Monday, November 28, 2005

Loved "Into Thin Air"

I just finished reading "Into Thin Air," and it was great. It's a quick read. I didn't want to put it down once I started, but turkey and relatives conspired against me. More tomorrow after I've gotten some sleep and adjusted my caffiene levels.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sour Grapes

I found the following misspelled silliness on the blog of a previously-mentioned atrocious writer:

Arrogance seems to have creped into the writing world and instead of helping people improve their writing, some writers only critique people based on grammar and spelling.

The blog goes on to refer the reader to an article written by the author. Here is the opening of the article:

Too much emphasis is put on the structure, grammar, and spelling in writing. People need to look past all the mechanics of writing.

Um, yeah, that's like saying an engineer doesn't need to worry about math or a doctor about anatomy. There is definitely more to good prose than just spelling and grammar, but you can't have good prose without them.

Have you ever noticed that the people who complain the loudest about too much emphasis on spelling and grammar are the ones who are the worst at it? Sounds like sour grapes to me.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Turkey Day...

faithful readers. I hope you all take this time to relax, eat lots of food, and read a few good books. My nightstand currently has:

"Blood, Tin, Straw" by Sharon Olds


"Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer

I've got tomorrow off, so with a four day weekend and a stocked fridge, I ought to be able to finish both these books. Unless, of course, it gets sunny and and then I'm going to have play outside with my dogs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Half Full or Half Empty?

NaNoWriMo is half over, and I’m half way to 50,000 words. So far, so good.

The process has been interesting so far. Because of the pace of the writing, you can’t take time to worry about the quality of the prose. It’s all about quantity, baby, quantity! But I have found that as I am typing along at break-neck pace, all of a sudden something wonderful shows up on the screen. I’ll stop for a moment to read it and think, “Hey, that’s pretty good.”

It reminds of something that Anne Lamott says in “Bird by Bird”. The following excerpt is from the chapter titled, “Shitty First Drafts”:
There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is beautiful or wild that you know you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go—but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Portrait of a Narcissist – Part Two

In a previous post, I discussed my run-in with Rose DesRochers, owner of This post contains the story of my friend’s—I’ll call her Mary—experiences at

In March 2005, Mary joined, unaware of Rose’s reputation. Rose was billing all over the Internet as something like “the #1 poetry web site”, and Mary thought it might be a good place to get to know other poets. After joining, Mary looked around, read some of the poetry and articles, and posted a few times in the forums.

She immediately noticed that traffic to the web site appeared to be minimal despite advertising claims. This didn’t bother her too much, though, because everyone exaggerates in advertising. She also had trouble with slow loading pages even though she was accessing the site on a new (and fast) computer. Her e-mail to tech support regarding this issue was ignored or lost.

She decided not to post any of her own poetry because of the site’s terms of use, which she admits she should have read before joining and which let the site owners create deriviative versions of posted works without compensation to the owner of the work. Yikes! Talk about unfair to writers.

Then one day, Mary attempted to clarify something that Rose had posted in the forums (at that time, Rose’s posts made up 80-90% of all posts in the forums). Rose claimed that was a scam. Mary explained that isn’t technically a scam because people who buy’s anthology, get one. It’s chock full of bad poetry, but it’s still a book. Mary also make it clear, though, that she agreed with Rose that site preyed on aspiring poets and was a good place to avoid.

The next time, Mary tried to log in, she found out that her IP address was banned and she could not access the site. In one of her several later e-mails to Mary, Rose said that she had decided that Mary was just there to “reek [sic] havoc.” So apparently if you disagree with Rose at all, you are a trouble-maker.

All in all, Mary got off pretty easy. She didn’t end up with an Inbox full of hateful and ungrammatical e-mails, and she didn’t lose the rights to any of her work (which, in my opinion, is wonderful).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

NaNoWriMo For Me!

I've decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and the challenge is to write 50,000 words between midnight, November 1, and midnight, November 30. I have my book outlined. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bad Writing on the Web

The opening two sentences:

The camera rolls for the first time for a Reality TV show which the cast members are supposed to collect footage of another haunted place. The process of getting the cast members together would be a daunting task and each detail as it would become was the thought of how the viewers would really have their imagination captured.

Credit goes to Nickolaus Pacione. The story is called "In the Reflection of a Lens."

Don't read it expecting it to get better. It doesn't. Quick, toss Mr. Pacione a copy of "The Elements of Style" (thanks to an anonymous commenter for reminding me of this book.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

A Few Good Books

I recommend the following books to writers:

"On Writing," by Stephen King

"Bird by Bird," by Anne Lamott

"Eats, Shoots, and Leaves," by Lynne Truss

"The Art of Fiction," by John Gardner

"The Triggering Town," by Richard Hugo (for poets only)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

And Speaking of Scams

The scam du jour is Publish America. Well, maybe scam isn’t quite the right word. Perhaps “vanity press in disguise” or “author mill” is better.

