So you might think writers, longing to be permitted to sit with their own minds, would welcome the grand rupture brought by the coronavirus and its forced isolation. That the chaos of the current moment allows us to find new ways to learn, reflect, create. That we are accustomed to reflective observation from the sidelines of society. But, in fact, this extended isolation has been no romantic reprieve.
As Covid-19 continues to ravage, the American media-scape is awash in medical jargon and neologisms. It’s a cultural pattern: when new language enters quotidian conversation, the collective imagination generates entirely new terms, creatively altering both existing words and new concepts for use within a novel context. Hence, the “corona-coinage.” Call it cute or call it cringe; the neologisms appear inescapable.
Art feels more important than ever because it helps us feel less alone. I’m glad that I was able to hunker down and bring this book to life. So far, it’s been great to hear from readers who crave the chance to use creative expression at home.
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.
I recommend Sin and Syntax to my seniors and freshman honors English classes. And we used it in class to demonstrate the contrast between flat, dull writing and writing that makes use of a full range of techniques.
I have used the exercises in “Constance Hale’s Lesson Plans for Teachers” as daily warm-ups. There’s one additional exercise I’ve developed that I’d like to share: I teach my students to identify Greek and Latin morphemes in English words throughout the year.
A friend and colleague recently shared an experience on social media that I, and many other professional writers, could relate to. When an aspiring writer approaches you for feedback or advice beyond what you have the capacity to give freely, how do you graciously decline?
Ernest Hemingway, I’ll bet, was not a fan of books on writing—or things like MFA programs. His advice to novelists was famously pithy: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” But many of us find solace in the advice of others, and need inspiration when we get stuck.
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.
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.
I’m going to use a week in January as a “fallow period”—what I call the down time in between major projects. I wait till I have nothing on my plate, and no deadlines, and then I orchestrate a mini-retreat for myself. I get into nature for a few days, exercise a lot, sit silently, read, and let myself wander back to my creative center.