Time to stick a fork in 'Serious questions' posts

Time to stick a fork in 'Serious questions' posts
From time to time, I’ve had a list of what seemed to be Serious questions — Serious not just because I had them, but serious things I’ve wondered about without having whole posts to write about each one. But during the new administration, I haven’t come up with a list of questions. In the past two months (yes,... Read more »

May I have your undivided attention?

May I have your undivided attention?
A few weeks ago, when my attention was divided between watching a program and coughing, I heard that question: “May I have your undivided attention?” I knew the answer was no. It always is, lately. If you’re somewhere around my age, you’ll have been asked by teachers and other leaders at regular intervals, “May I... Read more »

'The Adventure of the Missing Quotations' (or what Doyle wrote and Bartlett ignored)

'The Adventure of the Missing Quotations' (or what Doyle wrote and Bartlett ignored)
In the course of reading “Arthur and Sherlock,”  I found myself trying to use Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations to find the names of stories for particular incidents and quotations in the Sherlock Holmes stories I love. But while “You know my methods” and nine other gems are in my copy of Bartlett’s, many of my favorites are... Read more »
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What am I doing here? Just defending the language

What am I doing here? Just defending the language
It’s good to be back. Not being able to talk without coughing has been a good way to slow down and think some things through. (The cough’s nearly gone, but it’s slow work in this weather.) Looking at the mirror with the sort of expression my friendly sea lion shows in the photo has led to... Read more »

'Arthur and Sherlock' is a special look at the creative process through biography

'Arthur and Sherlock' is a special look at the creative process through biography
Chapter 1 of Michael Sims’ new book, “Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes” (Bloomsbury USA, 2017) begins with student Arthur Doyle leading a patient to see his medical professor, Dr. Joseph Bell. Sims writes: “The man’s attitude was respectful but not servile. He did not remove his hat. In a Scottish... Read more »

The joy of "good night"

The joy of "good night"
Hello again. I’ve been away from the blog because I’ve caught the worst cold in many years, with such a nasty cough that I’ve been fighting both laryngitis and bronchitis (usually on different days). But when I’ve been up and around, I’ve been able to keep noticing words. Some words have even taken on fresh importance.... Read more »
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'A Prayer under Pressure of Violent Anguish' by Robert Burns, born on Jan. 25, 1759

'A Prayer under Pressure of Violent Anguish' by Robert Burns, born on Jan. 25, 1759
UPDATE: I originally published this piece on Jan. 25, so I used “born on this date” in the headline. I knew it would get outdated, but I wanted to feel something that Burns could never know — how strange it is to just hit the button marked “Update” and have the edits I made work... Read more »

'Championship Writing' -- Fresh approaches

'Championship Writing' -- Fresh approaches
For the final post in my series on “Championship Writing” by writing coach Paula LaRocque, I’ll review her recommendations for “Fresh approaches.” (This is only column, or chapter, 28 in her subtitle’s list of “50 ways to improve your writing.” Previous posts, such as the ones linked to highlighted words, have considered nine other columns/chapters.)... Read more »

'Championship Writing' - Avoiding the predictable

'Championship Writing' - Avoiding the predictable
My penultimate favorite chapter in “Championship Writing” by Paula LaRocque is “Avoiding the predictable.” (Of course, if you read last week’s post, you knew I was going to write that.) Writing coach LaRocque’s book is full of advice on different topics; the subtitle is “50 ways to improve your writing,” and we’re at the next-to-last... Read more »
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'Championship Writing' -- Notes on usage

'Championship Writing' -- Notes on usage
In Paula LaRocque’s book “Championship Writing: 50 ways to improve your writing,” chapters were originally columns in Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. That makes it feel fitting that this week’s entry among my favorite chapters, “Notes on usage,” is labelled “columns 18 & 19.” Part of this section is the typical... Read more »