Wonder why I slaved over a new edition of Sin and Syntax? Not sure whether to plop down 30 bucks for a hard copy of 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 highlights from press on my books, as well as some audio and video.
In May 2015, I was featured in Honolulu magazine, as well as the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, in conjunction with the writers retreat I lead in my hometown. I talked about leaving the beach to become a writer, what motivated me to 36 writers to the North Shore of O‘ahu, and my “seven stages of manuscript grief”—from the first draft, through the “oh-shit” draft, and, finally, to the “pure-play” draft.
I was thrilled when, on September 6, 2013, Kerri Miller of Minnesota Public Radio decided to focus on the “Music” section of Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose. People often think that this is just a grammar book, but it’s really about putting it all together—words, phrasing, rhythm, imagery—and arriving 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 highlights: high-concept chat on All Sides With Ann Fisher in Ohio, hip talky shows like West Coast Live in Berkeley, Writers on Writing with my SoCal pal Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, and even “Central Time,” a drive-time radio (I call it “drive-by radio”) in Wisconsin.
Grammar Girl posted one of my favorite sections of the new edition of Sin and Syntax, for those of you who would like a free taste . (It’s on the royal “we” and related pronouns.) And the geekier Lingua Franca posted my essay on the literary devices known as parataxis and hypotaxis.
For an idea of what I do when given a microphone for an hour, or if you’re just in the mood to sit back and listen to a lecture on, well, grammar, linguistics, and why I care about both, here’s a video. ForaTV filmed my April 2013 Cal Day Lecture, “The English Verb, from the Swamp to Squidoo.” That lecture uses Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Prose as its departure point.
I am not linking to “Hale Verbs Well Met,” in January’s issue of The Writer, out of hubris or vanity, but rather to tell you how special it is to be in the hands of such intelligent journalists that you can let speak honestly about your life as a writer. And trust that the reporter and editor will craft an article in which every word rings true to the person it’s about. Elfrieda Abbe covered ground rarely touched on in stories about writers.
In January 2013, I learned that the conversation I had with journalist Paige Williams of Nieman Storyboard was the second most popular post of 2012. Who would have thought that narrative journalists would be so enamored of verbs? Well, um, I would have, but…. Self-congratulations aside, it was neat to think that I was second only to an article about David Grann, my storytelling hero. (And that I beat out a deconstruction of Malcolm Gladwell’s work!)
Finally: I survived TEDYouth! In November 2012, I managed to make 400 teenagers and a few dozen adults laugh about verbs on a Saturday afternoon. The TED folks will surely produce a slick video, but in the meantime, if you want to see two kids act out the verbs in Hamlet, check out my six-minute talk on this livestream. (You have to advance to 1 hour, 22 minutes, and 30 seconds to find me—right after Emily Post’s granddaughter.)
Happily, only one of the reviews of Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch—in Kirkus—was cranky. My favorite story wasn’t a review, but rather a Q & A with narrative journalist Paige Williams, of Nieman Storyboard. Here is a selection of the notices:
- Nieman Storyboard review
- Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
- ASJA Monthly (newsletter of the American Society of Journalists and Authors)
- Copyediting (Because Language Matters)
- Hartford Courant (Christmas books for language lovers)
My favorite conversation about Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch was with Paige Williams of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. The Q & A was a treat not just because I love chewing the fat with Paige, but because I used to work at the foundation and love the high standards it supports. Also, Paige and I focused on bits of the book that are relevant for narrative journalists.
Several radio hosts—and their callers—show their love of language and all things literary, especially when it comes to verbs. Here are the ones that cut the deepest:
- “Think” with Krys Boyd on KERA/Dallas
- “Veronica Rueckert Show” on Wisconsin Public Radio
- “The Roundtable” with Joe Donahue on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio
Finally, here are some video interviews about my own writing and editing processes.
- Author Solutions on YouTube 1) Find Your Path as a Freelance Writer; 2) Teaching Great Expression; 3) What Are the Different Levels of Editing?
Feel free to comment, but be nice! And don’t ask me what is up with my hair in any of the video interviews. I cannot control my curls.