Copyright 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Association. All Rights Reserved
Seeing Yourself as a Friend: The Road to Success
by Jennifer Paros
The only way to have a friend is to be one.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
In autoimmune disorders, the immune system gets confused and attacks things within the body’s own system. The white blood cells produce antibodies against the body’s tissues – basically, attacking their home. What should be treated as a friend is misidentified as an enemy. Communication between the cells gets mucked up; it’s a big misunderstanding, not unlike a bodyguard becoming disoriented and turning on the person he’s supposed to be protecting. Though identification of enemies is often the focus for our protection, accurately identifying friends and being a friend is more important for us to thrive.
Albert Einstein is quoted as having said that the most important question one can ask is whether we see the universe as a friendly place, and therefore, whether we use our resources to try to fend off the unfriendliness or strive for greater understanding. In a sense, each of us is our own universe. Along with our unique psychological, emotional, and spiritual profiles, our individual bodies employ trillions of cells in a vast intelligent system not unlike the vastness of the cosmos. The body has the means to keep things running without our conscious awareness, just as the universe handles the big stuff like the safe orbiting of earth and other planets in proximity to each other. So in striving to befriend our largest sense of What Is, it makes sense to begin with the smaller versions – us. more...
One Way to Get There
by Heather Siegel
Teach yourself how to write. When you are fourteen years old, buy a black and white composition notebook, using your busgirl tips from Bob’s Luncheonette where you work on Saturdays, desperate to earn money and get out from under the absurd life you are living in the basement of your grandparents’ house in Bellmore, Long Island.
In that notebook, record the absurdity of your life: the worm’s view of grass outside the casement window, the inability to decipher whether it’s night or day when you wake up, the humming sounds the oil burner makes as you sleep on a futon next to it; the fact that your Jewish grandparents – for no good reason – barely speak to you or your siblings.
Write it all down and add lots of questions marks. Like why are you even living in this basement, in the middle of middle-class suburbia, when your father, a senior funeral director at a respectable funeral home, earns as much as your friends’ parents do; or why he is so mysteriously apathetic about life in general. Write, too, about your mother’s even more mysterious disappearance from your family eight years earlier.
Save your money, get out of that basement, and keep writing. Find a way to afford community college, then City University. Study literature and read anything you can get your hands on. Read to escape. Read to learn. Read to truly live.
Fill more marbled notebooks. Write about love and friendship and social etiquette. Write about lovers, loving, and not being able to love. Write about the awful world of meat production. Begin to develop a passion for the personal essay. Enter non-fiction writing contests. Miraculously win! Have professors pull you aside and encourage you to go to Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia. Laugh at this notion. Who are you to go to an Ivy League school? more...
Obedience Training for your Pet Words
by Noelle Sterne
Pets can be wonderful—I loved my orange and white cat. But when I received an editorial critique before publication of my short story “Casey”—about a middle-school boy who discovered he had healing powers—I was horrified to learn it sheltered a whole menagerie of unwanted pets: words, phrases and grammatical constructions.
On acceptance of “Casey” for an anthology, I was elated. I thought, “Someone finally appreciates my jewel!”
Then the editor emailed me again. After a few cushioning compliments, she let me have it: “Every author has pet words and phrases. A large part of my job is to alert you so you can get rid of them.” On the manuscript she attached, she’d highlighted in oxblood a herd of my pet words and phrases.
I was little assuaged by her praise and much mortified by her markings. I’d rewritten this story until it shone like Waterford in sunlight—I thought. Then I realized that if I wanted the piece published, I’d have to swallow my martyred hours and get back to work.
You may know of the common favorites we fall back on, almost without thinking: passive tense overuse (“The computer was powered up by the writer.”), adverbial exploitation (“really,” “definitely,” “very,” “weakly”), and modifiers grasping for an anchoring noun (“Writing this article, the errors were glaring.”) The favorites my editor skewered may be less well-known than these. Here I blushingly share my top four pet words and phrases, with painful examples, so you can train your own to obey from “Stay” to “Delete.” more...
It Takes Two
by Cherie Tucker
A couple of years ago we talked about outlines, and the main thing you were to remember was that you had to have two points to subdivide anything. For every 1 there must be a 2, and for every A there must be a B. Everyone should know that, but I’m discovering that apparently the message didn’t get around much, so here we go again.
If you said, “First, we have to go to the store,” your listener would then wait for whatever is “second.” You have set that poor person up to wait expectantly for what you have promised will follow. Surely there is more, or you wouldn’t have started a list with “First.” Everyone knows that.
The same expectation happens when you are writing. When you put the number 1 on its very own line, everyone looks for number 2 on the next line. So let’s review how this works:
I. Outlines start with Roman numerals, especially if they are long.
A. Letters come under whatever number you have started with.
B. They begin with A, and there MUST BE a B.
II. You may begin with regular numbers if you don’t want Roman numerals. more...