dx, Rx. You may recognize these as abbreviations for Diagnosis (Dx) and Prescription (Rx). Melody Moezzi writes how the poet and mystic helped her deal with...

Two Things Everybody’s Got to Do

2 min read What is love? Music in Prose Receiving a book you already own Black History Month 1 novel, Zora Neale Hurston AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY iTunes * This winter I received five new copies of books I own, four as gifts. When I've read a book, I have a...

ChatGPT on the Meaning of Life, Love, War

3 Min Read Prompts on life's mysteries Artificial Intelligence generates short answer, sonnet, couplet, haiku, blog post Writer's Toolbox OpenAI and ChatGPT * Three times a charm. I finally got onto the site in the witching hours; maybe a 3:30 AM login helps. If you...

“Good Luck and Smooth Sailing” in the Year of the Cat

3 min read Lunar New Year Vietnamese Zodiac, Cat vs Rabbit Year 2023 Writing tip, lyrics, backstory on Al Stewart's hit song * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST on SPOTIFY iTunes * Chúc mừng năm mới 2023!! Happy Lunar New Year! * It's the Year of the Water Cat according to...

How to Capture a Life in 400 Words

3 Min read The Obituary AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Writing an obiturary is a sobering task. I'm not sure if it is harder to write one for someone you know, because I haven't had to do that. My husband wrote his parents' obituaries and my father had written...

Punch In, Punch Out: the Profession and the Side Hustle

3 Min read 1 Book rec Writing Originality and Passion AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * So you want to write? Do you like words? I finished reading Murakami's book Novelist as a Vocation which was published in 2015 and translated to the English in 2022. As of the...

“Pithy and Practical” – Time in Memoir

4 Min Read Time as a Literary Element The Divided Self Christmas and the Solstice Readers Call to Action AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Not to toot my own horn, but I'll let my cousin do so. She wrote in her Christmas card that she loved the TreeHouseLetter...

Which Part of Speech Makes Up Most of the English Language?

4 Min read Toolbox, Parts of Speech 1 Book rec, grammar guide Word nerd alert Ages 9 to 99 * Let's talk about the parts of speech. As for the seven words in that sentence, the first two-- let's talk--are a sort of conundrum. They're not spoken at all, though I am...

Write for Your Life*

2 Min read Short take 1 Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. Anais Nin. In Anna Quindlen's new book, Write for Your Life, she says that people are "made of nouns, live by verbs, and enlarge and...

What Music Teaches Us About Writing

7 Min read The Music in Prose Creative Writing Forum, West Point Sentence rhythm, Beryl Markham and David Foster Wallace Writer's Toolbox, Improve writing immediately * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes I met with the Creative Writing Forum at West Point to discuss...

Reading for Foodies

5 Min read 2 Book recs, memoir and craft Improve writing immediately AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * "Buy me five, ten, okay? That's 50, make it a 100," my mother says, leaving a Ben Franklin on the counter with two packs of TJ's peanut butter cups.* I order the...

Key Messages: Bringing Writers and Readers Together

2 Min read Short Take - THL Key Messages Creative process For writers and readers AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Maybe the better way to think of this letter is, why you read TreeHouseLetter. For me, it's about why I write. Which, are two sides of the same...

“Old Age is Not for the Young”*

6 Min read 2 Book recs, by elderly writers Serial comma 10,000-hour-rule Explicit language, 13 to 103 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * If you believe 10,000 hours of practice will help achieve mastery, say, on the violin or as a volleyball player, then the...

Books I Love

5 Min read 17 Books, 19.5 including mentions in footnotes Genres: Memoir, Essays, Fiction, Writing, Love, Poetry, War Toolbox, Texture in writing Contemporary and classic books from the top of my stacks, my more current reading. * The most common question I get is,...

What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?

7 Min read 2 Book recs Film rec Article abstract, on Virtue and Vice* Toolbox, Improve writing, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * What book would you take to a desert island? I didn't know and hadn't given it much thought until Saturday when I told my...

Charlie Munger and the Art of Swearing

5 Min read EXPLICIT language, Ages 13 to 103 True Story, investing Toolbox Essay and book rec, Ursula Le Guin Patton's Speech AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Charlie Munger was making the rounds with investors. A living icon in the investing world, he was some...

The Sentence Fragment

3 min read Toolbox, Ages 9-99 Improve writing immediately 2 Book recs: on writing and on essays AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * (1) When you haven't seen someone you love for a while, you notice them anew. The tongue that touches the side of the mouth. The wisps...

