Blog

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.

Calling all writing teachers!

Today I’m excited to announce that I’ve just turned a longtime dream into a reality: I’ve published a book of lesson plans for teachers who use Sin and Syntax in the classroom. Its 372 pages come with ideas for discussions, in-class exercises, homework assignments, handouts, answer keys, and even a big grammar test. There are readings galore, of my heterodox favorite passages (from Charlotte Brontë to Muhammad Ali!).

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The Irresistible Voice

A colleague of mine recently shared this story: “This afternoon I was sitting in a doctor’s office reading a random article about Utah hot springs in whatever magazine was on the table, and belly laughing. I read the lede: ‘I was floating on my back, looking at the Wellsville Mountains in the distance and dissolving problems in water the precise temperature of inner peace,’ and I thought: Chris Colin.”

We who know Chris and his writing agreed: he has a distinctive (and funny) voice.

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Copy editors: worth their weight in gold

Recently, one of my young cousins emailed me to ask about copy-editing resources. As the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, she had decided to institute a new step in the paper’s editing process. My many emails exchanges with her made me realize that while I’ve blogged about literary style and good editing in the past, this little-understood and vastly under-appreciated part of the publishing process deserves some attention.

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Berry good nouns

The best writers I know have habits to make sure their words are as powerful as possible. It may seem old-fashioned, or just tedious, to work with a dictionary and a thesaurus at your side, but this is part of the practice of writing. Take a common noun like fruit, which many of us might use in a first draft. We can do better than that, right?

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The elasticity of English

Being bilingual is a cornerstone of my writing life. My multi-culti take on vocabulary and grammar has given me insight into Hawaiian culture, guided my perspectives on syntax, and shaped my ideas of adventurous prose. And being bilingual has developed my ear for language and given me a true appreciation not just for vocabulary, but also for the sound of words and the rhythm of sentences.

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New stories from the Grotto

OK, you may think a grotto is “a small picturesque cave,” possibly near the sea or a lake, and probably sprouting ferns or fountains. Maybe you’ve seen a grotto in a fancy garden, like the Grotta Azzurra at Capri or Le Nôtre’s at Versailles, and associate it with Old World intrigue or even religious shrines.

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Refusing debased words and alternative facts

Like many citizens, I’m finding it impossible to ignore reports about the new U.S. administration and its “disruptions.” I try to stay nonpartisan here (and in my books), since I prefer to poke fun at all ridiculous political speech, and to applaud any brilliant syntax.

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Moana and more

I have been tuned into all things Hawai‘i this year, what with the release of my new books, both featuring Hawaiian subjects. So when I read that Disney’s Moana earned a spot behind Frozen as the second highest grossing Thanksgiving Day debut of all time, and held top rankings at the box office for several weeks, I was excited. Is Hawaiian culture finally going to get the attention it deserves?

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Crafting truth

Whether I’m writing an article about Hawaiian cowboys or a book on the intricacies of a sentence, I keep my journalist hat tugged on tight. Part of why I’m a professional writer is that I love research (and learning new things). But another part is that I find the process of getting things right to be challenging—and satisfying.

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Summer Fun

Convention says that June, July, and August is a time for beach books and frothy fiction. Surely there will be a bumper crop of such books this summer, but let’s not forget titles that are already on the shelves. While I was in Hawai‘i in May, I read Shawna Yang Ryan’s lyrical Green Island, which […]

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