When this image appeared on my Instagram feed this morning, my immediate response was “Yes!”
This is why I have been writing and posting poetry and blog posts to help me deal with my feelings about my first Christmas without two very special people in my life, my father and one of my closest friends, both of whom passed away within five days at the end of June.
I have been doing everything I can to make Christmas joyful. Part of that has been working through my feelings and accepting the changes in life that have happened in this mixed up and turbulent year.
It is not that I have no joy or excitement. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to celebrate or focus on the positives in life. It means I need to works out how to manage the shades of guilt I experience when I feel joy, and the weight of sorrow at the very same time as enjoying the lightness of excitement and anticipation.
I fully realise that Christmas is very different for many, many people this year. Lockdowns, halted travel plans and distance have made sure of that. Like me, many people are grieving. Others are facing different sets of challenging circumstances.
The fact is, though, that it is my life that I am living. I have to manage my grief and work out how to balance things for myself. Nobody else can do it for me, and it has to be done. To refuse or fail to deal with my feelings isn’t healthy.
So, I write poetry and blog posts. I blurt my feelings and ideas down onto the page, then shape and craft them into something that both expresses how I feel and lets others in similar situations know that they are not alone, and that their feelings are not wrong or abnormal.
That is my Christmas gift to the grieving people of the world; empathy, understanding and the room to feel as they do without judgment.
Writing It Instead of Carrying It #emotions #grief #WritingCommunity
The practice of leaving a preposition at the end of a sentence, often referred to as preposition stranding, has long been considered to be “against the rules”. Generations of teachers and grammarians have condemned it as a grammatical taboo.
That isolated, lonely preposition, separated from its noun, is known as a terminal preposition, and may also be described as danging, hanging or stranded.
Albeit with the best of intentions, this was drummed into me as a child, so I simply accepted it and tried to avoid doing so in whatever I wrote.
As I got older, though, I came to realise that it’s something we do very naturally in speaking. In fact, avoiding it in spoken English can make what one is saying seem very formal and stilted.
When I was in high school, one of my History teachers told us a story about one of Winston Churchill’s famous comebacks. On receiving a correction about finishing a sentence with a preposition in the draft of a speech, he responded, “This is nonsense, up with which I shall not put.”
As it turned out, it probably wasn’t Churchill who first made the joke. I don’t know if he ever did, despite numerous and varied attributions. It has also been attributed to various other people, and there are variations on the line that was said to have been delivered, so it’s hard to know who said what, and when.
Either way, the story demonstrates that the rule is actually a bit ridiculous.
So where did this rule come from? And is it something we still have to abide by?
Back in the 1600s, a grammarian named Joshua Poole developed some principles about how and where in a sentence prepositions should be used, based on Latin grammar.
A few years later, the poet John Dryden, a contemporary of John Milton, took those rules one step further when he openly criticised Ben Johnson— another great poet— for ending a sentence with a preposition. Dryden decreed that this was something that should never be done. Nobody bothered to correct or oppose Dryden, and Ben Johnson certainly couldn’t because he had been dead for years, so Dryden’s strident and public protestations popularised the principle into a rule. Over time, strict grammarians and pedants began to actively oppose the practice, and the rule became widely accepted and firmly established.
Ironically, despite all the wise and clever plays, poetry and essays written by John Dryden, it was his consistent complaint about the terminal preposition that became his most enduring legacy.
Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in 1926, calls it a “cherished superstition that prepositions must, in spite of the incurable English instinct for putting them late… be kept true to their name and placed before the word they govern.” Fowler goes on to assert that even Dryden had to go back and edit all of his work to eliminate the terminal prepositions in his own writing.
In the last century or so, people have become progressively less fussy and worried about it, but some still seem determined to cling to the rule no matter what.
I advise my students that in formal writing such as essays, speeches, official letters and submissions, it is best to avoid the terminal preposition just in case their reader is someone who might judge them for it. Any other time, in keeping with standard spoken English, they are free to use their prepositions wherever they feel most natural and make the most sense.
Nobody in the 21st century is going to naturally ask someone “On which char did you sit?” rather than “Which chair did you sit on?”, nor will they say “I wonder for whom that parcel is intended” Instead of “I wonder who that parcel is for.”
In the 21st century, that really is nonsense up with which we do not have to put.
All writers get the same advice. Read the great writers; study the great works. Learn how seasoned, professional, and successful authors get the job done. All true, but I maintain that it’s also crucial for writers to read crap to learn what not to do.
As a poet and author, I know full well what many do not: delivering a message of great import in one hundred words is much more difficult than writing it in one thousand. Condensing meaning, crafting and shaping ideas with an efficiency of words, is harder than it looks.
I enjoy the challenge, though, of telling a story in such a very compact form. A well-written drabble is a thing of beauty, and while I am not suggesting every one I write is excellent, some of them are.
The poem ‘Inside My Head’ was published on The Drabble blog yesterday. It is one hundred words long, yet captures the experience of being inside my own mind perfectly. It’s so relatable, so deep, so powerful – and yet, so concise. I doubt I could explain it better, so I am sharing it here for your enlightenment and enjoyment.