No Ordinary Hike: Marchback for USMA Class of 2026

7 min read Figure of speech, synecdoche Long Gray Line Marchback AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes * The long gray line of us stretches / through the years of a century told / and the last one feels to the marrow / the grip of your far off hold.* To the...

On Fighting and Writing: Blackwing and Bruce Lee

5 Min read Bookstore and Bakery rec, Augusta Blackwing limited edition Writing tips AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify on iTunes I'm back from Georgia. I visited The Book Tavern and the Boll Weevil Cafe and Sweetery. My daughter hosted me and loves the cake. She's a fan...

Spandrel: Byproduct of Evolution and Thing of Beauty

3 Min read Word of the week Architecture, evolution, philosophy, philately AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On iTunes On Spotify The word of the week is spandrel. In my mind, it has vague associations with an Iberian water dog or a large red-faced primate. Spelling Bee...

Thoughts on Music and the Brain

5 min read True story 2 Book recs Songbook Collection AVAILABLE ON PODCAST on Spotify on iTunes Each morning, Simba crosses the end of the driveway tail first, three feet above the invisible fence. He is set down in the grass across the road, then walks his porter on...

On the Double Negative, Circular Definitions, and Children

4 min read Double negative 2 Book recs, 1 short story Roe v. Wade A Double Negative by Lydia Davis At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.*...

Notes on a Year of Love

3 Min read The Music in Prose Simile and metaphor 2 books AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes My book group chose to read love stories. We read seven or eight books, a mix of modern and classic. The night was perfect, the trees lush and full; my skin felt alive...

Why I Write

5 Min read Creative process AVAILABLE ON PODCAST ON SPOTIFY The main window with view of pine, poplar and birch in the TreeHouse where I do most of my writing. MacBook with this letter on a portable table. I sit in a Herman Miller office chair, an essential for the...

“The Q-tips Are for Your M4” and the Art of the Paragraph

3 Min read Writer's toolbox Improve writing immediately Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On SPOTIFY The Q-tips are for your M4, Norah's uncle said as she held them up when unpacking her 7.62 ammunition canister. Norah reached in the green ammo can and took out 100 feet...

“Keep the Faith for Which They Died”

4 Min read 3 Poems by John McCrae, a Poet Warrior Poetry for Emergencies Memorial Day The "MURPH Challenge" or Workout of the Day AVAILABLE IN PODCAST On SPOTIFY Click links above to listen to the poems This Memorial Day I read other poems written by the Canadian...

The Last Recital

2 Min read Piano music, composers Writer's Toolbox: the series and the infinitive phrase AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Silvermine School of Music, former Carriage House (built 1903) I shall not forget the old carriage house, the hayloft used for bedrooms, the balcony...

“Django with One Finger,” a Living Music Icon

4 min read Book rec Music in Prose Songwriting AVAILABLE IN PODCAST I finished Willie Nelson's memoir or musings from the road, as he titled it. The book is a short reflection on a long life, punctuated throughout with song lyrics and crude jokes and notes from family...

Most Underused Punctuation Mark in American Writing*

Short take Writer's Toolbox Em-dash Book recs So says the lexicographer and usage genius Bryan Garner. My desk copy of the 4th edition of Garner's Modern English Usage states on page 750, "The em-dash is perhaps the most underused punctuation mark in American...

What Makes a Speech Great? An Admiral Tells 3 Stories

6 min read Writer’s Toolbox Public speaking AVAILABLE ON PODCAST HERE Admiral McRaven commemorates the 11th Anniversary of Operation Neptune's Spear What makes a speech great? There are a lot of good speeches and good speakers. But a great speech is one you remember....

Exercises in Style: a Writing Tribute

3 min read Book rec Writing Toolbox Wordplay Ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST HERE Titles begin with letters as human forms Narrative One day at about midday in the food line, behind the checkout of a more or less busy Costco, I observed a person with a very big...

Bedside Counselor on Parenting in Anger, in Two Translations

6 min read Book rec Prose for emergencies Writing feature AVAILABLE IN PODCAST, CLICK HERE For solace and for counsel, I have several books I find myself returning to again and again, and to this one, most recently, as my third child prepares to leave home.* For...

A Poet Warrior Learns Kindness

4 min read Book Rec, Tokaido Road Poetry for Emergencies AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast It made me feel flawed as a human, this passage from Lucia St.Clair Robson's book, Tokaido Road. The protagonist Cat is disguised as a young man when she meets...

