Basic Writing Toolbox

We've all got reams of terrible prose inside us. Most people simply don't take the time to re-read, re-write, and improve. Writers get better at writing by doing it, whether we're talking about a novel, an essay, or a tweet. But how someone without much of a command of English (or, indeed, any sort of … Continue reading Basic Writing Toolbox


Learning to Listen

A few nights ago, my husband began to tell me his take on a recent political issue. I had already done some research on the subject, so I offered my opinion--which would be pretty standard, except that I forgot to wait until my husband had finished talking. "Would you stop interrupting me?" he said, with … Continue reading Learning to Listen

Interview: Writer Adam Dickinson (part one)

In early October, local film production company Words Pictures Movies will premiere their first feature Everything Fred Tells Me is True. (For those of you who haven't seen it--that's almost everybody, at least so far--here's the trailer.) This is the first part of an interview with Adam Dickinson, who wrote the screenplay. Magnificent Nose: Adam, … Continue reading Interview: Writer Adam Dickinson (part one)

You should read this: Rule 34

As you're reading the review, it's quickly apparent to you that the book in question is a bit of an experiment. Not only are there multiple viewpoint characters, but the text is written in the second person. I found it somewhat jarring at first, you read, but after a few chapters it seemed normal, almost … Continue reading You should read this: Rule 34

Hello, Comma

I recently read through my first big batch of student essays for this year. Some were good, of course; others could have benefitted from a bit more care and attention. But most of the essays, weak or strong, contained a fatal flaw I recognize all too well. I've seen it everywhere, from past years' essays to friends' e-mails. Apparently, … Continue reading Hello, Comma

Particularly Important Words

I recently came across the phrase "Arrival Ball". It was capitalized just like that. This example of Particularly Important capitalization seemed odd to me at first, since China Mieville has an excellent command of English. He even uses opaquely archaic words to excellent descriptive effect, and this book is no exception; this takes considerable skill. … Continue reading Particularly Important Words

Winter Cycling Gloves

It's the middle of September. The evenings are getting cold. I had to wear a jacket today when I rode into town. (I admit, it was raining, but it was a little chilly.) Soon, you'll be cold when riding any time at all. Imagine with me, that it's October, or maybe November: You'll be riding … Continue reading Winter Cycling Gloves

The Importance of Getting Up Early

Tomorrow morning, I'll wake up at 5:15 am, get dressed in the closet so as not to wake my husband, and drag myself out the door just as the sun begins to peek over the trees. I can't say I look forward to that brief daily feeling of, "Ugggghhh...seriously?" as I feel around in the … Continue reading The Importance of Getting Up Early

Ten Years

This article is an epilogue to a series discussing the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. My story of 9/11 is much like many other peoples': another story of people at work, punched in the stomach by horrible intent, scared but finding solidarity among their friends and colleagues. But this story is one of separation. Each of … Continue reading Ten Years

Missing the Last Train Home

This is the fifth and concluding article in a series to discuss the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. Ask Ceil will resume next week. Last night--early this morning, actually--we were trying to get work done, to read, to get some sleep. We had missed the last train back home, and the three of us stayed in … Continue reading Missing the Last Train Home