Showing posts from 2017

How to make a good first impression as the author of a college-level English paper

Have an English paper due? I teach college writing, and I've read and graded thousands, if not tens of thousands, of essays over the years. 

What I have found is that first impressions matter. Most professors eyeball a paper before diving into reading it (this is known as previewing--it's a good strategy for any reader, as it familiarizes you with the broad outline of the paper). 
Here are my top three tips for getting that "A": 1. Be meticulous about how the paper looks. In MLA format, know the essentials: 1" margins, Times New Roman 12 (or 11, if you are my student), perfect in-text citations and Works Cited page, the correct number of pages/word count. You are trying to make a good impression, and all this stuff is easy, so do it right. It's like wearing professional clothes to a job interview--basic advice.
2. Make sure you have a thesis, and that it is clear, and that it is where your professor expects to find it. At my college, the consensus is that the…

Taking a break from this blog

Taking a break as I work on my next novel--please read and enjoy!

As an editor and a writer, I am always looking for guidelines and strategies on how to decide if a written work is ready to be published.

In an April 25, 2017 post in the Submittable blog, guest author Nathaniel Tower has some pithy advice on how and when to submit a piece of writing to journals or literary magazines. Here are some elements of a short list to consider when asking yourself whether or not a piece is ready to be published:

"So how do you know if a story is ready? Here are some signs you shouldn’t submit: You haven’t read it over at least five timesYou wrote it less than a week agoYou aren’t proud of itYou are contemplating sending it to an inferior lit mag because you are pretty sure they’ll publish anything . . . " The post has more great ideas for making sure you submit your work to the right magazine at the right time. Read it here:…
National Poetry Month (celebrated in the US in April every year) is almost over. This annual event helps spotlight the vast catalog of poems written by people from many lands and ages. I love poetry and even write my own poems when I want to express a passing thought or image.

This April, I've read and published a number of poems, both my own work and poems in the public domain. With the ease of copying and pasting on the internet, copyright laws are being broken routinely. As a publisher and writer, I respect these laws and also the right of authors to be properly acknowledged and compensated for their work. So I am careful to try to publish only works (words and images) that are freely available to the public. These laws are complex and vary from country to country, so I need to use my detective skills to stay within the safe zone of copyright-free works.

Here's a wonderful W.B. Yeats poem. Not all of his poetry is in the public domain, but this one is.


The Lake …

The Tyger by William Blake, 1757 - 1827

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand, dare sieze the fire? And what shoulder, & what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And water’d heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

This university in Ghana focuses on critical thinking to change attitudes on corruption

"When Patrick Awuah -- a former Microsoft executive who was educated in the U.S. -- returned to his home country of Ghana, his goal of starting a software company was dashed by the lack of a qualified workforce. So instead he founded Ashesi University, which is guided by principles of ethical leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports."

This university in Ghana focuses on critical thinking to change attitudes on corruption:

Imagery by Archibald MacLeish, 1892 - 1982

The tremulously mirrored clouds lie deep,
Enchanted towers bosomed in the stream,
And blossomed coronals of white-thorn gleam
Within the water where the willows sleep—
Still-imaged willow-leaves whose shadows steep
The far-reflected sky in dark of dream;
And glimpsed therein the sun-winged swallows seem
As fleeting memories to those who weep. So mirrored in thy heart are all desires,
Eternal longings, Youth’s inheritance,
All hopes that token immortality,
All griefs whereto immortal grief aspires.
Aweary of the world’s reality,
I dream above the imaged pool, Romance.

Work Gangs by Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967

Box cars run by a mile long.
And I wonder what they say to each other
When they stop a mile long on a sidetrack.
  Maybe their chatter goes:
I came from Fargo with a load of wheat up to the danger line.
I came from Omaha with a load of shorthorns and they
    splintered my boards.
I came from Detroit heavy with a load of flivvers.
I carried apples from the Hood river last year and this year
    bunches of bananas from Florida; they look for me with
    watermelons from Mississippi next year.

Hammers and shovels of work gangs sleep in shop corners
when the dark stars come on the sky and the night watchmen
    walk and look.

Then the hammer heads talk to the handles,
then the scoops of the shovels talk,
how the day’s work nicked and trimmed them,
how they swung and lifted all day,
how the hands of the work gangs smelled of hope.  
In the night of the dark stars
when the curve of the sky is a work gang handle,
in the night on the mile long sidetracks,
in the night where the hammers and shovels sleep in corner…

Sometimes we need a bit of folly

Lines on Nonsense
Eliza Lee Follen Yes, nonsense is a treasure! I love it from my heart; The only earthly pleasure That never will depart. But, as for stupid reason, That stalking, ten-foot rule, She’s always out of season, A tedious, testy fool. She’s like a walking steeple, With a clock for face and eyes, Still bawling to all people, Time bids us to be wise. While nonsense on the spire A weathercock you’ll find, Than reason soaring higher, And changing with the wind. The clock too oft deceives, Says what it cannot prove; While every one believes The vane that turns above. Reason oft speaks unbidden, And chides us to our face; For which she should be chidden, And taught to know her place. While nonsense smiles and chatters, And says such charming things, Like youthful hope she flatters; And like a syren sings. Her charm’s from fancy borrowed, For she is fancy’s pet; Her name is on her forehead, In rainbow colors set. …

Truth vs Falsehood, deception, avoidance, and misunderstanding

"What then is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms… –Nietzsche"

This quote from Nietzsche makes clear an uncomfortable reality of the relationship between truth and language. Our language, for good or ill, conveys truth (or its opposites).

