Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Writing Opportunities in Wyoming

Susan here: today just want to let you know about some contests and events coming up for writers in Wyoming and beyond. Both these organizations are near and dear to our hearts — Susan is president of WyoPoets, and Lynn serves on the board of Wyoming Writers, Inc. We encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities:

WyoPoets Chapbook Contest
Deadline October 15, 2017
This is a members-only contest, but it's easy to join WyoPoets, and only $20 a year to be part of a wonderful organization.

Theme is Hunger and Yearning: Hunger denied and yearning fulfilled. Dreams dashed and wants satisfied. What do your mind, soul, body ache for? What is your deepest desire? Have you found it, or do you still long for it? Our judge, Art Elser, suggests this might include:

  • Hunger for justice 
  • Hunger for a simpler life 
  • Yearning for some life-time dream 
  • Yearning for someone long lost friend, person, parent 
  • Yearning of a teenager for city life 
  • Yearning of someone who wants to go back to childhood 
  • Hunger for peace in the world 
  • Yearning to be a better person, poet, writer, parent, grandparent 
  • Yearning for a trip to the home of immigrant grandparents, parents, great grandparents

These are just idea-starters -- there are many other variations on this theme.

Download the guidelines and send your entry by Oct. 15, 2017. Chapbook contest open to WyoPoets members. Not a member? Join us! You may send your membership fee separately to our treasurer, or include it with your submission. Questions? Contact wyopoets@gmail.com.

WyoPoets Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest
Opens October 1, 2017; Deadline December 15, 2017
The WyoPoets invite submissions to the 2018 Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest. First prize is $100, second place $50, third $30, and fourth $20. Up to five honorable mentions will be awarded. Poems, published or unpublished, of up to 40 lines, including title and line breaks, are eligible. Entry fee is $3 plus $1 per poem entered, no limit on number of poems entered. Questions may be directed to Katie Smith, contest chair, at wyopoets@gmail.comDownload full guidelines.

This annual contest is named in honor of Eugene V. Shea of Hanna, a long-time member and past president of WyoPoets. Shea chaired the national contest for eight years, represented WyoPoets at numerous meetings of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and served as a juror for poetry contests in other states. A prolific writer, he wrote more than 1,300 poems and published eight volumes of poetry.

WyoPoets 2018 Spring Workshop
April 27-28, Cheyenne, Wyo.
WyoPoets is pleased to announce that our 2018 workshop will be held in Cheyenne on April 27-28. Friday evening at 6:30 we will meet at the Laramie County Library, 220 Pioneer Ave., for an open poetry reading. On Saturday from 9:00am to 4:00pm, award-winning Colorado poet Art Elser will share his insights on poetry at the Lions Park Community House in Cheyenne. A light morning snack, coffee, and lunch will be served. The cost will be $50.00 per person, with some youth scholarships available. Please contact Chere Hagopian at 307-287-6413 or chere@batteryship.com with any questions. More info coming soon at http://www.wyopoets.org/spring-workshop.html and on our Facebook page.

An added bonus to the conference: Dubois is beautiful!
Wyoming Writers, Inc. 2018 Conference
June 1-3, Dubois, Wyo.
Save the date! Lynn here: if you're like me, your summer gets planned out well ahead of spring (aka mud season). I already have several dates on my calendar for June--yikes! That's just the way it is for people who have a lot of interests, family and desire to travel when it (hopefully) isn't blizzarding out.

One of the dates, a very important one, is for the Wyoming Writers, Inc. conference, June 1st through 3rd, 2018. The conference is going to be in Dubois, which is a lively small community, nestled in a beautiful part of Wyoming. I'm on the WW, Inc. board this year, so I've gotten to hear about all the great presenters who are going to teach and inspire us. Not my role to divulge yet, but the program is definitely going to be diverse, engaging and ambitious. Worth a spot on your calendar so go write it down, right now! June 1st through 3rd, 2018.

