Saturday, August 29, 2009

Strong Feelings About Words

Over a week ago my blogging role model Mothership ( from Motherhood the final frontier, a blog I highly recommend - ) attempted to rope me into a meme. I tend to resist this sort of thing mighty fiercely. But the ideas behind it snuck into my head and influenced the radio-rant station that plays in my head when I forget to obsess about politics, religion, finances, and what is for dinner. So in the interest of drowning out the current din in my head about such exciting topics as how to make myself get more exercise, I am going to tackle these questions.

Which words do you use too much in your writing?

The sad thing is that the word “ the” is literally overused in my writing because when I get tired I just write it two or three times in a row like a sort of type-stuttering. I also have to take the word “very” out of almost every sentence. There could easily be an argument made for the overuse of “I” as well.

Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?

I hate it when new, probably unnecessary buzzwords are introduced and then heinously overused. Examples? Sustainable, and sustainability have replaced the old fashioned concept of just plain sensible. When did something that is not wasteful or designed with build in obsolescence in need of a special word? The same goes for carbon footprint, which is just another way of saying relative piggishness (high carbon footprint) versus relative stewardship of the planet (low carbon footprint). I am glad that use of these words has made wise use of resources trendy but I wish we could have just kept it in style all along.

Another word that I would like driven out of the language is the use of “got” when describing something that nobody would wish upon himself or herself. I got banana's at the store. I got some good news. Fine, no problem there.
He “got” raped? He got mugged and murdered? I don’t think so. He got a rash maybe. Although in the interest of not blaming the victim perhaps we could say he suffered from a rash. Agency is key- if people are always going out and getting mugged, murdered, and ripped off, then how are we to stop any of it? In the same line of thinking I would like to see the phrase “ blaming the victim” retired from the language because nobody does it anymore.

What’s your favorite piece of writing by you?

That varies from day to day. I hate most things when they are just finished, but if I leave them alone for a week or longer and come back then I am entertained by my own irreverence. I am pleased with this one;

What blog post do you wish you’d written?

I have several favorite blog posts. My favorite concept, that I wish I had thought of is from Vagnino Monologues- a series called " so you think you don't like poetry" that offers wonderful accessible poetry to change the minds of poetry haters everywhere.

My favorite romantic story is

Who I still owe for this

What is the strangest thing you have ever been asked to write about?

I don’t have to be asked to write about strange things. It comes far too naturally. More likely, I have to be asked, repeatedly, and with increasing volume not to write about all the strange things that happen daily in my family.

Name three favorite words…

Liminal, Jungian, and flourless chocolate cake.

And three words you’re not so keen on?
Cognizant- Please replace with aware. I just like the way it sounds better. It is less stuffy- and aware is one of my most favorite words and concepts.

Victim- just get rid of the whole concept. Replace with awareness.

Codependence- again, be done with the whole concept. Replace with awareness. I think I have a theme going here.

Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?

I have several. My role model as a writer is my father- who never fails to use writing as a way to explore his passion for art, music, and dance while financing his need for constant travel. My favorite writer as a child was Roald Dahl and I recently discovered an amazing children’s story by Saman Rushdie that was very much in that league.

I have a grudging respect for Elizabeth Gilbert, a huge deep love for Anne Lamott, and a wavering affection/annoyance thing going with Augusten Bourroughs. I also love David Sedaris and my small and reasonable goal is to somehow write like all of them, only better.

What is your writing ambition?

You mean apart from the Booker Prize and being on Oprah’s Book Club? I just stole that line from Mothership, and I don’t think American’s get the Booker, but I am open to all possibilities. I would actually rather win the Newbury Award than any other, once I get my 1980's version of "Go Ask Alice" ready for the young adult readers of the world. 


  1. There are links somewhere here to all the blogs I mention in this post, and hopefully one of my children will be able to show me how to make the links on the blog itself active.

  2. The toolbar where you write/edit posts has a little link-with-world-behind-it icon. You can type in your addresses there for full linking fun.

    Oh, and I definitely use the word cognizant unabashedly. Words with z's are cool.

  3. Thanks my wise friend- I think that worked. I am taking copyediting this fall so that I can be more like you- that is to say, less abusive towards semi-colons. But I do need to say that there are a few rare people who can pull of high end z words and you and a friend of mine who is a professional speech writer are among that elite group.