• strong verbs
    how to,  writing craft

    Strong Verbs

    Strong verbs make your writing sing. Since verbs drive the action in your story, it’s important to choose them carefully. Walk, look, and turn are not strong verbs. Neither are talk, watch, think, or realize. Yet beginning writers use these weak verbs all the time. What are Strong Verbs? A strong verb is one that does double duty. It defines the action but it also describes it. Let me show you what I mean. We can write, “Ashley looked at the letter.” Look defines what she did, but doesn’t describe it. Some writers are tempted to solve this dilemma by writing, “Ashley looked at the letter longingly.” The verb, look,…

  • persuasive writing, report, convince
    how to,  writing craft

    Persuasive writing

    You’ve heard of the power of the pen? I’m pretty sure whoever wrote that was talking about persuasive writing. We are surrounded by persuasive writing: advertisements online or in print; movie posters at the theater; social media feeds; book reviews; letters to the editor; political campaign ads. Anytime someone tries to convince the reader to their way of thinking, that’s persuasive writing. Persuasive writing is a balancing act. Essentially you are making an argument without being argumentative. Let me explain. Let’s say you want to persuade school administrators to keep chocolate milk on the lunch menu. The key is to acknowledge the downsides of chocolate milk. Then state your position.…

  • how to,  writing craft

    Show Don’t Tell Part IV

    I want to challenge you to use the sense of touch in your writing. The obvious uses are texture and temperature. But there’s so much more. When you think of the sense of touch you may think of your fingertips. The sense of touch goes beyond what you feel with your fingertips. Texture and Temperature Floors are hard, roads slick, and pillows soft. That’s texture. Sometimes a simple word will describe texture, other times you may use a comparison. For example, the floor was hard as a tombstone might be appropriate in a ghost story. But for a light-hearted tale you might describe the floor as hard like rock candy.…

  • opportunity, Richard Russo,possibilities, open door
    personal essay


    I had the rare opportunity to attend an author presentation this week. Our local Deschutes Public Library System hosts renowned authors each winter. A pair of $25 tickets literally fell into my lap the day before Richard Russo spoke. Opportunity Knocks A friend of a friend couldn’t use their tickets so in a roundabout way they were passed on to me. I snapped them up and invited my writerly friend and critique partner to share in my good fortune. Richard Russo is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. So it’s a big deal.  An evening with Mr. Russo We settled in for an entertaining presentation. Mr. Russo began with a standard…

  • apostrphes, possessives, contractions, common errors
    grammar,  punctuation

    How to use Apostrophes

    Apostrophes have two main functions. They are used to show a relationship where one thing belongs to another. They are also used in contractions when two words are pushed together and a letter or two are left out. Apostrophes and Possessives Do you ever wonder why some non-native speakers have such a colorful way of expressing themselves? English speakers are a lazy lot. If there is a way to shorten something, we’ll do it. Instead of saying, The book that belongs to Mary is on the table, English speakers say, Mary’s book is on the table. The apostrophe s is shorthand for belongs to. Let’s try another one. After school…

  • subject verb agreement, indefinite pronouns, collective nouns, plural nouns, singular nouns

    Subject Verb Agreement

    What is subject verb agreement? It’s when you use the correct form of the verb. Simply put, singular nouns take a singular verb. Plural nouns take a plural verb. Most of us unconsciously choose the correct verb form. For instance we say, Mary needs a ride. But if we are talking about more than one person we would say, Alex and Jordan need a ride. See the difference? Things get tricky when using indefinite pronouns and collective nouns. Indefinite Pronouns and subject verb agreement Subject verb agreement with indefinite pronouns can be a challenge. An indefinite pronoun is one that does not refer to a particular person, amount, or thing.…

  • show don't tell, taste, SDT, descriptive writing
    how to,  writing craft

    Show Don’t Tell Part 2

    Show Don’t Tell invites your reader into the pages of your story. Normally in show don’t tell the writer uses descriptive language to evoke the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. You can show taste in terms of intensity, the five basic tastes, physiological reaction, and memory activation. Show Taste Taste usually involves food, but not always. More about that later. One way to immerse your reader is to suggest the intensity of a flavor. There is a big difference between the hint of a flavor and a blast. Take peppermint for example. When I add a candy cane to my hot chocolate, I taste a hint of…

  • sense of smell, show don't tell, smell, descriptive writing
    how to,  writing craft

    Show Don’t Tell, Part 1

    Show don’t tell is great advice for writers. But what does it mean? The difference between showing and telling is the difference between immersion and bullet points. Think about when you are learning a new skill. While some people can learn from reading a manual, most of us do better when we observe the task then try it out ourselves. Take a moment to write the steps for a routine activity such as making a sandwich or washing your face. Now, think about how you can show the same activity. Did your fingers get sticky from the peanut butter? Did your eyes sting from soap? One way to immerse your…

  • how to

    How To Write a Book Report

      Book Reports A book report is a specialized report assigned by a teacher. Students often think of book reports as the teacher’s way to see if they really read the book. But sometimes your teacher will use a book report for other reasons. For instance, book reports can be a vehicle to teach writing skills. Compare and contrast, descriptive writing, cause and effect, even persuasive writing can shape a book report. It’s very important to follow your teacher’s instructions. All book reports will follow the basic report structure.    Introduction The introduction is where you will name the title, author, and publication date of the book. You also lay…

  • grammar

    Sentence Basics

    Three Kinds of Sentences A complete sentence is writing’s basic building block. Remember when Goldilocks broke into the three bears’ house and ate their porridge? One bowl was too hot. One bowl was too cold. And one bowl was just right. Sentences are like that. Fragments are too short. Run-on sentences are too long. Complete sentences are just right.   What is a Complete Sentence? A complete sentence has a subject, a verb, expresses a complete thought, and has proper punctuation. It can be as simple as Alex sings, or as complex as Alex sings loud enough to drown out the fist fight in the next room. In both cases,…