Check out the website. If you're on social media, follow Wyoming Writers on Twitter and the Facebook page and group. Consider joining! It's the most encouraging group of writers you'll find, and open to all.

A few bonus items
And don't forget...
You can find Writing Wyoming on Twitter and Pinterest, too. We'd love to have you follow us!
 



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Metaphor and Magic in Poetry

by Susan

Anyone who's ever taken a high school English class has, at some point, been introduced to simile and metaphor.

  • Simile compares one thing to another using "like" or "as" or a similar connector: Her eyes are like the sea
  • Metaphor doesn't just compare. It equates the two: Her eyes are the sea.
Both are used often in poetry. Both are powerful techniques. Neither is necessarily better than the other. Yet, I find myself drawn more to metaphor because for me, it evokes a tinge of magic.

When you say her eyes are like the sea, it draws on my senses and logic. Say her eyes are the sea, on the other hand, and it draws on my dreams and imagination. I picture not just the gray-green of her irises. I feel the cresting wave from the kraken rising from the depths, wrapping its tentacles around a doomed ship, its sailors paling with fright.

Perhaps it's because I've always loved fairy tales and magic. Give me a world where wolves speak, rivers demand the occasional drowning victim, and a little girl built of snow comes to life and runs through the woods in a red cape, a red fox companion at her heels.

Metaphor breathes life into inanimate objects so that I can enter into an almost human relationship with them. It makes abstract emotions and experiences concrete so that I may experience them with my senses. And it evokes my sense of wonder.

Lyndi O'Laughlin is a fine Wyoming poet from Kaycee. She has graciously allowed me to publish this poem of hers from Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers (ed. Lori Howe, Sastrugi Press, 2016), that deepens beautifully as rock turns to metaphor partway through.

















Kayak on Spring Run-off

It's a small boat I'm in, a thumbnail really,
spit down the Shoshone as if a tongue
were trying to separate itself from a seed,

and there is a lichen-covered boulder
squatting in the middle of the river,
at its base a muscular current,

like a toilet flushing, and it threatens to
block any forward progress I might be
entertaining in my mind, sucking me

and the kayak closer and closer
until I can't help but notice the tiny
snails attached to the rock;

they must think I'm one of them,
just another snail hauling her house
around on her back.

The boulder has a deep voice,
and he pulls me alongside and asks
if I will stay with him forever;

tells me that he knows how hard
I have tried, and asks me if I am
maybe growing a little exhausted

from all my clamoring for approval.
I jam my paddle in his eye to free myself,
and think of you, what you asked me

on that day before I left you
standing on the porch --
"What's wrong with you?"


Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with simile. I use it myself. And many fine poems employ neither metaphor nor simile. Be aware, however, if you have a simile only because of hesitance to make the leap. Don't let it be a bashful shuffling of the feet or a literary throat-clearing. I dare you: go out on a limb. Make that connection concrete. Her eyes are the sea. See if it creates the magic. If it doesn't, you don't have to use it.

What brought this all to mind was preparing for a poetry reading and presentation. It dawned on me that many of the poems that speak most to me -- including my own -- are those that employ metaphor and let me dabble my toes in fantasy. With that, I'll conclude with one of my own, also from Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone. I'll leave it up to you as to whether the metaphor succeeds.


Canoeing on Saturday

I want to wear this day
raindrop rings on pale olive water
circle upon circle
spreading, joining, fading

I want to wear
fuzzy, waddling, gold-brown goslings
silver trout breaking the surface
yellow warbler -- an egg yolk in flight
slicked umber otter swimming
within and oar's length

"Three yards of this fabric, please."
The clerk grasps the bolt by its clouds
water splashes against her fingers
ducks scatter before her scissors
geese honk in the crisp paper bag

I spread the lake on a table in a sunny room
pin brown tissue pattern to shoreline
run shears down grassy sleeves
toll tracing wheel along the darts that slip
between willows and snags
match front side to front, sew a 5/8" seam
I sew a sheath of rain

At the party, the hostess takes my hand
"That dress is beautiful," she says
"Oh this? I smile,
"I'll have it forever."

