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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.

Shedding old ideas about books

On or about June 1, 2015, my second book went over that magic threshold: 100,000 copies sold. I was elated. I’d written Sin and Syntax in 1998 and refused to give up on it. The elation was soon dampened, though, when I realized that my “residual income” of $1.13 per paperback did not put me on a path either to financial stability or creative freedom.

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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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#women gay talese should read

Ah, how dangerous is a little myopia. At a recent conference in Boston, Gay Talese, journalist icon and keynote speaker, named four male writers who inspired him as a young man (Frank O’Hara, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Irwin Shaw). In the Q & A, poet Verandah Porche asked him if there were any women writers who played the same role in his literary life.

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Making merry

So, you’re looking for the perfect gift for the language lover in your life? Look no further than the book jackets above and to the right. LOL. Seriously, though, I’ve been thinking about a gift I could give my readers, and came up with something novel. Purchase a copy of Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch along […]

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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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