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The comma, the semi-colon, and the novice writer

English writers from earlier centuries peppered their work with commas, as if they shook them out from a pepper shaker. They didn’t believe in reasonable length sentences and extended them by whatever means necessary. It’s symbolic of their time. A mark of higher learning from elite schools that divulged the lavish use of the comma, the secrets of the semi-colon, and the elements for style in any era. They remain geniuses of their time and ours.

Who, or what’s changed since then – readers, writers, publishers, or the passage of time? I shy away from an extra clause, let alone risk it all by living on the edge with a wayward semicolon. Even the Oxford comma is now worthy of a scholarly debate and often settled with a smartypants verbal fisticuffs. William Faulkner, an American from Oxford, Mississippi didn’t mind long sentences either. However, this isn’t symbolic of our time. A troubling one at that. Short, clear, and crisp sentences are the new fashion. Continue reading

The artist, the agent, and the business plan

A gracious volunteer escorted me into a makeshift office. The only prominent features of the sparse cubicle were two chairs, a small table, and a timer set for ten minutes. She introduced me to a twenty-something literary agent and checked off my name from a long list of aspiring authors pitching their manuscripts at a writing conference. The agent was a gatekeeper and held the keys to the published writers kingdom. He leaned back and asked about my book. I leaned forward, smiled, and gave it my all to pry open the gargantuan invisible gates that fortified the world of traditional publishing.

I thought my pitch was going well until I paused to catch my breath. That’s when the agent said, “Hmmm, interesting perspective for a travel memoir considering your background and all…,” but then paused before asking, “What about your business plan?” Continue reading