-----

Thank you, Lyndi Bell O’Laughlin, for allowing the reprint of her poem. Lyndi's poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (Lost Horse Press, Fall, 2017), Troubadour: An Anthology of Music-inspired Poetry (Picaroon Poetry Press, 2017), Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers (Sastrugi Press, 2016), Gyroscope Review, The New Verse News, Picaroon Poetry, Unbroken Journal, and elsewhere. She currently serves as Vice President of WyoPoets.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

KIDS AND STRAWBERRIES

post by Lynn

Mom, Aunt Nancy and Uncle Barney
I have been blessed to spend lots of time around kids through the years—the children of friends, my niece and nephews, step-grandchildren and now my grandnephews.

I’ve found that there’s nothing like a kid to bring you great ideas, an amusing twist on life and plenty of chuckles. Not to mention somersaults and bubble gum.

And for writers? Kids are the mother lode.

We can look to them for…

GIVING FRESH WORDS TO SENSORY EXPERIENCES
One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.                                                                          - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
It was the child of a friend who first pointed out to me that sagebrush has a lemony aspect to its scent, and another child who told me that raw broccoli tastes a lot like crunchy dirt.

Kids express their immediate, unsullied reaction to the things they encounter in the world. They haven’t learned all the clich├ęs that adults use. Because of this they can be wonderful guides in explaining things in fresh ways.

Ask a child, "What do you think that smells/tastes/feels/looks/sounds like?"

Take notes accordingly.


MASTERFUL WORD PLAY

As writers we often get into vocabulary ruts. We really need to lighten up and play with words, the way kids do. Even mistakes can be turned into fun new words and phrases to bring originality to our writing.

During make-believe time my granddaughter Claire said to me:

“Okay, you are gonna be the momma alligator. I’ll be the ala-baby-gator.”



And not long ago my grandnephew Mason was asked about where he lives. His response?

“We live in the middle of the nowhere.”

He does have a point there...

Last summer at Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Colorado, there was a marmot sitting in the grass next to the river. I showed it to my grandnephew Lance. He called it a hedgehog.

“No, it’s a marmot,” I said.

Whereby Lance ran around telling everybody, “Come and look. There’s a varmint in the grass!”

OUT-OF-THE-BLUE COMMENTS

Need to get whacked out of logical thinking in order to write more imaginatively? Follow a kid around for a day.

Inside a big gazebo at Elitches amusement park in Denver, there was a sea of colored balls for the kids to play with. Mason was in heaven.

I noticed he only picked up the green balls, though, and asked him why.

“Those are good for the birds,” he said, as if the answer should have been obvious, and went on playing.

Whaaaa? 

SURPRISING WISDOM

I wrote a blog post about the motivating kick-in-the-rear I got from Lance one day, with a simple statement,

“I do my part.”

 AN APPRECIATION OF BOOKS

Jen Campbell, poet, short story writer and author of the Sunday Times bestselling “Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops” series, shares some stuff kids have said in her bookstore:

Little girl: I’ve written a book.
Me: Have you? What’s it about?
Little girl: I don’t know. It’s in my head. I haven’t read it yet.

and...

Little girl (whispers): They gave us Kindles to use at school, but I prefer books.
Me: What do you love about books?
Little girl (thinking hard): I like how quiet they are.
Me: Yeah?
Little girl: Yeah. Stories should be quiet, and whisper to you inside your head.


Author and Illustrator Bill Peet collected a few humdinger things kids have said about his books in their letters to him, including:

“I like your books. My whole family likes them. My cat does not know we have them.”



 … NOT TO MENTION A DOSE OF HUMILITY

Another of Bill’s pen pals wrote…

“I am in grade two. I enjoyed your books. What do you do for a living?”


