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Iron and Rust

The four-legged cast-iron Dutch oven sat just outside the kitchen window, masquerading as a planter for wild things. Tetanus, maybe. Running a hand across its rust-roughened surface, it was hard to tell if it had sprouted tumors or succumbed to the pitting of an acid rain. I had an uneasy, love-hate relationship with cast iron even when the Dutch oven was new. Someone had explained “seasoning the... read more

Monkeying Around

Blisters formed and burst where grimy hands clenched sun-kissed steel bars, swinging to and fro, climbing hand-over-hand to claim the top tier of the monkey bars. I looked down at the palms of my hands. I rubbed them together briskly, till sweaty dirt and dead skin pilled up and rolled off. I picked at the blisters, then swung across to the second set of cube-frames, where I hung from the knees, reaching... read more

Oven Fire

“Are you still cooking?” Shelley’s husband asked. It was a rhetorical question, of course – dinner had been laid upon the table already, the wine was poured, and Shelley had finally fallen into her chair after being on her feet all day. Rather than simply switching off the oven or even pointing out that she had forgotten to turn off the oven when she was done, Rodney always turned it into a sort of... read more

Papier the Purple Paper Dragon

Papier the Purple Paper Dragon, or “Papi” for short, perched atop the computer monitor, flicking his pointed tail this way and that. Maintaining balance on the world’s thinnest, lightest 4K display wasn’t one tenth as easy as he made it look. Papi daydreamed about roomy cathode-ray tubes, or CRTs, he’d perched upon in days of yore. There, a dragon could stretch out, absorbing... read more

When the Critic Doesn’t Know Your Name

It’s one thing to belong to, and get feedback from, a local writing group where everybody knows your name. It’s quite another to get constructive criticism from someone who has nothing but your words by which to judge your writing and who isn’t constrained by friendship in giving it. One reason to join OWFI and to enter the annual OWFI Writing Contest is to get this sort of useful,... read more

Creating and Using Email Templates in Outlook 2016 Desktop

If you regularly send out emails containing “boilerplate” or information that rarely, if ever, changes, you can use Outlook email templates to simplify – and standardize – the process of creating them and sending them out to recipients. Email templates can help to ensure consistency of information, formatting, and other email options, such as delivery times and voting buttons.... read more

Mother, Touchstone, Friend

We mothers – we are merely rudders, guiding our children’s ships through the storms and over the turbulent seas of life – we guide them as steadily and as best we can, but we are not the only influence that determines the outcome of the journey…

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Ze End

For the first time in forever, I’ve completed one of these month-long, blog-a-day challenges. If you count one guest post and a few random bonus posts, I didn’t even take Sundays off for good behavior. Finished it fair and square, unless you consider “Ze End” to be cheating a bit. But I could write about zebras or zydeco or zen meditation, and it wouldn’t give me one tiny... read more

You

Hi, You. You, you guys, you all, y’all, you’ens, all y’all… yes, YOU. I don’t have to say “If you’re reading this…” because I know you are. Thank you for that. Ironically, that’s one assertion I can make with certainty. If you want to quibble with it, you’ll only prove it’s true. “You” have been relegated by language and... read more

Xenodochy

The world needs more xenodochy. And more words. My husband and I agree on the first point, and argue the second when we’ve nothing else to bicker about – which is most of the time. He, a Lean Six Sigma professional, sees a plethora of synonyms as a hindrance to clear and straightforward communication. I see them as part of the 128-color box of crayons, as opposed to the cheap little set of... read more

Women!

