Friday, October 16, 2009

Be careful what you say

We all know that email is not a secure medium - how do you think those spammers got your address?
Write Stuff members are all respectful of the written material shared at the meetings, both in terms of not distributing it and commenting on the craft of writing, no matter how personal the subject matter might be.
That's why it's distressing when something goes astray. A mistyped email address, perpetuated and amplified by cut and pasting, and who knows where your work and thoughts might end up.
Well we do know, since someone receiving a full broadcast by mistake recently took the trouble to reply.

So here's my suggestions:
  1. Send email only from your own distribution list. Yes, it is a pain to set up and some new members may get missed at first, but is that really a bad thing, given the nature of some subject matter. At least until everyone is comfortable.
  2. If a piece is particularly controversial, personal, or let's be honest, not ready to face the world at large (and I do mean world), then don't distribute it by email. Bring hard copy and feel comfortable asking for all copies to be handed back after discussion.

They are your words after all, at least until you decide to make them public, by email or any other means.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Transcription errors

I was doing some research on transcription services today and found these priceless examples of medical transcription errors:

1. Bleeding began in the rectal area and continued all the way to Los
2. Since she can't conceive I've sent her to a futility expert.
3. Surgery will be performed under General Anastasia.
4. I saw your patient today, who's still under our car for physical
5. I've asked him to call and let me know who he's feeling this week.
6. There was some concern about financial matters, but patient was told
she could apply for pubic assistance.
7. After her last child she had her tubs tied.
8. Infection resulted after she pimped a few popples.
9. Rectal exam reveals normal size thyroid.
10. His hands only feel better when he operates his cash register.
11. I instructed her to lie on the floor with her legs in the air, but
she said that's how she got pregnant last year.
12. Social history reveals this 1 year old patient does not smoke or
drink and is presently unemployed.
13. Patient called and left word that he had expired last week.
14. Patient came in today complaining of severe vaginal affection.
15. When she fainted her eyes rolled around the room.
16. While she was in the emergency room, she was examined, x-rated, and
sent home.
17. Prior to surgery she was prepped and raped in the usual fashion.
18. He's rather sedentary and drives a bust all day.
19. There's no weakness in her gluteus meatiest.
20. This chubby youngster needs a slim adult to look up to as a roll model


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


No I haven't developed a stutter.
As I battle to complete a first novel worthy of the name I noticed two significant but opposite developments in publishing.

The first is magazine print-on-demand.
A friend in NY is artistic director of the one-year-old Constellation on-line magazine. Dissatisfied with the quality and non-tactile nature of web only publication, the editors also moved it to print-on-demand publisher Magcloud, which appears to be a Hewlett Packard based company or spin-off.
I have to say I am impressed by the high-end color print and paper quality. Turn around of my copy, delivered by US mail, was only a few days and yes it is more portable and engaging on paper.

Which brings me to the other development in portability. Amazon's new Kindle 2, a paperback sized, pencil-thin electronic screen, capable of holding 1500 paperback size books, each one available by 3G wireless download in 60 seconds from a catalog of 230,000 choices.
The thing weighs less than 10 ounces and will even read text aloud, which could be a boon in a language or reading learning environment. 1500 books - can you say library anyone?

I'll know that is ready for prime time when:

a) I have one
b) There are as many people pulling one out on the T as reading the free Metro 'newspaper'
c) My book is available as a download.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Want to write a compelling piece for critique?

One of the key pieces of advice that bubbles to the surface of my consciousness time and time again is, "to write well, you have to read well."
That means reading the chosen piece twice. Once for shear enjoyment and then a second time to analyze the authors technique and craft points.
It also means, reading what you want to write - be it technology articles, poetry, literary fiction, historical non-fiction, travel writing, short stories, or mysteries in all their glorious sub-genres.
It's a tall order and that is why sometimes, picking a genre or theme and sticking with it is so important for new writers.
Focus and practice, not every four weeks, but every day develops a flow and a rhythm and there is no better way to do this than writing a short blog on a subject that interests or entertains you.
The blog can be set to private for you alone or shared with only those you nominate, at least until you're ready to face the world or have it face you.
If anyone would like help or advice in setting up there own blog drop me a line.

