Saturday, March 25, 2017

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will make the meaning of the sentence unclear.  Others tout that not using the Oxford Comma is a sin punishable by twenty lashes with a wet comma. 
 
I believe that the only rules are to be consistent with whether or not you use the Oxford comma, and always use it when your series-sentences are not clear. 
 
There is a recent court case in Maine where the failure to use an Oxford Comma in Maine resulted in an ambiguous law. Even though this legal mishap has been all over the news, I researched the Maine statute.  Title 26 of the Labor and Industry, section 664(F), says that overtime pay does not apply to:
 
F.   The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:              
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
 
Notice the highlighted portion above.  I can see how this law is ambiguous because we don’t know if overtime is not allowed when it comes to “packing for distribution or shipping,” or if packing for distribution is separate from shipping.  Because of the lack of a comma, an employee won his suit for overtime pay. 
 
If the usage of the Oxford comma is so serious when it comes to the law, then it must be taken seriously when we write our articles and our stories. We want clear and concise writing. Does this mean that we should always use the Oxford comma? 
 
Personally, I believe whether or not to use the Oxford comma is a personal choice.  The most important thing is to make sure our writing is clear and concise. 
 
This week as your write your wonderful story, grueling article, or fantastic legal brief, your priority is to create sentences that do not confuse the reader. How you get there is completely up to you.   

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Everything is a New Perspective

These last seventeen months have been ones of overload leading to renewal and a fresh perspective, and what feels like a new lease on life. My partner recovered well from his heart surgery. Late last spring, I changed law firms and now walk less than sixty seconds to my office. To celebrate all of our good fortunes, my partner and I spent a beautiful week during September 2016 in Rockport, Massachusetts with his family. Sometimes we visited castles, museums and islands, and other times we sat on the front porch eating snacks, sipping beverages and talking about memories and experiences.

I wish I could share that I have gotten plenty of creative writing done this year, when in fact my attention has been focused on writing articles for the Reap Record, the newsletter for Redwood Empire Association on Paralegals. I also, upon invitation, wrote an article on construction defect for our local Bar Association journal. 

My creative writing has been on the back burner for too long, but now I am pushing myself to submit a short story to our local anthology.  I am exactly ten days away from the deadline and about 500 words in, with the story allowed a maximum word count of 2500.  All stories submitted for consideration must be about Sonoma County. Two of my characters are from the late eighteen-hundreds who lived a small town in the northern part of the county, and my main character is from the same town in the mid nineteen-seventies.  In fact, if you were sitting in my office right now, you would see the pictures of my characters pinned to my bulletin board, along with photographs of that small town that burned down years ago.

Now that I am back in action mode, I have decided it's time to set some goals:
  • This week I will complete my short story and submit it before the deadline.
  • This weekend I will work on my tax returns.
  • Next week I will complete my article on family law for the Reap Record.
  • During the coming weeks, I will do the necessary footwork for a mutual project in the works.
Finally, it's time to get devote at least an hour a day to sitting in the chair and working on my stories. At some point, I will also decide whether to permanently shelve my novel, or refurbish parts into a new story. 

Happy writing all, and always allow words to empower you.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

New Year and Renewed Goals

I always look forward to the New Year because it means Thanksgiving and Christmas are done until the holiday season gives birth again ten months down the road. 

The fall of 2015 was particularly trying for me and my partner of 10 years. First, there were three fires in Lake County California, the Valley Fire being the worst because it rampantly swept through Middletown, Cobb, and Hidden Valley. Three people died and almost 2,000 structures, mostly homes, were destroyed.  We saw our friends' homes destroyed, to where whole communities were desecrated and people lost everything and were forced into evacuation shelters.  While my partner's home survived, he started having breathing problems.

Over the next month or so, my partner's breathing problems intensified.  On October 4, a middle of the night emergency room visit resulted in him having open heart surgery on October 26 for an aortic valve replacement. Thank goodness, he came through with flying colors and was released from all restrictions five weeks later. Now, he is going full speed.