Daniel Radcliffe is a man who obviously loves good poetry. This is an indication to me that he has good taste. In fact, in my mind it’s a genre recommending a person, instead of the other way around.
He’s mentioned his love for poetry more than once.
While I’m thrilled to see that short stories and poetry are his two literary passions- they are, after all, my favourite forms of writing- I do dispute that writing a novel takes more stamina, skill or ability. In fact, it’s a different set of skills and abilities, and using them requires as much stamina as writing a novel.
He is right, though, about the ability to use one’s own words to create and communicate meaning. It’s incredibly liberating and empowering.
There has been quite some consternation among Indie authors over past months in various ways that dishonourable people have found to scam the system and get quite rich selling books that are not what they should be, particularly on Amazon, or who steal others’ books and make them available on pirate websites, or plagiarise and “rebrand” them as their own work..
Understandably, those who put a lot of effort into writing and publishing excellent books find such situations discouraging. It’s hard to be upbeat about what we do when others seem to “win” with shortcuts that are plain wrong.
It’s up to us to keep on creating fantastic stories and poetry for the readers out there who crave excellent books.
It’s up to us to hold our heads high, proclaim “I write every word of my books!” and then show the world what we’ve got.
In short, it’s up to us to show the cheaters and scammers how it should be done.
Nobody but honest and hard-working authors can restore the faith of readers in Indoe and self publishing. The only way to do that is to maintain a premium of quality in the books on the shelves in stores, libraries and homes all over the world.
We may have to work harder, smarter and cleaner than ever before. Still, we’ve had to do that in order to give traditional publishing a good shake, and we’ve certainly achieved that.
We Indies have so much to offer. We have each other for support and an entire future that is yet to be shaped ahead of each of us.
I refuse to quit. I refuse to let the scammers win. Who’s with me?
As a teacher of senior high school English and Humanities, the ONE thing I impart to my students every time I assign a task is that they must do their own work. They all know what plagiarism is, and why it is wrong. They understand that, both at school and beyond, it is an act that has serious consequences.
If high school students can grasp this concept and comply, it beggars belief that an author – who also claims to be a lawyer, no less – thought they could get away with stealing the work of other authors, mashing it together, and claiming it as their own.
This week, the revelation has been made — and proven — that one person has done exactly that.
It didn’t take long for the Twitterverse to light up with the scandal, and the flames of shock and indignation soon spread to other social media. The fires are still burning, and it seems there is plenty of fuel.
I am not going to recount the whole story here – for all the sordid details, you can google #CopyPasteCris or search for that tag on Twitter.
It is sufficient to say that upon being discovered and accused, #CopyPasteCris promptly defended her integrity and blamed the whole fiasco on the ghostwriters she hired on Fiverr.
Seriously? Even if the plagiarism was done by someone else, the books were published in her name, she agreed to the publishing terms of service as the creator and owner of the work, and she received the royalties of every copy sold. I am confident that I am not alone in thinking that this is on her and nobody else.
Here’s the thing.
Even if one hires ghost writers, why on earth would she not still read the finished book before publishing it?
Upon reading it, how on earth would she not realise that there were inconsistencies of style and plot… and fix them?
How did her editor not catch it?
Or… did she not bother with an editor?
And if she doesn’t have an editor, what quality control does she have in place for her books?
What makes her think she is smart enough to get away with repeated, blatant plagiarism when her readers also read the authors that have been plagiarized?
Was she never taught right from wrong? Did she ever actually think about the consequences of her actions?
Perhaps the biggest question, though, is how did it take so long for this to be discovered?
As an Indie author who does, in fact, write all her own material, , the entire situation leaves me furious. This one person has thrown the integrity of every honest, hard-working and worthy-of-being-read Indie author into question.
This behavior is the kind of thing that justifies in the minds of the traditional-publishing-snobs the various stigmas that good quality Indie authors have been working so hard to overcome: sloppy writing, books riddled with errors, and people playing at being legitimate authors when they are not.
As a reader, I am offended and outraged. Just how stupid do people like this think their readers are?
Although I fear it is not, I hope this is an isolated case.
And I hope every author who was plagiarized lawyers up and sues #CopyPasteCris for every penny they deserve.
Sylvermoon Chronicles is an annual short story anthology created by The Confederacy of the Quill, an international writers’ cooperative. I am very proud to have one of my stories, Contaminus, included in the 2019 issue of this highly regarded anthology series.
While the book releases on Valentines Day, it should not be mistaken for a romance collection.
Rather, I like to think of it as a gift for those who, like me, would sooner read genres other than lovey-dovey romance, and a welcome distraction from all the kissy-face sentimentality often associated with February 14th. The Sylvermoon Chronicles series features stories in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Adventure.
It is an honor to be published in a series which I have very much enjoyed as a reader, alongside a number of authors whose work I have previously read, reviewed and fangirled over. I was both excited and slightly surprised when my story was accepted, especially given the inspiration behind the writing of Contaminus.
New worlds await you in the newest Sylvermoon Chronicles collection, which hit the shelves today. The ebook is widely available now, and the paperback will be available soon.