Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deb Courtney: Performance Writer

People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it.
~~Harlan Ellison

On Thursday this week, I officially begin a stint as Writer in Residence for Pikes Peak Writers, an amazing writers organization with which I have been involved since 2000 when I moved to Colorado.

This is an honor, and also very good timing for me, as my day-job ends on Wednesday this week, and PPW has been kind enough to offer me use of their office at a local art school/gallery as one of the perks of the position.

In a perfect world, this would mark my transition to full time writer, but alas, I missed the bus to that world, and so, while I will use this assignment and the associated time wisely to finish several outstanding projects, I will likely be back in a day job before I know it.

In the meantime, as part of my position, I will be hosting several special events for PPW, including a NaNoWriMo-associated series of meetings (details to be announced) and hosting the PPW presence at Cottonwood Center for the Arts on the last Friday of each of the next three months.

If you are inclined, stop by. It's not every day you get to see a writer, well, writing. I will warn you though, it's unexciting, grind-work. I may ask a pal to step in periodically as announcer, which will perhaps liven things up a bit, but it'll probably be something like listening to the announcer at a golf game. "Folks, Deb is testing the waters with an introductory clause, and may be going for an adverb -- a daring selection indeed given the lay of this next paragraph. She needs to birdie this at least in order to make par for the day...and wait, she's going without the adverb, she's gonna go for it folks, and powerhouse right into the main idea...."

Yeah, on second though, I may pass on that announcer thing.

At any rate, I'll post my schedule such as it is, and would love visitors. Especially around lunch time, since I will be playing the role of starving artist for the next three months. Salads are good; burgers from South Side Johnnie's are always welcome (e.g., much better...).

The final snippet: Every once in a while it's nice to get a few thousand feet closer to the moon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Overheard: Some Random, Some Not

It's probably not a good thing to have a reputation as a lifter of words, but it seems to be working out well enough for me. Not only do I continuously overhear things which are amusing and worthy of writing down, but now people are telling me or sending me funny phrases that they have heard, knowing that I too will be captured by the absurdity or whimsy or just plain silliness in that which people say.

Here are a few recent additions to my collection...

Said directly to me (no explanations, sorry).

"Of course, me and the Ayatollah disagreed completely."
"Do NOT answer the phone. I can tell by the way it's ringing that it's my mother...."
"I'd envy me if I weren't already me..."
"Texting Sarah Cooper" (good name for a screenplay, sorry Z)

Forwarded to me (seriously, I have an eavesdropping staff!)

"When it comes to sincerity, I'm very serious about it." (listed in a dating profile)
"Let's not get all conflictual about that." (said in a meeting)

Conversational Shoplifting really is contagious...and more fun than H1N1 too!

No final snippet today, but feel free to send stuff on to me....I try and use things overheard in my fiction projects whenver possible!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Color Outside the Lines

Grammatically, should of is a predatory admonition; as such, it is always used as part of a herpetological phrase. ~~Dave Barry

I read Dave Barry's quote, above, as a sort of knock against guerilla grammarians (grammar nazis?) who insist that all rules of grammar which were in place when said grammarian learned grammar must be followed, Perfectly. And. Never. Departed. From. Ever. Ever. Ever.

To them I say: Fiddle Faddle. B-O-L-O-G-N-A. Stuff 'n such.

By so asserting, said people negate a primary force of wordstuff, which is the migration of language. Which, by default, includes a migration of the rules which govern the constructing of sentences.

So, when I was a kid, I learned that one puts a comma after every item on a list. The four things which most interest me about writing are words, stories, publishing, and potentially making money. For instance. Today's convention is to leave off the final comma, in front of 'and'. I dunno why, or who made the change in convention, but frankly, the sentence makes sense without it, and I really care not, as long as I do that which facilitates communication.

Also, I learned that one MUST put two spaces after a period in a manuscript or in any business communication. It is my understanding that this is a typography convention, and in this day of insta-documents , the convention once used to really make sure someone knew you were at the end of a sentence is no longer valid. One space is fine. I still use two, because the muscle memory is so ingrained in me that I cannot do otherwise, but at some point I bet someone will start telling me I am wrong to do it.

Finally, the rules I learned pre-date the internet, chat, and text as common forms of communication. I've heard many an adult bemoan the fact that young people today write in a pidgin language, comprised of misspellings, single letter substitutions, and unintelligible acronyms. OMW, r u thr yt? Further I have heard that these forms have found their way into formal writing, such as classroom writing assignments. I am torn on this subject, having used certain of these forms myself, and having received many a text from the wretched teen employing same.

Perhaps the bottom line for me is whether or not communication is taking place. If it is taking place, then really there is nothing to snit about. Unless one is just a fan of snitting, or one plans on being one of those older folks who sits around deludedly reminiscing about the days in which things were perfect. Having said that, there is space to differentiate between formal writing and that which we use to communicate with pals -- slang versus the book stuff, and yeah, formal writing should likely employ the latter over the former. And there is much merit in learning the rules, and learning them well, in order to be able to toss them about and use them (and depart from them) with deliberation.

I wonder though what the wretched teen and his ilk would produce if not restricted to the formal version of language, and were instead set free to play with form and word and structure irrespective of the rules, and I posit that in fact we will soon see literature (whether or not you call it that) produced using the new conventions to great effect. In fact, I seem to recall hearing about a YA novel written entirely in text messages, so I guess it's already happened.

wd i lie 2 u? c 4 yrself.

At any rate, there are much larger, much more important things in the world to worry about than how grammatically correct someone's Facebook Status Update is, or whether it's okay to shorten words to single letters or numbers.

Of course, I still reserve the right to get snitty when people write loose when they mean lose, or lead when they mean led. Or your when they mean you're. Why? Because it's my blog, darnit. So there.


The Final Snippet: Silence is golden. Duct tape is silver. (no explanation)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Word Thievery is Contagious

I have created a monster. Its name is Zach, coincidentally the name of my son. Well, not so coincidentally, since it is Zach whom I reference.

See, he caught me typing a note into my Blackberry during a conversation we had over dinner. He kept saying something I heard as 'corpse asparagus' and I could only imagine a new breed of the delightful veggie, or else, some Zombie Apocalypse reference which I was too doltish to get.

Turns out, he was saying 'corpseless burials,' which frankly, given that we were eating dinner, was an odd conversational choice on his part. Notwithstanding the actual conversation, he was much taken with my need to scribble (type) the phrase 'corpse asparagus' into a note in my phone, in case I needed the phrase for some future project (cool phrase heard but not recorded equals the memory of a cool phrase without the phrase itself...).

So, since then, randomly during conversations, he has asked me for my cell phone in order to take his own notes for things heard or said. A sampling:

~~"Guinea Pig Rescue" (under the category 'good name for a rock band', predicated on a fireman actually getting his guinea pigs out of his apartment which was damaged by a fire last week).

--"On behalf of my anxiety, I will ask you to refrain from crashing the car." (during the drive back from Red Rocks and The Monolith Music Festival. I refrained.).

--Wafting Horse Shit (also under 'good name for a rock band' upon scenting what was quite likely the wafting smell of horse droppings).

Hey, he's 14. Whaddaya expect, Shakespeare? Either way, I think it's uber-cool that I have given him this gift. Or curse.

The Final Snippet: "Most defense mechanisms aren't very good to eat." (heard at Biaggi's restaurant, during a discussion of squid ink pasta)

(also, apologies for the hiatus, which I feel compelled to explain but which I will not)