How can writers capture these pint-sized verbal pleasures? Here's a few suggestions...

Find ways to be in the presence of children.

If you have your own, or plenty of young ones in your family or neighborhood, you’re all set. If not, you’ll have to seek out settings where kids are talking and then eavesdrop shamelessly.

For Cheyenne folks I highly recommend the second floor of the Laramie County Library as a spot to listen and watch kids. I’m sure other county libraries would work well too.

Fast food restaurant playgrounds are another hot spot for kid watching.

Lance being, well... Lance
When we lived in Lusk, my mother, husband Mike and I were “Grandma Readers” for the local kindergarten class. (Yes, Mike was a Grandma Reader too. No gender bias in that designation, eh?)

In this role, we would go to the school, gather our assigned 4 or 5 kids, and read books out loud to them. Lots of chatter about book-related and not-so-book-related topics went on. Maybe your community has such a program?

Slow down and really listen when you are in the presence of children. 

This takes discipline and effort. We adults are always trying to get someplace or get something done. But the rewards are immense when we take time out to really hear what the kids are saying.

Ask questions, and give the kid plenty of time to respond. 

I was one of those kids who mumbled, stammered and talked in convoluted circles. Lots of kids do as they are learning to talk.

Patience with these ramblings will not only allow you to gather all those good things kids say, but will also present the child with a great bonus: the gift of your attention and practice in putting their squirmy thoughts into spoken form.

"Dragons are very stretchy," notes Mason. 
Designate a notebook just for their words. 

When I started to take care of my grandnephews, I bought a small notebook in which to gather snippets of things they have said along, with descriptions of memorable events. Initially my goal was to share the notebook with their parents someday, and eventually with the adults that Lance and Mason will become.

Now I admit I do it mostly for myself—for all those insights, revelations and chuckles that I get when I look through the pages. And, of course, to pilfer all those unforgettable, juicy-squishy words.

My "Lance and Mason" notebook
Do it--find a kid and get 'em talking...

This is perhaps the best writing assignment I could ever share with you. Follow through with it, and I promise your writing (and mood) will improve.

But just remember…

“When you are dealing with a child, keep all your wits about you, and sit on the floor.”                                                                                                    - Austin O’Malley




CRUCIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Tomorrow (Wednesday, September 6th, 2017) is National Read a Book Day.  To celebrate we are invited to grab a book and spend the day reading.

Alert your boss as to this important directive immediately.



 




Resources for this post included:
Children Say the Best Things in Bookshops, Jen Campbell
What Kids Say, Bill Peet


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Being an Active Writer



Guest post by Mandie Hines

Being an active writer involves more than getting words on paper. It’s more than consuming books on the writing craft. Although both of these are important, the piece that’s still needed is active participation in a writing community.

Many parts of writing are solitary, and for those of us who are introverts, that’s part of the appeal. However, our writing practice is enriched by the inclusion of other writers.

Writing groups and communities are part of the writing experience, and if you’re not part of a group and community, you’re limiting yourself.

Even more than being part of writing communities, participating actively is key. Joining a group is good, but are you bringing your work to your writing group for feedback? Are you engaging in conversations in online writing communities or with other local authors? I encourage you to seize the opportunity to learn and grow, while sharing your knowledge with other writers through participating in conversations about your writing, others’ writing, and writing in general. The more you give, the more you get.

There’s an additional step. The tools, tips, and tricks you learn from other writers won’t work until you put them to use. If you get feedback on a story, but never make the edits, you might miss an opportunity to improve. If you’ve been struggling to keep track of your story submissions and another author tells you about a tool that makes tracking submissions easier, but you never try it, you’ll continue to struggle.

Here are a few benefits of participating in writing groups and communities, but it is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Editing
  • Beta Readers
  • Exchanging Ideas
  • Support
  • Encouragement
  • Writing Resources
  • Networking

Sometimes there’s advice you already know, but you have to hear it from somebody else before you can make the change.