In the meantime, I can recommend reading Andrew McAleer's "The 101 HABITS of highly successful novelists" available on Amazon or on 14 day loan from our very own Lincoln Library.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To be verbs and avoiding 'was'

We discuss passive voice often at our meetings (some people even count the number of times was is used). Here's a neat explanation:

8. Am/Is/Are/Was/Were (“to be” verbs)
Action verbs are always preferable to state-of-being verbs. Use words that describe the action occurring. Rather than saying what something/someone is, show the reader what something/someone does.

Example: “I am envious of her success.” This can be revised as “I envy her success.”

Example: “She was dressed in leather chaps and a flannel shirt.” This can be revised as “She wore leather chaps and a flannel shirt.”

The above is from snippet is from

10 over used words - see the rest are here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's a Mystery

Why are we in this financial mess? It's a mystery, or is it?

If it's due to incompetence then the telling of the story does not meet the criteria for the mystery genre.
If it is due to a criminal act, or a criminal act is implied then it does belong to the mystery genre.

Who says so?

Well, the authors, no less, of Mystery Writing in a Nutshell, John and Andrew McAleer.

Paragraph 1.1 quotes Otto Penzler's definition of a mystery as, "Any short work of fiction in which a crime or threat of a crime is central to the theme or plot. It is a broad definition, covering detective, espionage, suspense, and crime fiction. Horror or supernatural is not included."

So there you have it, at least for the purpose of Crimestalker's Casebook.

I'm told the library has a copy of this excellent little book, used by Andrew McAleer, Professor of Crime Fiction at Boston College, to teach his course.

If you want to get into mystery writing, (and by the way, it goes way beyond - a sort of Strunk and White for fiction writers) it is also available at for $9.95 new or less secondhand.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A challenge!

Last night's talk by Andy McAleer, author of MYSTERY WRITING IN A NUTSHELL and three mystery novels, was excellent. We had a nice turnout; thanks! Andy is a lawyer, works for the Department of Corrections, teaches mystery writing at BC in the evenings, and edits a literary magazine called CRIMESTALKERS CASEBOOK (see In that semi-annual publication, he includes only short short stories (200 to 1200 words) and each issue ideally has a piece by a recognized mystery writer. He also has a book coming out this fall, 101 HABITS OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL NOVELISTS with a forward by Bill Pronzini. He left copies of the magazine for us.

He also donated a copy of UNIT PRIDE, a novel by his late father John McAleer and Billy Dickson; the pair met when Billy was incarcerated and wrote to John. It's a novel of the Korean War and was blurbed by Lt. General James M. Gavin, who served as Ambassador to France and then chairman of Arthur D. Little, Inc. (during my tenure; we used to exchange pleasantries in the halls.)

I am challenging Write Stuffers to write a short short story, 200-1200 words; make it a mystery and we can hone them and perhaps submit them to Andy for CRIMESTALKERS CASEBOOK. Let's say a September 30 deadline.

Mark your calendars, too, for two upcoming programs.
On Monday July 28, at 7 pm, attorney Dan Polvere will talk about Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band of Boston (that's not a title...). Should be interesting--let's quiz him on what makes Holmes so memorable and so lasting a character (it's over 100 years now...)

Then on Wednesday July 30, PLEASE PLEASE come hear JoAnne Deitch speak on "Publishing Your Book." She is an editor and former publisher with a lot of experience and will cover self-publication, the editing process, and if there's time, we may be able to present a short piece (say an opening sentence) for critique. (The opening sentence from your short short story, right?)

Have a good summer, keep cool (the AC has been repaired in the Tarbell Room) and keep writing. Jeanne