Each Sentence Reflects 3 Choices

2 Min read 1 Essay Toolbox How to improve your sentences immediately AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast Each sentence reflects three choices. What to write about and what we want to accomplish by writing about itWhich words to useWhat order to put them...

Essays that changed me: Rachel Cusk and “Making Home”

5 min read The Music in Prose Rachel Cusk St. Augustine, Montaigne Why an essay breathes AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts The essay can make the best of people cringe, with its connection to the dreaded common application or the college assignment....

Writing on the Road and the Creative Process

5 min read 4 book recs on writing 1 novel Toolbox, Ages 9-99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts How do you write on the move? A computer and phone work for me. When I'm not in the TreeHouse I miss my books, dictionaries, and style guides. Worse, there...

Poetry for Emergencies: Ukraine, Howard Nemerov, and the War Dead

6 Min read Howard Nemerov 2 Poems TreeHouseLetter feature:  Poetry for Emergencies   AVAILABLE IN PODCAST iTunes Spotify.com anchor.fm/emelle Poetry is a way of getting something right in language. Nemerov It's a batshit crazy world, especially for our friends of...

Sex Over 70 Years and the Synecdoche

7 min read, EXPLICIT content 2 Books 2 Rhetorical devices The Music in Prose - THL feature focused on writing that 'sings' and why AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify ITunes Google Podcasts It's a double entendre, this letter's headline, but it's fitting. I'm not...

Adult Child and a Zen Koan

2 Min Read 1 Book Rec 2.5 Zen Koan** Em Dash* AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes My adult child--an oxymoron when you consider that there is no single word for grown offspring in a language with 171,476 words of which 47,156 are obsolete, but please...

Love in a Sad Cafe

5 Min Read 1 Book Rec The Music in Prose   AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes The Music in Prose is a regular feature of the TreeHouseLetter. The idea for this came from my work on music and language, considering just what it is about the...

If You Want to Write, Your Writing Has to Have Rhythm

7 Min Read Ages 19 to 99 Precocious 9+ AVAILABLE ON PODCAST   Anchor.fm/Emelle Spotify iTunes   Toolbox: On Sentences and How to Improve Your Writing Immediately   If you want to write, your writing has to have rhythm. No one ever taught me this. But,...

The Meaning in Music

4 min read Song and Story Rachmaninoff Rybnikov AVAILABLE IN PODCAST (Listen to this letter to hear the piano music) Spotify iTunes Anchor.fm/emelle Your job will change, where you live will change, the people in your life will change, but you will always have your...

Books as Trophies? the Bibliophile vs the Bibliophagist

6 Min read 2 Book recs Music in Prose Funniest passage in modern literature Toolbox, Ages 9 to 99 Word Nerd Special AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify anchor.fm/emelle * * I have a book problem. It's a good kind of problem because books teach me a lot and I get to...

The Sexy Semicolon, Really?

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm Loved and loathed, sexy and sinister may not be modifiers that come to mind when you think of the semicolon. Cecelia Watson argues otherwise in her deep dive on this misunderstood mark, concluding a decade of research,...

Poetry for Emergencies: Iain S. Thomas at Daybreak

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and I’m scared. It’s not often and I usually can get back to sleep. I’m lucky that way because people do suffer from insomnia and my waking is not like that. An overactive mind...

April Dreams: a Story & Two Poems

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.  Goethe   The bleachers were full and folks were talking...

Spirits of the Fall: Episode (1) In the House

AVAILABLE on PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm     This is the first in a series of True Stories for the season, of eerie occurrences, deathly visits, haunted rooms, and childhood visions.   EPISODE 1               In the House   Fall is the season when...

Memorial Day Reflection – Two Poems and a Tribute

POEMS AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes     Two short Memorial Day poems to remember and reflect on the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives for freedom.  The first is a notable World War II poem, graphic and difficult, because war is...

This Bus is Empty – A COVID Photo Journey

    This Bus is Empty   My town opened park trails this week at April's end. Come walk with me on this photo journey, no mask and no worries. Let me show you what the COVID-19 Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate looks like in Connecticut, less than an hour...

Poetry Dinner Night – A Quarantine Scene

Does she or doesn’t she? Do you recognize this from the 1956 ad campaign? Does it elicit unsavory thoughts? This Hall-of-Fame advertising slogan was used for Clairol’s Hair Color and within six years seventy percent of women were dying their hair. Maybe you remember...