While you’re passing your knowledge to other writers, you’re helping yourself too, in two ways. First, the best way to learn or remember something is to teach it to someone else. And second, by growing writing communities, you’re also growing potential future readers. When I connect with another writer, I feel excited about their stories, and I’ve purchased and read many books simply because of the connection I had with the writer.

Recently, I created a Facebook group to unite the writing community in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It’s made the importance of being an active writer clearer. Previously, I would have been content being a lurker. I would have looked for announcements for events I found interesting, but my engagement in connecting with other writers, participating in conversations, or creating events of my own would have been nonexistent.

Changing my role from observer to creator has made me realize how much I want to expand my life as a writer. I want to engage with my website, my writing community, my readers, and pass on what I’ve learned to other writers. It enriches me to participate in all these different areas, and it allows me to help more people too. I want to show up, do the work, and I hope that other members come through and do the same. There’s so much more to learn if we each add our voice to the groups we belong to.

It is easier and more comfortable to live a solitary life as a writer, but it is more fulfilling to participate in the world of writers. Chances are, many of them are much like you and me in their struggles, in their writing goals, and in their passion for writing.

At the end of the day, I want to give writing everything I have, not holding back, participating in every part of the writing world, not just the part where I’m writing a story, and I want to be surrounded by writers who are active as well.

-----


Mandie Hines writes in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains where unsettling ideas knock around in her head, screaming for an outlet, compelling her to create horror stories and psychological thrillers. She’s not satisfied until her stories keep her awake at night, fearful of what lurks in the dark. She’s also driven to write flash fiction and poetry that capture moments of human vulnerability. Her work has recently appeared in Down in the Dirt, Scarlet Leaf Review, and The Flash Fiction Press among others. She’s a member of the writing group Page Turners, Wyoming Writers, Inc., and the Facebook groups Cheyenne Writers Community and Wyoming Writers. Visit www.mandiehines.com for more.

-----

Susan here: While we are talking writing groups, I'd also like to add a shameless plug for WyoPoets for all you poets out there. Check it out at www.wyopoets.org.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MAKING A SPECTACLE OF IT

guest post by Alec Osthoff 

If you have been in a beginner fiction workshop, there is a good chance you’ve either been told that a story must be built around conflict, or that every character must want something, and must struggle trying to achieve their goals. These are effectively the same statement. And I often question if this is the right way to get students thinking about writing.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the rule. Unless you are writing microfiction or something highly experimental, it is almost certainly true that the story will feature conflict of some kind. And the word “conflict” is awfully broad. Even the quietest of struggles or questions suffices for this rule.

What I find problematic about this maxim is more what it implies, which is that conflict is the hook that keeps your readers interested. Any piece of the book or story can be used to hold the reader’s interests, usually multiple are being used simultaneously. By handing this assumption to young writers, we limit the kinds of stories they will produce, both in these intro level classes, and potentially far into the future, as these early assumptions are often difficult to dislodge.

While this isn’t a bad way to think about writing, it can be a narrow approach, and many students would benefit from taking other avenues for considering their own work.

As an example of conflict gaining too much weight in a story, I wrote an overblown collapsing marriage plot for my advanced fiction writing course in undergrad. I had no idea how to write a collapsing marriage, and it was all really an excuse for providing sketches of late night Minneapolis. A conflict where the narrator is an insomniac would have sufficed better for getting my character out into the world I was interested in, but I felt the conflict needed to be bigger.

This is a bit of an embarrassing theme in my earliest stories—I always assumed that the conflict should be the most important piece because my intro course, like many intro courses, taught me to think about stories in that way. And these earliest short stories make me cringe now with their inflated conflicts, when clearly the Midwestern setting is what I was most interested in presenting.