What these experiences were devastating and stressful, they were heart opening and life changing. I felt so much compassion for friends who had lost their homes, but joy that their individual spirit and lust for life continued on.  I experienced the strength of the entire county as people came together in community and helped each other out in all ways imaginable. During our medical crisis, people whose homes had been affected reached out to offer support to us. 

These experiences also put my priorities in place. It was as if my problems were minute in comparison. I began to examine my own mortality and what I really want to do with the rest of my life, and especially how to rekindle my writing.

For several months I had been working too much overtime at work, which took away from my writing. In the fall I cut way back on overtime, and then in late December I decided I would not do any unless absolutely necessary. Finally, in January my boss changed our overtime policy, at which time I decided I would not ask for any further extra work because I wanted to spend that time on my writing. 

I have been working on my novel more and now have a critique partner.  I would like to finish this work and submit it to an agent. I will be looking for freelance assignments and I will start submitting short stories again. I will make time to write every day and work on creating and building my freelance business. All this because writing is my passion.  

I've never had such a dose of reality in life that has put my priorities right where they belong. 

Happy New Year, and happy writing!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Surprise!

And, that's Surprise! in the literal sense.

It all started late last year when I was participating in a book launch at Copperfield's Books for Water, an anthology published by Redwood Writers. After I read my short story, "The Wrong Address," a woman came up to me, asked for my email address, and said if I heard from her, it would be to adapt my story into a play. I was flattered she liked my story, but I forgot about the incident after a few days.

Well, about a month ago, my boss came to me and said he'd received an email from a Hilary Moore asking for my contact information because she wanted to make my short story into a play.  I had been surprised when my story was accepted into the anthology because it had been rejected by several magazines, but the email from Hilary was even more surprising! After she told me the mission of the Off The Page Reader's Theater is to showcase local writers, I accepted with pride.

The last few weeks I have been walking on air.  I have let everyone I know in on this wonderful event taking place on April 24, 25, and 26, 2015. I can't wait!

I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment.  I have shared the news and the even flyer on Facebook, as well as published the information in The Redwood Writer.  Don has told all his family and friends about the play, and many of our friends will be attending.  On April 25, Don and I will go out to dinner with his brother, sister and brother in law, and then enjoy the play together.  I can't wait.

This success truly has taken me by complete Surprise! I feel more inspired to take charge of my writing life and continue putting words onto paper. In fact, just a week ago, I entered a short story, a psychological thriller, into a local writing contest. I am not much on contests, but I thought this might be kind of fun.

I have been able to cut back on the overtime at work and am taking advantage of the time to continue writing my novel in progress. I would also like to write some more short stories, as I believe I write better shorts than I do novels.

Someone suggested that I think about putting together a collection of short stories for publication.  I could do that, but I would want them all to be published elsewhere. I have four short stories that have been published, so that's a good start.

Finally, I want to encourage all my writer friends and acquaintances to be proud of all writing successes and to continue writing.

Happy Writing all!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

End of Year Musings

Today I was amazed to discover a new follower of The Write Life, since this blog had been stagnant since April. In fact, I seldom blogged this year, and did not write as much creatively as I usually have in the past, because I often forgot the important concept of BIC.

What is that, you ask?

Butt in chair.

In order to get anything written, I have to pull out the chair, sit down, and write. It doesn't matter if I use a spiral notebook and pen, a typewriter, or word processor on a computer. My job is to construct words into sentences and paragraphs to create scenes for a short story or novel.  

I have to set time aside, or simply decide on a whim that writing is more important than anything else I might want to do at that moment. It's not difficult to set aside time after work to go into my home office, close the door, and write.

In September of this year, I went to Ireland for 14 days with my cousin, Tammy. We stayed in bed and breakfasts most of the time and used public transportation and our feet to get around. We started in Dublin and traveled the coast to Dingle, Galway, Bundoran, and Belfast. After this, she spent a week alone on the Antrim Coast, and I rode the bus back to Dublin to catch a plane home. Our trip was amazing! I spent quality time with Tammy, lived the Irish culture for two weeks, and returned to the United States with plenty of new material for writing.

