Showing posts from March, 2011

A Last Nod to Women's History Month


I was in a quandary. Those of you who have been reading this blog for quite some time most surely know of my love of Jane Austen and her work, so I was uncomfortable about the possibility of rhapsodizing yet again about her brilliance in capturing the world around her and her most excellent wit upon the chance you might grow weary with me.

However, Miss Austen ranks fourteenth on Biography Online’s list of “50 Women Who Changed the World” for paving the way for future women writers. I would be remiss, if I did not mention her in some way for this last segment for Women’s History Month.

So, instead of writing a biography or analyzing her writing style, here are ten interesting facts about dear Miss Austen.

The original title of Pride and Prejudice was First Impressions.

The necklaces worn by Jane and Elizabeth Bennet in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are modeled after topaz crosses that were worn by Jane an…

Editing for Grammarphobes: Possessives


As most of you know, the possessive form of singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe s. If the noun ends with an s, add an apostrophe only.


the mummy’s curse

a writer’s work

babies’ blankets 

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition, cites a few exceptions to this rule for common nouns, including “notable cases where tradition and euphony dictate the use of the apostrophe only.”


for appearance’ (conscience’ or righteousness’) sake 

Nouns that are closely linked should be thought of as a single unit. When showing possession, the second noun takes the possessive.


her aunt and uncle’s boat

mom and dad’s car 

The book notes that “when ‘ownership’ is separate, however, both nouns take the possessive form.”


our son’s and daughter’s friends

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1969.

Call for Submissions

What does parenthood mean to you?

Bibliophilic Blather is look…

Flash Fiction Fridays: The Last Laugh


Flash Fiction Fridays wraps up Comedy Month with a great piece by Barbara Silkstone. If you are interested in submitting for April's Spring Fever, send it to and put "Flash Fiction Fridays" in the subject line. Five hundred words due on April 4. Thanks.

Temporary Insanity By Barbara Silkstone

Dr. Abigail had become a legend at Tempo Temps. She’d burned through eight receptionists in two weeks. A geriatric specialist, her office was a bacteria mélange, the result of her passion for animals over people. Dogs roamed the halls, cats lurked in the exam rooms, turtles wandered under foot and hamsters in plastic balls bounced off rubber tipped canes.

I took the job.The day before my start, Dr. Abigail handed me my marching orders making sure I understood they were listed by priority.

1. Feed and walk the dogs, twice daily. Do not return to the office until the dogs have pooped. Bring proof of poop in plastic bags as supplied. 
2. G…

Editing for Grammarphobes: The Power of Words


Stories entertain and provide the means for temporary escape, but they also can shed light on aspects of our society that need to be changed. No one has done this better than Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Her Uncle Tom’s Cabin illustrated the human cost of American slavery, depicting the agonizing story of African-Americans attempting to gain freedom through the Underground Railroad.

In fact, many say the novel was one of the causes of the American Civil War.

Who was this woman that changed a nation?

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut. After receiving a wide-ranging education, she taught school and wrote articles for her local newspaper. Her first book, The Mayflower; or Sketches of Scenes and Characters Among the Descendants of the Pilgrims, was published in 1843.

When she and her husband, Calvin Ellis Stowe, moved to Cincinnati, they were separated only by the Ohio River from a slave-owning community. Stowe talked with fugi…

Editing for Grammarphobes: Plurals


The plurals of most nouns are formed by adding an s. When the noun ends in a soft ch or in s, sh, j, x, or z, however, add an es.


If the noun ends with a y preceded by a consonant, the plural is formed by replacing the y with ies.

babies and specialties, but toys, not toies, right?

Most compound nouns that are written as one word take the plural in the usual way. But, hyphenated and open compounds are made plural by adding the s to the element that is subject to change in number.

mother-in-law becomes mothers-in-law, not mother-in-laws
masters of art
doctors of history 

The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1969

Coming Up
On Wednesday, I will continue our series on influential female authors for Women’s History Month. Can you guess who is up next?

Although best remembered for her novel that swayed public opinion, and quite possibly the fut…

Flash Fiction Fridays: The Joke's On You


Real Dummy Hong By Cleveland W. Gibson
The cobra killed Len Hong, and his dummy, Real Hong, died too.

“My poor master,” Real Hong cried for the last time.

In Baofengba church, Yunnan Province, Len’s large family gathered with his ventriloquist friends. All loved the great entertainer who achieved worldwide success due to his pink-nosed donkey, whom he requested be placed in the plain coffin with him.

On the day of the funeral, the distraught family watched from the pews. They cried as the age-old Chinese rituals unfolded to calm the spirit of the dead.

First the red candles were lit, then carefully placed between the pine branches by Len’s coffin. Two young girls next scattered small red and green balls of paper onto the top. Then, sticks of incense sent aromatic smells through the church, as masses of flowers surrounded the coffin.

Rachael Su Hong, Len’s widow, watched as eight men entered the church beating drums. The leader carried a wooden dragon-head, w…

Editing for Grammarphobes: A Quick Tip for a Thursday


I apologize for missing my Wednesday post. I am running the Book Fair at my son’s school, which is monopolizing most of my week. Frankly, I forgot yesterday was Wednesday until too late.

Here’s a writing quickie, courtesy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

Exclamation points should be used only after true exclamations or commands. Do not emphasize simple statements by using them.


