Showing posts from 2010

Christmas Wishes


This is my last post of the year. I am taking the last couple of weeks off to enjoy time with my family. "Editing for Grammarphobes" and "Flash Fiction Fridays" will return in January with more fun facts and great stories. 

I leave you this holiday season with a wonderful piece by Sharon Cupp Pennington. Merry Christmas and may your new year be filled with joy, love and peace.

The Right Thing
By Sharon Cupp Pennington

Deborah Sterling tipped the deliveryman and closed the door, sliding glittering ribbon off the foil box. Christmas was her favorite season. Carols, greeting cards, gifts wrapped to perfection by the ladies at Craig’s Ballantine Avenue store. Married thirty years, he delighted in spoiling her and their only child, Daniel.

Deborah sat, box in her lap. She lifted the photograph atop a Chippendale table and ran her finger across the handsome soldier’s face. “Where are you, son?” she whispered.

“Don’t give up on him,” Craig had said.…

Happy Birthday, Miss Austen


On this most momentous of days, Bibliophilic Blather celebrates the illustrious Jane Austen by re-posting a piece I wrote upon my return from visiting her home and burial site in England. I will never forget that day and am truly grateful for my time spent in Austen country.

Jane and me

It was Mrs. Berkeley’s English class, sophomore year in high school. Our first full-scale research paper lay ahead. We were to pick an author, read three of his or her books and write a term paper on recurrent themes in the work.

The list was filled with authors of the Classics, ninety percent of whom were men. I glanced further down the page and came upon a name I had never seen before — Jane Austen. One novel’s synopsis started out something like, “Elizabeth Bennet meets Fitzwilliam Darcy at a dance. Neither is too pleased with the other.” I was hooked. I quickly ran up to our teacher, securing this Jane Austen before anyone else, for fear of being stuck analyzing Homer.


Editing for Grammarphobes: The Grammar Grinch


I love the holidays, but one thing guaranteed to bring out my inner Grinch is the most common grammatical error of the season -- the use of reindeers. That’s right, reindeers.
Ladies and gentlemen, reindeers do not exist. There are only reindeer. Reindeer is a singular and plural word referring to the large Arctic deer who pull Santa’s sleigh.
I have heard this error in songs and carols, as well as misspoken on city streets, and it jolts me every time like a sprig of holly through my heart.
So, please remember to use reindeer in your holiday writing and conversations. It will make the season a more pleasurable one, especially for all of the grammar grinches like me. Thank you.

Jane Austen’s Birthday
Tomorrow is the greatest holiday in literary history. Please join me for an encore posting of “Jane and Me,” which chronicles my visit to Jane Austen’s home in Chawton, Hampshire, England.

Flash Fiction Fridays

Flash Fiction Fridays: Ho Ho Ho


Here's a great piece from Richard Bon. Enjoy!

Mission Santa Claus
By Richard Bon

The boys hid their bikes and an empty duffel bag behind the bushes and knelt beside one another at the foot of the steep, grassy hill leading up to the old man’s house. 

“Remember,” Nathan said to Billy, “if you see a light go on, run back and grab your bike and ride to the end of the road and wait for me by the Smithfield barn.”

Billy nodded and hoped Nathan didn’t notice his hands, trembling.

“You ready?”

Billy nodded again, eyes wide.

“Okay, then let’s go.  Follow me.”

Staggered, Nathan ahead of Billy and to his right, the boys trotted up the hill until they reached an old weeping willow tree about twenty feet from the grand old wooden house’s long front porch.

“Just wait here,” Nathan instructed Billy.  “I’ll go get it and then we’re outta here, piece a cake.” 

Billy did as he was told while Nathan made a sprint toward the object of their desire, the reason for their stealth nigh…

Editing for Grammarphobes: Sick Day

Due to unfortunate circumstances, I am taking a sick day today. "Editing for Grammarphobes" will return next Monday.

Please join me for Flash Fiction Fridays in two days. This week, Richard Bon shares a great story called "Mission Santa Claus." You won't want to miss it!

Flash Fiction Fridays: Ho Ho Ho


Ahh, December. The smell of cookies baking in the oven. Christmas lights twinkling. A snowflake or two dancing across your windshield. A sudden yearning for hot beverages in the middle of the afternoon. Okay, well, I always need a pick-me-up around 3 p.m., but that is besides the point. It is cozier now, and the iced teas have made way for peppermint mochas. I do not know how it is where you live, but the winter cold definitely has set in here, and I love it. 

Today, Flash Fiction Fridays begins a month-long celebration of the holidays. Enjoy.

A Blizzard in the Mojave, an Old West Christmas Story By  Travis Haselton
The night was cold. It was the first heavy snowfall anyone had seen in the Mojave Desert. He thought he had steered clear of this weather; it was rumored it was hotter here than in hell itself. 
Zane Anderson had traveled to St. Thomas, Nevada, about two years after the Mormons left and went up to Utah on account of Nevada issuing a tax they didn…

Editing for Grammarphobes: Dialogue #1


I recently received an email from a writer struggling with punctuating dialogue, something that many us face on a regular basis. So, out of these sentences, which is right?

