On the shelf at Goodwill

GoodwillWriting inspiration can show up in the unlikeliest of places.

Occasionally, I will find an intriguing note or scribble inside a used book at a thrift store. Not long ago, I was at a Goodwill store out of town when I found a Christian humor book that had this note inside.

As a writer, I absolutely love finding discarded notes and even shopping lists in stores. I left this one inside the book since I wasn’t purchasing it, but I wasn’t above taking a photo of it with my iPhone. Doesn’t that note just tell you so much about Jennie and her mom? (I don’t believe I’m invading anyone’s privacy since Jennie’s last name isn’t given, and I’m not even naming the town where I saw this, just in case.) I’m assuming Jennie was suffering from depression (and good grief, haven’t we all at one time or another?). I love that her mother wanted to encourage her with this book, and how very like a mom to end with a reminder, “Take your meds!”

I sure hope Jennie is doing well today. My own mom isn’t here anymore, so I hope Jennie realizes how fortunate she is to still have (as of 2014, at least) a mother who clearly loves her. What a fun and thought-provoking thrift-store find.

“Dreyer’s English” by Benjamin Dreyer

EnglishLooking to crack open a good grammar book? Then I am happy to recommend Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, which warmed the cockles of this grammar geek’s heart. My husband was a little concerned (read: irritated) that I laughed aloud, with a literal LOL, in so many places, but indeed, I did—and over a grammar book.

I’m sure it helps that I commit some editing myself on occasion, but even if I did not, I would have great admiration for the role of those like Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief of Random House. I say he’s doing the Lord’s work by making the world a better, more readable place. I happen to like and even enjoy grammar rules, but I don’t believe fussy editor types are the only ones who will enjoy this book. Not by a long shot. Do you know the word “faffing,” for instance? I didn’t, but his use of “faffing about” made me look it up, and now I’m a fan.

Dreyer shares my fondness for the serial comma, and he states his case rather simply: “Only godless savages eschew the series comma.” (He says “series,” I say “serial.” To-may-to, to-mah-to.)

His writing is irreverent and occasionally self-deprecating, and how lovely it was to read that even a man in his position doesn’t quite know what all these blessed grammar things are called. “Even now,” he writes, “I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what a nominative absolute is, I think that the word ‘genitive’ sounds vaguely smutty, and I certainly don’t know, or care to know, how to diagram a sentence. I hope I’m not shocking you.”

And if I’m ever asked to play grammar-themed trivia one day—and my goodness, I hope I am—I will know that  the capital “G” in LaGuardia is a “medial capital.”

Many of the rules (and a few preferences) he discusses are simply things I’ve already learned and internalized from The Chicago Manual of Style, but Dreyer sure makes them fun to read and consider. I simply can’t think of a writer or editor who wouldn’t benefit from reading this charming and helpful book.

Character Development Journal from Sweet Harmony Press

IMG_6769If you’re going to build something, you need to have the right tools. Right? As a writer, I can think of lots of tools that I find indispensable: a computer, a word-processing program (or two), pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, style guides, grammar books. And to that list, I am now happy to add the Character Development Journal from Sweet Harmony Press.

I received mine as a Christmas gift from a thoughtful girlfriend, and I absolutely love the simplicity of this journal. It’s the same two-page spread repeated about fifty-something times (and I don’t imagine they’d appreciate me sharing a photo of it since then you might not want the journal). It lets you list things like the character’s name and nickname, age, other physical characteristics, jobs, beliefs, people the character loves and hates, pets, and much more. There’s even a bulleted list of dozens of character traits for you to check off, ranging from A (“accountable”) to Z (“zealous”), and I’m looking forward to going deeper with the characters in my first novel as I continue to work on book two in the series.

I’d read before that an author needs to keep a “character Bible,” but I hardly knew where to start other than jotting down a few disjointed lists in one of my many brainstorming journals. As I continue to build an imaginary world for my characters, I now have a handy journal that will (hopefully!) help me create characters that, as the book cover says, “readers will love.”