Again, the rule wasn’t the problem, and my intro to creative writing teacher shouldn’t be blamed either. My problem was that I saw the rule, and like many students, gave it more weight in my stories than was helpful. I heard the narrow implication behind the broadest of statements, and following that implication led to stifling my own work. I needed to change the way I thought about stories, and after thinking on it for several years, I believe I have it boiled down to something I can explain to other writers.

There are as many ways to think about writing as there are writers. But what has helped me think about my own work is that all stories have a spectacle. That is, all stories have something the reader will ideally pay attention to.

Often there will be several spectacles, but the writer should be aware of the ones that stick out the most and have the biggest impact on a reader’s interpretation of the story.

To illustrate the point, if I had taken that divorce narrative and instead of thinking of the story as a centralized conflict, thought of it as a spectacle, then I would have built the story around the strange late-night wanderings my protagonist moves into. When building the story around the spectacle, I would have focused on the part of the story that most interested me—the after-midnight culture of a city I was very familiar with. And I could have spared myself the embarrassment of trying to prop the story up on a conflict I wasn’t committed to.

For example, if a setting is particularly strong, readers will generally take notice, and that will inform how the reader internalizes the rest of the story.

Maybe there is a strange item at the center of the story, or an anticipated event the characters are looking forward to. These things do not have to relate to the conflict to hold a reader’s interest if they are properly emphasized. With this approach, it will be immediately clear to students that the narrative glue does not necessarily have to be the story’s conflict, and by starting students out this way, I think we open the potential for more diverse narratives.

If the writer doesn’t have control over their spectacle, or is unaware of what piece of the narrative is drawing attention above the norm, then they don’t have control over how readers value or interpret the story, so this new method doesn’t let students off the hook. Really, this teaching method requires that students have a greater understanding of their work, and may result in a greater struggle for them, but the result is a classroom of writers who won’t be bogged down by a particular assumption. If we change the way we think about building stories, we change the stories we produce. And by taking this broader approach to story building, we expand the kinds of stories we have at our disposal.

What’s worth emphasizing about this method of thinking about stories is that it doesn’t overwrite the classic rule about conflict. This method in no way challenges that most stories will require characters, conflict, and a setting. This new way of thinking doesn’t even discredit or discourage conflict focused stories, as conflicts make great spectacles.

What this method does do is encourage more diverse approaches to storytelling than the standard workshop adage. The way we think about building stories impacts the stories we create.


Alec Osthoff is a recent graduate from the University of Wyoming MFA program in Fiction. He is a 2017 Mari Sandoz Emerging Writer, and his writing has appeared in Atticus Review, Midwestern Gothic, and as winner of the 2016 Blue Mesa Review Fiction Contest. 

Alec recently attended the Story Catcher Writing Workshop, where he met Lynn Carlson and many other talented writers. He currently lives in Laramie with his wife, August, and two cats.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

YOU'RE JUST A ROCK

guest post by DeAnna Nolan 




But first, Lynn says: 

DeAnna's contribution comes to us by way of Kristin Abraham, who is one of DeAnna's professors at Laramie County Community College.  I'll be working with Kristin this fall to bring more fine posts to our blog from LCCC students... love those student voices!



Rocks and poetry have always been a passion of mine. When I was a kid, one never topped the other. And to be honest I do not know where the love for either one stewed from. They just grew on me like weeds in my brain.

Now being a tad bit older and even more curious I think constantly about how writing and geology connect and intertwine with each other. Geology is more than just rocks. It is the study of the earth, its structure, processes, and history.

Which, if you really think about it, is a lot like being a writer. We want to study human nature (and many other things) and put it into words. Just like Geology, we have a structure of writing, our processes of how we get words from our minds to paper, and we all have a history we need/should share with the world around us.

One of my favorite things I think I have discovered about the connection between geology and being a writer is that both are delightfully unpredictable. This is truly amazing and fascinating because this is what fuels a writer to write such astonishing things, the way that tornadoes can randomly show up in the middle of a beautiful day.

