Sunday, August 28, 2022

Get the Dog's Name

When I was studying journalism in college, my professor Verne Edwards taught us that a reporter must never come back from a story without the name of the dog.

Verne Edwards (1924-2019)
Verne Edwards (1924-2019)

It was his way of teaching us that if we're curious, attentive, and thorough enough to get the dog's name, we'll gather all the relevant details needed to tell the story.

Now that I'm a copy and content writer, in my research I always get the name of the dog.

And I urge you to do the same.

But please, know when not to include the dog's name.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

View from a sidewalk café. Amsterdam. (Part 1)

People walking with determination. A purpose. Somewhere to be.

I’ve reached my destination. My only purpose to be where I am.

Amsterdam Cafe - Scott Frothingham

A woman passes with her skirt bouncing in rhythm with her long brown hair fighting gravity with every fast-paced step.

A brindle short-haired terrier, undeterred by a thousand enticing smells, trots next to a painfully slim man wearing oversized headphones that draw attention to a rune tattoo on his neck.

A gentleman with tousled white hair stands out in an old-fashioned plaid sports coat that hangs from his stooped shoulders. In his hand a plastic bag imprinted: Amsterdam International Book Fair. Through the frosted plastic you can just make out a small book and a receipt. This image will undoubtably return for me to guess the gook he ventured out to get. Right now, I’m thinking a first edition of Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” With dust jacket.

A server stops, pulls the order pad from her apron, and gives me the universal raised eyebrow head tilt. “Espresso, please.” She nods and is gone before I have a chance to ask her how to say “please” in Dutch.

When she returns with the comically small cup, I ask her how to say, “thank you.” Even though she has brought me an americano.

Every half hour the bells in the square chime the first dozen notes of a song I recognize but can’t name.

The server who had brought my coffee offers to open the umbrella next to my table. It gives me a chance to use my new Dutch work: “dankuvell.” It means “thank you.” At lease I hope it does. She smiles. Either at my expression of appreciation or at the inside joke that people from Amsterdam tell out-of-towners that “dankuvell” means “thank you” when it actually means “bite my toenail.”

A mighty leap takes her high enough to brush the edge of the café umbrella with her fingertips. She looks to her father for approval. He didn’t notice her accomplishment, much less how her pigtails flew with her and bounced on landing like they were trying to escape and start a life of their own. Maybe in Honolulu.

A fresh Nazi SS insignia tattoo screams from a beefy upper arm. I’m visiting Anne Frank’s house tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Linguistics, Style, and Writing

 An hour well spent for anybody who communicates in English.

The Q&A that followed the lecture:

Monday, August 1, 2022

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

Hemingway didn't say it.

Hemingway didn't say it.
Peter De Vries did:

Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation - the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.

That being said, Hemingway was known to have polished off more than a few adult beverages in his day: 

“I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure. When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you?”

But, he didn't drink while writing. From a 1964 Writer's Digest article about Hemingway (based on an interview by Edward Stafford):  

"Jeezus Christ!" Papa was incredulous. "Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You're thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes—and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he's had his first one. Besides," he added, "who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time, anyway?"

That was a hard shot at Faulkner*, but at the time they were the two stars of the American literary scene and competitive ... and ...Faulkner himself said:

“My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.”

Speaking of knocking back some booze, there are other writers of note who have thoughts about writers, writing, and drinking:

I'm not a writer with a drinking problem, I'm a drinker with a writing problem. - Dorothy Parker

In order to write at a high level of competence you need a comprehensive vocabulary, a keen sense of overall structure, and an inner beat or cadence. Your senses must be razor-sharp. Alcohol blunts those senses even as it releases self-restraint. Therefore many writers feel they are getting down to the real story after a belt or two, little realizing they are damaging their ability to tell the real story. - Rita Mae Brown

I never drink while I'm working, but after a few glasses I get ideas that would never have occurred to me dead sober. - Irwin Shaw


I don't know any writers who don't drink. - James Baldwin


You have to have enormous discipline, especially if you like your drink. I know so many writers who went down the drain. If you like to drink, you can’t do it. It’s a reward. It should never be a crutch. - Robert Leckie

You know what Lawrence said: "The novel is the highest example of subtle interrelatedness that man has discovered." I agree! And just consider for one second what drinking does to "subtle interrelatedness." Forget "subtle"; "interrelatedness" is what makes novels work—without it, you have no narrative momentum; you have incoherent rambling. Drunks ramble; so do books by drunks. - John Irving


Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol. - Steve Martin


The more I drink the better I write and the more I write the better I drink. - Shawn Hatfield


There's an obvious romance to being the drinking writer. But if I'm drinking, I'm not writing.Liz Brixius


The idea that the creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time. - Stephen King


I often wonder if all the writers who are alcoholics drink a lot because they aren't writing. It is not because they are writers that they are drinking, but because they are writers who are not writing. - Natalie Goldberg

and finally, one more from Hemingway:

My training was never to drink after dinner nor before I wrote nor while I was writing. 


*Want to know more about these rivals? Search: Faulkner Hemingway feud 

The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

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