This last year I also rejoined my old critique group, which has been a godsend. I have been, and still am, motivated to work on my novel. I enjoy reading my writing cohort's work, as well as sharing my perceptions of both the positive and the negatives of their work. Their feedback on my writing is invaluable, and they all have something special to offer in support of my work.  Some of the writers are published, but all of them are excellent critique partners.

Thanksgiving was fun, Halloween was spooky, and Christmas was joyous. The only things missing from the holiday season were the Dicken's Fair in San Francisco and the Christmas Salon for the Redwood Writer's Club, but we could not fit either in this year due to other commitments.

Now, we are days away from 2015 and a fresh start, as it happens every year. What are my New Year's resolutions?

None. Absolutely none, because I don't believe in making resolutions because I never follow through.

Okay, there is one, but it's not a plan, but a reality: I will set aside that time to write, and I will write.

I. Will. Write.

What about you?  What are your plans for 2015?

Happy New Year, all!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Grandma's Coffee Grinder

Krups, who I often called K, was my best friend for twenty some-odd years. From the day we met, we were inseparable. The whir of her bladed heart made me smile as she ground aromatic java beans.  Some evenings when I'd call on her for some much needed Hazelnut or caramel decaf, she would happily comply. K didn't just hand me perfect coffee, but she made sure my flax seed and almonds were finely chopped just the way I liked them.

Then, one day a few months ago, K died. No warning, no goodbye, she just didn't wake up one morning. With tears in my eyes, I broke the news to Don.  In an effort to soothe me, he suggested we ask his friend Cuisinart in the fill K's  now vacant spot.

"I can't," I said, wiping my eyes. "It's too soon."  

The truth was, I had found K dead less than ten minutes earlier and needed time to grieve.

As I wallowed in grief, Don came up with another suggestion.  "Hey, what about your grandmother's old coffee grinder?

"Huh?"  I said, not sure what he was talking about.  

Then, my gaze fell on the old crank coffee mill—Goodwood, or G.W. for short—that had been living on the countertop for several years. G.W. had never moved or made a sound, and he certainly never complained about all the attention K got.  

That same morning after I laid K to rest in the recycling bin—I knew she wanted her parts donated—I put G.W.to the test.  I loaded his portal with fresh coffee beans and cranked the handle, around and around, smiling as he revealed his deep bass voice.  He worked hard to produce a good java.  However, because  he was older and a bit cranky, it took him awhile to get the job done. 

Now, as I sip a cup of cafĂ© mocha borne from G. W.'s hard work, I smile as I realize he has proven to be a wonderful friend. Over time, his joints have loosened a bit and he is a bit more spry, always eager to grind my beans to perfection. Too bad him and K never noticed each other when she was alive. They would have made perfect companions.  

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013 and Hello 2014!

Even though I believe in reviewing the previous 12 months on the eve of the New Year, I am not big on making resolutions. If there is anything I have learned is that putting off until tomorrow what I can do today leads to nothing but premeditated resentment. Why? Because all I do is put off, put off, and then put off until the end of the year comes and that project remains undone. What do I then do? I beat myself up.  

Lately I have experienced that premeditated resentment when it comes to my writing. I have spent too much time saying I would write that story tomorrow when the plot is clear in my head, or finish the umpteenth draft of my query letter for my novel when I know I can get it prefect. That's plain silliness because these type of resolutions are not based on planning, which is healthy, but on fear that the product of my creative outlet is not, or will not be, good enough. The only way to combat that type of fear is to write the story and get it submitted now and to revise that query and get it out to agents now.   

NOW is the operative word.  

When I was a kid and would come up with excuses not to do homework or chores, my sweet little mother used to say, "there's no time like the present" and her infamous "don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." Of course, back then I thought those words wee adult nerd-speak, but today they are golden nuggets in my memory. Believe me, there will be no more New Years resolutions for me.  

So, in 2014 I plan to.....

Just kidding.  

Happy New Year everyone! 

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will...