Publish America makes its money selling books to its authors. They deliberately mislead authors about the publishing industry and have policies that almost guarantee that bookstores will not purchase PA books. There is much, much more, so click the first link above for the full scoop.

Run away, serious writers. Find an honest publisher.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Few Good Sites

The following sites have a lot of good information about writing scams and how to avoid them. Writing scams, bad agents, etc. abound on the Internet. Writers, do your research!

Absolute Write
The Bewares and Background Check forum

Preditors and Editors

Writer Beware

Monday, August 15, 2005

Hypocrisy Abounds

I've been reading the articles posted by Rose, and I came across one called "Critique the Poem Not the Poet." Rose now owes me a new keyboard because I spit coffee all over this one while reading the article. Here is the choicest bit:

Accepting criticism is something that we all must face even if we don't like it.

This resulted in the coffee experience. She goes on to say:

When I received my first harsh critique it was on a ezboard workshop and right then I wanted to give up writing. They were arrogant and my opinion very mean.

Now, I don't know if she was talking about me. Two of her ezboard usernames were banned for--according to ezboard--harrassment, so she probably had run-ins with others. I do know that I was overly nice to her when I posted my comments, and I still received a barrage of insults in response. Later in the article, Rose also says:

Instead of commenting on only the bad parts of the poem start out by pointing out a good point.

This is good advice. It's exactly what I did when I commented on her poem. So why did that result in such anger on her part?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Portrait of a Narcissist – Part One

(All quotes by Rose Desrochers are used under the fair use guidelines established by the U.S. Copyright office. And yes, I have a printout of the entire exchange. I've only used a fraction of it.)

I first encountered a woman named Rose DesRochers in late 2003 in an on-line poetry workshop forum. I made the mistake of critiquing a poem that she posted to the workshop—where the guidelines clearly stated that the workshop was not a place for frivolous praise, but for serious attention to craft.

Because she was new, and the poem seemed rather personal, I included the following statement in the first part of my critique:

“Please know that my comments are directed at the poem, at the writing, not at you personally, and that critizing the poem is not the same as critizing the message.”

Over the next four paragraphs, I told her that I thought her central metaphor was effective but that I saw three areas where she could improve: spelling and grammar, imagery, and the concluding stanza (where the metaphor broke down). I explained nicely and in basic terms why I thought there was room for improvement in each of these areas, and, in the case of spelling and grammar, I made a couple of suggestions on how to improve.

Well, guess what. Rose didn’t like anything I had to say. Her responses include the following (note: I have not edited these at all; the excerpts are exactly as posted):

“You might want to read my comments to [another poster]. How I mention my spelling and grammar sucks and that is why we use proof readers to help us with this”

Um, fine, but it’s only polite to have someone proofread your poem BEFORE you post it to a workshop.

“Because your little copy and paste speech lacks real meaning and you are a poor pissed critic.”

Oh, I see, if you don’t like someone’s opinion about your writing, then you can just call them a “pissed critic” and everything they say is invalid. And why would I be pissed at her? For writing a shoddy poem?

And in response to my suggestion that she may not be ready for the level critique in this workshop:

“level of critique ? My lady level of critique you are a snob. No other definition that a stuck up snob…You are too quick to be critical. Perhaps I should go have a nice look read over one of your poems.”

She did carry out her threat of a revenge critique, but I thanked her nicely for her time.

“I can see why because you are a snob.Difference between being a critic than thinking your shit don't stink. Get down off that high horse bitch you wipe your ass like all of us.My God what a snob.”

And again with the insults. For simply suggesting that spelling and grammar are important.

In a wonderfully ironic turn of events, this woman now claims to be the founder of (what is a “founder” of a web site anyway?) and a web columnist—which means that she posts poorly written articles at sites that provide free web content. One of her articles was picked up by fictionfactor, but it was apparently so poorly written that a number of writers complained to the web site—and the site pulled it. I guess spelling and grammar do matter.

In “Portrait of a Narcissist – Part Two”, we will discuss what happens when an amiable and generous writer (not me!) joins without realizing what she was getting into.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Why Blog?

Why not?

OK, seriously.

I recently became enamored with the idea of blogging. I like the idea of writing something grounded in reality as opposed to the imaginary worlds that I mostly inhabit while at the computer. Space ships and aliens and vengeful spirits do occasionally get old. I don’t keep a regular journal, which may be odd for a writer, so this ought to be an interesting experiment.

I’ll be the first--well, maybe the second if my younger sister were here--to admit that I’m opinionated. I’m starting a blog to post my random thoughts about writing, reading, pop culture or whatever is clamoring to get out of my brain each week. I can’t guarantee it will be interesting to everyone--or anyone, for that matter. So read at your own peril.

And if you want argue with anything I say, please do so.