“Sure, whatever,” he shrugged.


“Sure, whatever,” He shrugged. 

The first sentence is correct. Always end your quote with a comma if you have an identifier (he said, she said, she spit, he shrugged), and make sure the comma is inside the quotes.

A good overall rule is commas and periods always go inside quotation marks.

I will cover quotes and other punctuation next week.

Flash Fiction Fridays

December's Holiday month starts out with an old West Christmas story by Travis Haselton. Be sure to check it out on Friday.

Editing for Grammarphobes: Deadline Updates, Gifting Ebooks and Missing Ds


Before we begin, the deadline has been extended for holiday flash fiction submissions due to the Thanksgiving weekend and widespread turkey consumption, which is known to hinder productivity. Please e-mail them to me by Wednesday, December 1, at and be sure to put “Flash Fiction Fridays” in the subject line. 500 words or less on your interpretation of “the holidays.” Could be Christmas, Yule, Winter Solstice, Al-Hijira, Ashura, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve or Day or even Festivus, which exists only in the minds of the Seinfeld creators. 

Also, as you do your holiday shopping online, please consider purchasing a novel by an indie author this season. There is a lot of great work out there just waiting for you to discover. And now it is easier than ever with the new “Give as a Gift” option for Kindle ebooks, which appears underneath the download button on the right side of the book’s page.

I participated in an author’s panel discussio…

In Thanksgiving


Like many of you, I will be spending most of this week in the kitchen preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Editing for Grammarphobes and Flash Fiction Fridays will return next week.

As I roll dough for pumpkin pie and peel way too many potatoes, my mind will inevitably wander to holidays past. My family is smaller now, much smaller than when I was young, with all four grandparents and my mother gone for many years now.

I still remember my father making the headless turkey dance over the sink while he cleaned it out and the smell of my mother’s stuffing cooking on the stove. The grandparents slowly making their way up the three flights of stairs to our apartment. Grandma producing her perfect pumpkin pie, beautiful crust pinched just so.

I wrote this poem about my mother’s father a long time ago and would like to share it with you today as we embark on another holiday season. May your Thanksgiving be filled with family, friends and good food. May you share stories a…

Flash Fiction Fridays


The Blessing by Lee Libro
"Pass the gwraaaavwy! Pass the gwavwy," said John Jr. "Please," inserted Mother. "What about a blessing?" John Jr. snorted. Mother gently linked a hand in his, signaling all five of her children to do the same with their neighbors. John Jr. rocked back and forth. "Bless this food, oh Lord..." she began.  John Jr. pried his hand away, set his elbow down on his plate creating a trebuchet flinger from the fork propped at its side. "... and please remember all those less fortunate on this day..." One green pea flew through the air and landed in his nine-year-old sister June's hair, where it remained suspended in a cradle of blond follicles. John Jr. stared across the table at the beautiful green pea and for a second it became a planet in the cosmos of his sister's golden locks. "...and please Lord, see to it that all of our loved ones stay mindful in our daily lives..." Mother c…

You Mean It's Not...?


Today, Editing for Grammarphobes is focusing on a few words and phrases that pose some problems for speakers and writers alike.

A word I have heard many people mispronounce, including a sportscaster during yesterday’s Bears-Vikings game, is “acrost.” There is no such word as “acrost.” It is always across.

I couldn’t care less.
Not I could care less.
I bet if you tried hard enough, you could care less. Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference reminds us to be sure to make it negative for it to be correct.

For all intents and purposes. 
Not intensive purposes.

Anyway, never anyways. Anyways is nonstandard, according to Hacker. Journey had it right with “Anyway You Want It.”

Chest of drawers.
Not chester drawers.
Chester drawers? Is he any relation to Chester Cheetah?

What misused phrases or words have brought a smile to your face? Share them with us by submitting a comment below. 

Flash Fiction Fridays--Family Gatherings Month Continues

A Wee Gathering
By Sharon Cupp Pennington

The timbre of the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU…flashing lights and the abrasive buzz of an alarm jerking parents to attention, the tentative smiles and collective sighs of relief when it turns out to be nothing but monitors keeping cadence with tiny heartbeats and respirators circulating life-sustaining air for lungs not yet able to. Every few spaces there’s an occupied incubator or small metal crib. Between these sit haggard mothers or red-vested volunteers, crooning, consoling.

A father rushes in seeking the reassurance that will carry him to the end of another workday. A nurse, one of many resident angels, logs notes at her station. A doctor continues his morning rounds, here one minute, there the next.

I can’t name another place filled with more love and faith and courage, the absolute will to survive.

My husband sits across from me holding one of our two new additions, and I wonder if we’re thinking the same thing. Probably not. By th…