There’s a lot of rancor on the Internet, much of it centering around social justice, race, relations and equality between men and women, sexual identity, and religion. So when someone finds a way to express frustration and drive a serious point home with good-natured humor, it tends to bring down the defenses and get people listening, talking, and maybe absorbing the point in a way that doesn’t... read more

Virtual Reality

Last month, on my birthday, I watched “The Martian” on the moon. I went surfing in Hawaii. I flew over an active volcano. My family gets me! Well, sort of. It was breathtaking, but very, very safe. I tried to jam a pencil into the lava flow – next best thing to poking hot lava with a stick, right? – and that’s where the illusion, slightly pixellated, ended. I stopped just... read more

Under the Weather

Houston’s been a bit “under the weather” for the past week. Unless you live overseas or under a rock, you’ve probably seen just how bad things got, here, last week. A historic, “500-year flood,” the extent of which set records. Things are slowly getting back to normal – that is, the roads are passable and the water’s receded back into the creeks from whence... read more

6 Reasons Writers Should Use Twitter

When I first heard of Twitter.com, I could not imagine why I would want to use it. Several writers I know dragged me into it, and after a few weeks, I began to see its value. Here are just a few reasons why writers should use Twitter: 1. Train yourself to write a complete thought in a concise 140 characters or less. (Bonus points for correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation!) Ruthlessly pare messages to... read more

StumbleUpon: Sharing Brings a Spike in Readership!

StumbleUpon is now fourteen or fifteen years old, which is more like one hundred in Internet years. It’s clearly still a thriving site, even if many of the bloggers I know have forgotten about it. My young friend, Gloson Teh, periodically sends me links to sites he’s “stumbled” there – carefully chosen links he knows I’ll enjoy. Last time he did that, I realized it was... read more

Rallying the Reader Troops! Reviews, Please!

Hi! I know you love to read. I love to write. It’s a match made in heaven! But I need your help. With about a billion books on Amazon, it takes reviews to get noticed. Lots and lots of reviews. A flaming metric ton of reviews, traveling down the Information Superhighway at 110 miles per hour. I’d love to read your writing, on one of those reviews. To that end, I’m practically giving away... read more

Quell the Quest

Do you ever find a snippet of an old draft of a story, or a poem, unsigned, long forgotten, and catch yourself wondering who the author was, only to realize, with a tiny electric thrill of shock, that you wrote it? How does that make you feel? Are you pleasantly surprised, or do you practice dunking crumpled balls of paper in the circular file? I’m often pleasantly surprised. I do, sometimes, wonder,... read more

Pinterest and Instagram

Not everyone likes being sociable on social media. Despite their popularity as “social media platforms,” Pinterest and Instagram are not known for encouraging deep and engaging conversations. I imagine that’s a good bit of their appeal; whereas Facebook and Twitter success depend on building relationships, this is somewhat less important on Pinterest and Instagram. It would, however,... read more

5 Tips on How to be Funny When you’re not Funny

When it comes down to it, comedy is all about relating to one another. It’s about the human connection, however frail or thin. Where language and race diversify us, we have laughter in common. Now writing comedy is one of the hardest things someone can do, but hopefully through these 5 tips I can help you better understand comedy, and natural humor should follow. Humor is subjective. If there is any... read more

Octopuses? Octopi?

It’s a story that rivals any escape from Alcatraz. Inky, the Octopus, “squeezed through a slight gap at the top of his tank, flopped to the floor, then slithered about eight feet overland to slide down a drainpipe more than 160 feet long, and finally to plop into the bay.” That would be Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of of New Zealand’s north island. The more I learn about... read more

Never Heard Such Nonsense!

I flunked my first “reading readiness” test, despite being the only kid in class who could read well. I missed a statistically improbable 29 out of 30 questions on the test–probably because the title of the test was “Reading Readiness Test” and I could not figure out what triangles, squares, spheres, and pattern matching had to do with reading words. Ironically, reading the... read more

Metaphor and Simile

Metaphor and simile are two of the most common rhetorical devices we use in writing. They are similar: metaphor makes an implicit comparison, by referring to one thing as if it were another thing; simile likens one thing to another, making the comparison explicitly with words such as “like” or “as.” Metaphor: She is a butterfly, flitting from one eager bud to the next, gathering... read more

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