Correct: What wonderful weather we are having! 
Incorrect: We are having wonderful weather! 
Correct: Halt! Who goes there?

Overusing exclamations makes writing seem silly. It is best to use them sparingly.

Editing for Grammarphobes: Word Origins


Do you know where the phrase throwing down the gauntlet comes from?

A gauntlet is a chain mail glove worn with medieval armor to protect one’s hand. In the days of chivalry and combat, when a gauntlet was thrown to the ground, it meant that knight was challenging his opponent to a fight. If the gauntlet was picked up by the opposing knight, the challenge was accepted.

How about vandalism?

The word, “vandalism,” originally referred to the Vandals, a Germanic people who sacked Rome in 455 under the leadership of Genseric. Their name has remained a synonym for willful destruction.

New Book By Karen Cantwell and L.B. Gschwandtner 
Friends of the blog, Karen Cantwell, who provided last Friday’s flash fiction piece, and L.B. Gschwandtner, whose story, “A Sudden Rush,” appeared in October, have teamed up to write Foxy’s Tale, a comic, chick lit vampire tale with a twist. Here’s the description.

Foxy Anders has a list of problems as long as a shopping spree receip…

Flash Fiction Fridays: Comedy Month Continues


It has been a rough week with the issues in Wisconsin, more craziness in Washington, D.C., and now the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. My heart goes out to the Japanese people. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Here to provide a little comic relief is Friend of the Blog Karen Cantwell. Hope this starts your weekend off well.

By Karen Cantwell

Eight year-old Katelyn shoved peas around her plate with a fork. Her stomach churned while she pondered how to approach the subject that weighed on her mind. She glanced briefly at her mother, whose very large stomach prevented her from sitting too close to the kitchen table, then at her father who chewed on a large chunk of ham.

This time seemed better than any other she decided. “So,” she started out. “I had a fight with Josie today.”

Her mother seemed concerned. “Oh? What did you fight about?”

“It was stupid. She said that you and Daddy had . . .” she lowered her voice and spelled out the n…

Editing for Grammarphobes: Learning from the Masters


Today begins Bibliophilic Blather’s celebration of Women’s History Month. Each week in March, we will take time from grammar rules and focus on another vital part of writing: studying great writers.

Writers are readers, and most of the time they do so with a rather critical eye. What worked in that novel? Why did I enjoy it so much? What did I hate about it? What can I learn from this writing style that I can incorporate in my work? This is how we grow. 

Virginia Woolf revolutionized the novel by developing stream of consciousness, which allowed her to depict the inner lives of her characters in intimate detail. Before this, stories relied strictly on external happenings and plot devices. Characters did things, but we never knew why.

In her essays and reviews, she frequently attacked those books that discussed the superficial while omitting the essence of character. Often, these stories were told in a linear form. First this happened, then this, and this, …

Monday Morning Business


Good day, everyone. Have a seat, and let’s get started. I have called this meeting because we have a few matters of business to cover.

Read an E-Book Week

First, it is national Read an E-Book Week. For those of you unfamiliar with them, e-books can be downloaded to many e-readers, including Kindle, Nook and Sony. However, those are not the only venues. Using Kindle, Nook and iBookstore applications, e-books also can be downloaded to iPads, iPods, iPhones, Blackberrys, Androids and even computers.

About this time last year, a battle was raging in my head. How could e-readers possibly be better than holding a book in your hands? Better than smelling that newly printed piece of literary anticipation? Then I received an iPad for Mother’s Day, and everything changed. I downloaded the Kindle app so I could see what A Whisper to a Scream looked like for the readers. I was hooked.

There are two things I absolutely love about downloading e-books. One, shopping is s…

Who's Ready for Some Fun?


It's Comedy Month on Flash Fiction Fridays. Up first is L.C. Evans.

The Toughest Kid in Town
By L.C. Evans

Harold Weaver was a fifth grader and the toughest kid in town. Harold wasn’t a big kid, but something about the ice blue of his eyes and the squareness of his jaw made the scrawniness of his body seem unimportant.

He lived with his mother in a big, shabby house, and no one knew who his father was. Lillian Weaver had just shown up one day with her son. She took in boarders and gave piano lessons. Everybody in town knew that Harold held only one person in high regard, and that person was his mother.

When Mr. Reilly moved to town and went to work for the bank, he didn’t know about Harold, but just like the rest of us, he learned soon enough. What happened was that Mrs. Weaver fell behind on her house payments. Mr. Reilly took time out of his busy schedule to go tell Mrs. Weaver to pay or he'd foreclose.

My uncle was a boarder with Mrs. Weaver, and…

Editing for Grammarphobes: Past versus Passed


Hi my grammar go-to girl. I have a problem. In garden magazines the phrase, "until danger of frost has past" is used extensively. My fellow editor insists it is "has passed." I think I am right and have found several examples in books/websites. Who do you think is right?

--Michelle Byrne Walsh 

Well, Michelle, indeed there are two camps of thought on this question and various websites and blogs posting differing views. I could not find anything in my usual Bibles, also known as The Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, so I looked the words up in the dictionary to gain insight on their original intent.

Passed is the past tense of pass, which means “to go by.” It is always a verb.

The word past can be used as an adjective, noun, preposition or adverb. Past, as an adjective, means “(1) ago; (2) just gone or elapsed; or (3) of, relating to, or constituting a verb tense …