True truth
Truth, most people would agree, exists objectively. It sits outside of human interpretation as a kind of untouchable, absolute entity. 

For some, the pursuit of truth is a lifetime event. Philosophers, psychologists, religious scholars, and poets are professional truth-definers. In different ways, politicians, economists, journalists and sociologists also try to uncover truth.

Even though it might be impossible to get all of the truth-pursuers to agree on what truth is, let alone on one example of truth, it's still worth noting that all would agree (most likely) that truth exists.

How can people agree on the existence of something that no one can see, quantify, taste, touch, pin down, hear, or feel? How…

Writer's block, but not exactly

The term "writer's block" may refer to three kinds of inability:
1. You can't start a new piece of writing, even though you have an idea what you want to write about. In this case, the block comes from not being able to find a pathway for entering into the writing. The best cure for this writer's block is to start somewhere, anywhere, and write until you find your path.

2. You can't continue to write a piece you've already started. This may happen when you have some choices about how to develop the writing and cannot decide what to do next. It may also happen when you've got nothing more to say about your topic or thesis. This is harder to deal with, as you may need to go back and find the place where you got into a "dead end" and rewrite from that point on, forging a new direction.

3.You are simply stuck for any idea at all. This is the time to do something creative that's not writing. Listen to music, read a book, take a walk. Jog your br…

ILIP announces the publication of Prague for Beginners: Finding Myself in Prague

We are very excited to announce that Prague for Beginners is now available in a brand-new, 1st edition print version, as well as an updated e-book version (3rd edition).

This brief review highlights some of the wonderful events in 1994 Prague as it wakes up to the 20th (and soon-to-be 21st) century after 50 years of totalitarian rule:
"Elizabeth Logan goes to Prague in 1994 to teach English to beginners. She has missed the crest of the wave, both by missing the first exuberant rush of freedom in the Czech Republic in 1989 and by being 34 years old, yet not knowing exactly what she wants to do with her life. She finds unexpected challenges in Prague: losing her flat, her job, and her mysterious Czech would-be boyfriend. But she eventually finds her purpose for being in Prague: discovering what love is, and how to find it."
We invite you to visit the website and read a free excerpt of this romantic novel!…

The Almost Nearly Perfect People, Denmark-style

I'm reading The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth ( a Brit by birth), which is about the fabled happiness of the Scandinavian countries. Although I know he's going to dismantle this concept, he also promises to find out what makes the Scandinavian countries tick.

(By the way, Booth notes that he's including Iceland and Finland, which are not strictly-speaking Scandinavian but rather Nordic countries; he's using the terms interchangeably.)

Denmark, for example, was once a world-wide kingdom, with colonies in North, Central and South America; Africa; the Arctic; India; and the Indian Ocean.

Over the centuries, Denmark was defeated in war, shrunken by treaties, occupied by Germany in WWI and generally humiliated.

Denmark, after all this loss of power, is now one of the most egalitarian countries in the world. Booth is tracing the origin of this famous economic and social "levelness" (or downplaying of wealth and social status) and posits two theories…

Jan. 7, 1891--Zora Neale Hurston is born

Today is the birthday of Harlem Renaissance novelist Zora Neale Hurston. Where I live is not too far from where Hurston's family moved when she was three years old. Eatonville, Florida, was one of the first African-American towns incorporated after the Civil War. Here is some historical data from the website

"Incorporated 1887. Newly freed slaves who had come into the area from Georgia, Alabama and further north and the not-yet-incorporated Maitland first settled the town in 1880. These newly freed men labored at clearing land, planting crops and citrus groves, and helping to build houses, hotels and the railroad system. In a few years, some of them became community leaders, businessmen and respected citizens of the newly developed town of Maitland. By 1887, the African-American settlers in Maitland became interested in establishing their own town."
From Eatonville, Florida, Zora moved to Baltimore and then New York City to attend col…

New Year, New Role

For 2017, I'm taking this blog in a new direction, with a renewed emphasis on my role as Executive Editor of International Leadership Institute Publications (ILIP). I've been closely involved with ILIP since it was founded and will be devoting more time and energy to expanding its reach among people who study and model effective leadership.

"ILI Publications, founded in 1990, supports the mission of the International Leadership Institute, which is to promote a discourse about what it means to be a constructive and effective leader in the context of a liberal democratic society, through books, seminars, and various publications, including social media.

To this end, ILIP publishes books, short stories, and articles that inspire people to contribute their best as leaders in the communities where they live and work."

My husband Jarda and I have run the International Leadership Institute for more than 30 years, providing programs and services for established and aspiring lea…