On Presidents, Politics and War, and Poetry

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm You ever have that moment when something you’ve believed for some time begins to shift and slip, leaving you a bit off-balance? I had that happen in a foundational way. Flipping to the date of a page-a-day calendar, I came...

Raise Your Glass! A Toast by W.B. Yeats

AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify Anchor.fm iTunes   I wanted to share a short poem and what makes it special, why it works as a poem and a toast. Along the way, I’ll talk a bit about punctuation and words, and why they are important to making language sing. This...

On Poetry and Mondegreens and Teenagers

 Listen to PODCAST iTunes Spotify I had a teacher in eighth grade named Miss Michaelson. She was a bit long in the tooth and had a jagged helmet of black hair. A big boned woman, she wore dresses which wrapped about her like robes on a Greek statue, the overall...

Walking With Homer – A Connecticut Odyssey

Today I was in for a surprise, an unlikely and timely gift. It was a sunny Sunday in January, just breaking into the 30s after a cold spell.  I put on yoga pants and dressed in layers, a puffy vest, a sweatshirt with black date stamps printed on the front, like the...

National Punctuation Day – the Vulgar Pronoun – Read THIS

I was looking up the definition of the demonstrative pronoun this last week, and got a lesson in modern American slang. Gestures help with understanding just what this means in certain circles, but if you give it some thought, you will realize that the mean and the...

Grammar Matters – So, Three Pronouns Walk Into a Bar

    Grammar matters. OK, really truly, it does.  So here are some grammar matters worth sharing with fellow word nerds.  AND there's even a little something for math geeks too. BAR JOKES Three pronouns walked into a bar.  She let him have it. An interjection...

History Teacher Provides a Lesson – But Not One She Intended

Some unlucky souls have already returned to school and we will keep them in our thoughts. Meanwhile, stretch out on the lounger, kick off your shoes, and crack open a cold one while we consider our luckier path, no school till AFTER Labor Day. Let's contemplate the...

Disappointment on Ellis Island Field Trip, Shattan’s Day Off

"The field trip was a huge disappointment.  It took us four hours of driving, two ferry rides, and we had half an hour in the museum," my son said. "Did a guide or a ranger give you a tour?" I asked. "No. Our teacher told us to do three things. We had to sketch...

Marginalia – Notes in Books – To Write or Not To Write?

Marginalia as a word may bring forth varying associations, but focus on the first two syllables for its meaning, as opposed to the last. Readers write in books along the margins, on the flyleaf, making various marks, scribbles, appendages and annotations.   As a...

Why Students Don’t Write Well – the PSAT and English Today

Many children struggle to write well today.  Here's the number one problem they face. First let's consider their writing skills.  See how you fare on these three questions from a full length PSAT or Prelimary Scholastic Aptitude Test, the precursor to the SAT. Choice...

Cut the Flab, a Writing Primer

Simple steps to improve bloated writing   In a digital world, many people only know you through your writing. At work and in your personal life, social media extends our connections across the globe.  So it’s more important than ever to write well. But who has time...

“As droplets fell through the dark” – a Poem for 9/11

Poet Billy Collins, then U.S. Poet Laureate, was asked by the Librarian of Congress to write a poem to remember the victims of 9/11 which he read at a special joint session in September 2002.  It is titled "The Names" and is worth listening to or reading. This is the...

Elegant Sentences, Express Ideas & Make an Impact

I am not a grammarian but I love words, their arrangement and sound, the infinite combinations and uses, their impact. Words are responsible for founding our country, We the people; for ending a war, Tear down this wall; for perhaps the most intimate and familiar of...

Handwriting, a Foundation for Communication and Thought

During a year of homeschooling, my children practiced penmanship. The positive impact on everything from legibility to understanding and reinforcement was impressive. A year back in public school and my son's handwriting has regressed.  And he no longer writes in...

Mother’s Day Menu: Wild Onions & Grammar

Good morning from the Tree House where I have just been served my menu du jour by youthful decree. My selection includes omelet with wild onions, cranberry juice, and berries.  Brunch will be served promptly at 9:30 they inform me.  I particularly like the wax seal...

On Writing and Orwell

Friends often ask me about writing and here are four things I want to share. To write well, you must write.                      Practice often.  When we think of improving our reading skills, we read.  Friends often share how well their children read.  This makes...