I affectionately call this blog “Constant Comment,” which is what my college roommates termed my stream of opinions about all things literary. Years later, when my then-romantic obsession (and now-husband) Bruce Bigelow learned of the pun, he smiled, noting that “Constant Comment is a Bigelow tea.” Here, then, are my constant comments—random musings on the craft, with kudos for brilliant writing and scorn for bonehead errors.

The precipitous slide of authors income

When I was starting out, I wrote poetry and short stories. I never expected to earn money from writing—I bought the myth of the starving artist, empty hook, line, and sinker. I developed a sideline as a teacher, married a contractor so that I could have a house (even if it was a ruin in the ghetto), and settled in for the long haul. But as I gradually shifted to journalism—and got to know many professional writers in all genres—my expectations changed. I thought of writing not just as my calling, but as my career.

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Writing Refuge

I’ve just started a two-week residency, joined in a large house filled with windows by two-other writers. Every day I walk from the house to the “East” writing shed, where I listen to the bird calls, watch egrets take flight, and stare out at Tomales Bay, which goes from bay to wetlands and back, depending on the tide.

This may seem like an odd setting in which to be writing a book on hula, but being in a place like this settles the soul and lets the imagination carry me to unexpected places. Finding stopping points is so essential to being able to sustain a life as a freelance writer, with its ups and downs, excitements and disappointments—and with the need to be constantly either hustling up work or hustling to meet deadlines.

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Comma Love

A big thank you for your support for Sin and Syntax, and especially the e-book. The recent promotion on Penguin Random and BookBub spread the subversive word, and I appreciated readers who shared links on social media and sent me messages. One of those messages involved a funny story reported by the AP.

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15 years & a gazillion readers

I’m thrilled to announce that Sin & Syntax has now sold—well, not exactly a gazillion copies, but well over 100,000. This is a huge milestone for me, and I’m in the mood to celebrate. I thought I’d tell you a little of the back story, as well as offering you a way to get a very very very affordable copy. (If you’ve read the book, you know I discourage the use of that adverb “very”—unless repeated three times. LOL.)

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Dictionary love

Copyeditor Mary Norris has had a fascinating career at The New Yorker over the past three decades. She writes about that, and many other things in Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (W. W. Norton). Because readers of this blog (and the site generally) seem to have such a taste for dictionary talk, I thought I’d share what Mary says about her go-to dictionaries.

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Tips from top writers

As the authors of, between them, eight books, the faculty at the 2015 Mokulē‘ia Writers Retreat will draw on wide experience as they share their wisdom with writers at the Hawaii gathering. They’ll have a whole week to guide writers through exercises, but we asked them to share just one secret with readers of this blog.

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Digital dictionaries

It may seem old-fashioned to consult a dictionary while writing, but I can’t imagine working without a reputable dictionary nearby. “Working with word books strengthens our imaginative muscles, and in turn, strengthens our own mental thesauruses, our ability to call up precise words,” I wrote in Sin and Syntax. But what happens to the dictionary in an era of e-publishing?

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First persona

How do we write about ourselves without narcissism? I recently gave a public talk at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, on that perennially perplexing question: How do we writers “find our voice”? A couple of days later I led a workshop on crafting personal stories and memoirs. I’ve devoted an entire New York Times column […]

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Holiday Jollies!

I love reaching new readers, so I’ve come up with a special offer on my books through December. Buy a copy of Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch or Sin & Syntax from me, and I’ll send a bonus copy of either one to you.

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Whither Latin and Greek plurals?

English grammar evolves with majestic disregard for the susceptibilities of classical scholars,” Philip Howard wrote in his 1978 book Weasel Words. So, apparently, do the rules for pluralizing words that have come to us from Latin and Greek.

For many writers and editors, knowing these rules is a point of pride. But nowadays the rules that exist threaten to disregard, or at least confound, everyone’s “susceptibilities.”

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