Writers can be in the middle of doing taxes and be hit with a sudden idea about a character who has the ability to see the numbers he/she writes. This interruption is both a blessing and a curse because just like a tornado that can turn a quiet town into an upside down, barren land, being hit with ideas at random times can really mess up our flow and get us distracted. But to be honest, I think that is when our best ideas come to life.

I also like to think about some of the anxieties I have as a writer. Some of them are being constantly afraid to write, terrified of revision when I do write, and wondering how I can be a writer when my punctuation and grammar are so terrible. When these anxieties hit me (and they hit me quite often), I like to think about the layers of the earth. The earth has many layers, some in rock formations and the layers right under our feet. These layers come about by sand or mud being built on top of each other and the weight causing the rock below to become solid.

Just the way a writer (or human in general) is made of layers. We are not just one thing. If we were just one thing then some of our best stories would not have layers. Therefore, I like to think of my anxieties about writing as being part of my layers. We all have them and they are a part of us. There are other layers inside, I know, that are on top of those anxieties and that help me realize that “Hey! I can write and I will write because I know I have improved from then until now.”

There are many other things about geology and writing that really make me giggle and shake with excitement. Because how wonderful is it that we can look at where we are now--the sky, rain, the dirt--and know that we are not so different and we share such creative things about us.







DeAnna Nolan is an English major at Laramie County Community College. She also has the pleasure of working at her college library, where books surround her all day (her second favorite thing next to cats). When she is not at school you can usually find her writing poetry, reading, or dancing at her second home, Act Two Studios, where she also teaches.

When she has the time or just needs to unwind, you can find her at home with her two dogs and cat watching Bob’s Burgers or The Twilight Zone.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Escaping the Land of Lethologica

by Susan

Lethologica 

Grandiloquent Word of the Day defines "lethologica" (LETH-oh-LODG-ik-a). as "The inability to remember a word or put your finger on the right word." Lethologica impels us to use language like "whatchamacallit" or "whatsit" or "dooflackey.

Photo by sean Kong on Unsplash
Lethologica is that feeling when a word dangles on the tip of your tongue, elusive. It's like a sneeze that won't come, an itch you can't scratch, or the desire to have a good cry when you're too heavily medicated to do so.

I love the sound of it: lethologica. Try saying it without putting your tongue back in your mouth -- it's almost possible. (Now, clean the spit off your screen.)

How would it appear in a travel guide if it were a country?
Lethologica is located just north of Aphasia, the border  between the two countries demarcated by the Lexicon River. From the Plain of Shush, tourists will see stunning views of the Stuttering Mountains. Travelers should beware the Jabberwocky and bring their own maps, as the locals are notoriously bad at giving directions to wheresit.
If lethologica were a disease, it would be benign in the majority of the population, but drive writers to madness. Writers do not rest until they find exactly the right word. At least, I don't like to.

I most often find the cure for lethologica in a thesaurus, when I can get to one. What writer doesn't love, adore, cherish, prize, and cherish a thesaurus?

I've stumped the occasional reader with words like "tallow" and a "gibbous" moon. I suppose I could use "sheep fat" and "nearly full," but those don't have the sound and spirit I want. English is a rich language, and I revel in its riches. I'm not using those words to impress, but to express it exactly.

On my bookshelf is a 1935 copy of Rats, Lice, and History* by Hans Zinsser. At one point, he uses the word saprophyte. A helpful footnote at the bottom of the page reads, "If the reader does not understand this word, it is too bad."

The utter lack of damns he gives is heartening. It was the precise word he wanted, he used it, and he expected the reader to figure it out one way or another.

I will keep his book forever for that footnote alone.


* Rats, Lice, and History: Being a Study in Biography, which after Twelve Preliminary Chapters Indispensable for the Preparation of the Lay Reader, Deals with the Life History of TYPHUS FEVER

Why yes, I do have strange reading tastes.

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