News, Reviews, and Interviews
Wonder why I slaved over a new edition of Sin and Syntax? Not sure whether to plop down bucks for Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch, despite its hard-to-resist cover? Want to find out how a nice girl from the beach on O‘ahu became a language nut? Or are you just one of those who likes literary gossip? I’m not sure if I can deliver on the gossip, but let’s give it all a shot. Here are some interviews with me, press on my books, some audio, some video, and some news.
My favorite all-time conversation about Making Mischief with Words was hosted recently by my college class. I am paired with Billy Aronson, one of my dearest friends and a writer I consider to be my comic muse. Billy is a playwright with more accolades than I can list, and a hilarious wit. He's a writer for children's TV and the creative genius who conceived a rock opera based on La Bohème, which became the blockbuster success otherwise known as Rent. Billy and I started talking about language and writing in our sophomore year at Princeton, and we never stopped. The conversation itself starts about two and a half minutes in. Watching it actually makes me laugh!
In "Quote Unquote," an article in Honolulu magazine, I talk with editor Robbie Dingeman about the writing life and my somewhat eclectic view of what many call "the writing process." I don't experience writers block, but I do go through "Seven Stages of Manuscript Grief" every time I sit down to write.
My favorite conversation about Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch was with Paige Williams for a Q & A in Nieman Storyboard. I love chewing the fat with Paige, and we focused on bits of the book that are relevant for narrative journalists. I used to work at the foundation and admire the high standards it supports.
On September 6, 2013, Kerri Miller of Minnesota Public Radio decided to focus on the “Music” section of Sin and Syntax. People often think that this is just a grammar book, but it’s really about putting it all together—words, phrasing, rhythm, imagery—to arrive at a distinctive voice and style. Kerri played excerpts of speeches (Obama, Clinton, Angelou) and even songs (Roseanne Cash) so that we could talk about what makes oratory powerful and lyrics meaningful. (We talked Bob Dylan and Hank Williams, Jr., too.)
Other radio hosts—and their callers—have shown me their love of language, especially when it comes to verbs. The radio conversations about Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch that cut the deepest included “Think” with Krys Boyd on KERA/Dallas, the “Veronica Rueckert Show” on Wisconsin Public Radio, and “The Roundtable” with Joe Donahue on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio.
Author Solutions sat me down to talk about my own writing and editing processes. Three video interviews are available on YouTube: 1) Find Your Path as a Freelance Writer; 2) Teaching Great Expression; 3) What Are the Different Levels of Editing? (Don’t ask me what is up with my hair in any of the video interviews. I cannot control my curls.)
This probably seems like a strange edition, but a children's book I wrote, ‘Iwalani's Tree, has gotten nice attention. It was reviewed in Jama's Alphabet Soup, and it earned gold seal from Literary Classics. Of course I couldn't resist diving into language for little ones: in this case, there are lessons on Hawaiian in the material in the back of the book.
Happily, only one review of Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch—in Kirkus—was cranky. Zyzzyva refers to Vex as "a versatile resource on writing powerful prose." Publication Coach rightly characterizes Vex as "a celebration of verbs, a paean to them." Meanwhile, ASJA Monthly highlights a lecture in which I discussed the endurance of long-form journalism at UC Berkeley's "Latest in Long Form" conference.
I have to go back to the first edition of Sin and Syntax (the one with the red cover) to find meaty reviews. One by Mark Nichol for Daily Writing Tips explores chapter elements for those who are titillated by the title. One by Gary Kaufman in Salon includes two other books I love. I feel honored that Gary put me in the company of Patricia T. O'Conner and Richard Lederer. And here's the review that accompanied the Minnesota Public Radio interview.
If you seek further frolics with language, here are my own reviews of two lively books, recently published. The first is Murder Your Darlings by Roy Peter Clark, a supreme compilation of writerly advice supplied by some of the greatest writers of all time, from Aristotle to Stephen King. The second is Dreyer's English, a book penned by Random House’s very own copy chief, Benjamin Dreyer. The latter distills everything he has learned from the books he has copyedited into a useful guide for everyone who wants to put their best prose foot forward. It's a practical guide that bristles with good humor.
Sin and Syntax turned 20 years old in 2019, and as as a birthday present it got a brand new edition—an audio book! It's a strange experience to hear an actor read your own words, in the first person, but I think she sounds great. (And I'd never be able to listen to myself reading this book!)
If you want to geek out on style, Lingua Franca posted a fresh essay I wrote on the literary devices known as parataxis and hypotaxis. On the other hand, if you’re in the mood to sit back and listen to a lecture on grammar, linguistics, and why I care about both, here’s a video of my April 2013 Cal Day Lecture, “The English Verb, from the Swamp to Squidoo.”
For a well-rounded look at why I do what I do, check out “Hale Verbs Well Met,” in The Writer. It was an honor to feel that I was in the hands of such an intelligent journalist. Elfrieda Abbe covered ground rarely touched on in stories about writers, and I felt that every word or her story rang true.
My most recent book (or booklet) is a little guided writing journal called Writing Character. It was a collaborative project within The Writers Grotto, for which I wrote the Introduction and worked on prompts. The volume is part of a smart and playful series of six. (I pose with three of the other featured writers in the photo at right.) Find out more about the series in Lou Fancher's article for Piedmont Exedra.
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