Pun Fun

Some playful puns to start your day with a smile. These come to us via my dear friend Rich, who is always sending me wonderful ideas:

. A man’s home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

. Dijon vu – the same mustard as before.

. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

. Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

. Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.

. When two egotists meet, it’s an I for an I.

. A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two tired.

. Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like a banana.

. In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.

. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

. If you don’t pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.

. With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

. The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.

. You feel stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.

. Local Area Network in Australia – the LAN down under.

. Every calendar’s days are numbered.

. A lot of money is tainted – taint yours and taint mine.

. He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

. Once you’ve seen one shopping centre, you’ve seen a mall.

. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.

. Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.

. Acupuncture is a jab well done.

Bravo, Rich! And now entertained and enlivened, let’s all write on!

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Charming Gardeners

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”   Marcel Proust

This quote always makes me think of my wonderful family and friends — and how blessed and lucky I am to have them in my life. And one of those who’s a constant source of support is my beautiful sister Stephanie. Who could be a more wonderful and “charming gardener” than she?

I always look forward to staying in her apartment for a “sleepover” — so much fun! Every day, we call each other at 11, just to check in and see how things are going. And then, at 4, we talk again, often over a virtual “teatime” together — we both drink a “cuppa” and chat a bit. These two check-ins with Steph have really helped me stay grounded and to remember that in the midst of whatever’s happening, there’s someone I can count on and who can count on me.

Along with all my wonderful family and friends, my fabulous sister Stephanie has been such a gift to my writing life! Not only is she an ace editor who always gives me the benefit of her enormous skill and experience, she is a fount of enthusiasm and encouragement. When she’s excited about something I’ve written, I always hear it in her voice: I know it’s really good and get a tremendous lift! She’s always ready to help me make my words better and stronger.

Writing is often a solitary activity, it’s easy to forget all the “writing angels” who give us much-needed  — not just ideas and valuable suggestions, but also encouragement when we falter and need a boost.

We writers are sharing, caring people. So let’s take a few moments today to give a shout out to someone who’s helping making this rough road we’re on a little smoother, especially in these difficult days. So, thank you, Steph — you’re the best!

And now enriched and enlivened by acknowledging the “writing angels” whose wings flutter against our pages and shower them with stardust, let’s all write on!

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Courage Counts

Human beings are made of flesh and blood, and a miracle fiber called courage.”   George Patton

“All serious daring starts from within.”   Eudora Welty

Wow! Bringing together General Patton and the diminutive, elfin Eudora Welty on the same page – that’s quite a feat! Still, it makes perfect sense, since, to my mind, they are both talking about the same elusive quality: courage.

Right now, most of us are probably associating courage with people on the front lines battling the pandemic or facing down rioters or simply standing up for what they believe in a time of confusion and division. Yes, yes, yes! All this takes courage.

But let’s also remember Eudora’s inspiring words, “All serious daring starts from within.” Let’s also remember that it takes courage to do what we do: to write. And that it’s more true than ever now, when so much is happening beyond our computers and pages and outside our doors that seems beyond our ability to process and understand.

It takes courage to come to the page and battle with words when everything that’s going on around us seems to be telling us that we’re “nonessential” workers.

It takes courage to believe, along with Margaret Atwood, that, “A word after a word is power” – that words matter. That they can change things and have in the past.

It takes courage to struggle to stay focused on work that we care about in the face of so much doubt and destruction.

It takes courage to stay committed to goals we set for ourselves when the world was a very different place and when we ourselves had a very different mindset.

It takes courage to continue to create – hopefully, something wonderful — at a time when many people are tearing thing down.

It takes courage to think, to write with the goal of understanding something that you believe may be important to you and to others, when there’s so much mindless chatter and chaos.

It takes courage to remember that as Keats said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” – that striving to bring beauty into the world is a worthy, incredibly valuable endeavor.

Yes, we writers may not always remember it, but we’re also made of that miracle fiber: courage. So, in the face of all that’s happening, let’s be daring — seriously daring — and all write on!

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Doing It

“Love the writing, love the writing, love the writing…the rest will follow.” Jane Yolen

Sometimes it all sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just love what you do and the rest will follow. Simple, but not easy.

We’ve all had those days when loving our words is tough. When it seems impossible. When words wrestle with us like Jacob’s angel, but they don’t seem to bless us. Instead, they defy us. They. Make. It. Hard.

Like any relationship we really care about, our love affair with writing can be a challenge. It has its ups and downs. Sometimes, mostly downs.

What to do, what to do?

Here’s what I’ve learned when I hit one of these “No Love Zones”—we have to keep going. When we can’t feel the love, we simply do the work.

Can’t love the work in the moment? Then do the work. Do it anyway.

Just do it. Just keep going. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be joyful. It doesn’t have to be soul-satisfying. It’s wonderful when writing is all of these. When we’re in the flow.

But when the flow flees for a while, then it’s time to get to work. To do whatever comes to hand as well as you can, knowing that your dry spell is just part of the ebb and flow of the creative process.

And even if you’re not quite in love with what you’re doing in the moment, you can still befriend your work. You can still have fun.

Write a poem. Use green ink. Turn off your computer and write by hand. Instead of a sheet of paper, pull out some index cards. Write a paragraph on each one, the way Nabokov did. And Challenge yourself to sprinkle a little magic—an odd word, a captivating phrase—in each paragraph you write, the way Raymond Chandler used to.

Make it fun and the love will flow back, like the waves at high tide. Then you’ll remember how wonderful it is to be a wordsmith, a scribe, a writer. And you’ll be off and running again. Write on!

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Get Started!

Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Knowing and willing are not enough; we must apply and do. How true these words ring and yet how hard it can be to cross the bridge from knowledge and intent to taking action! We’ve all encountered people —  even ourselves — who see amassing knowledge as a form of action and over-research before they write. They gather ever-more information, piling it up until there’s a mountain of it. And then the mountain seems so high that they feel defeated by it and never get started.

And yet, on any given day — today, for instance — we’re intuitively attuned to what we need to do to move forward in our work. Most of the time, it’s no mystery — it’s pretty simple and straightforward. So what stops from getting on with it? Steven Pressfield has devoted a whole wonderful guide, The War of Art, to resistance in creativity that’s well worth reading. Three stumbling blocks trip me up — and perhaps you as well:

Overcoming inertia: This is huge — this is Resistance in its most blatant form. “It’s the start that stops most people,” according to Dr. Rob Gilbert* and most of us know just how true this is. Simple Rx: Apply “The 15-Minute Rule” — decide to commit just 15 minutes to getting started and often it’s enough to push forward (see post, 15 Minutes).

Overcoming fear: Another huge roadblock and reams have been written on it. It comes in a variety of flavors: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of inadequacy — these are chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Simple Rx: “Act as if it’s impossible to fail” — proceed as if success is inevitable. Figure out what you’d do if you knew success was a sure thing — then do it.

Overcoming distraction: Another biggie — and one of the sneakiest and most lethal forms of Resistance. Being a Turner Classic movie buff who’s whiled away many an hour, I can attest to this. Simple Rx: Put yourself on a distraction diet: give yourself strict allotments of time for entertainment and social media. Tough but doable.

OK, let’s start our Apply and Do engines — and all write on!

* Check out Dr. Gilbert’s wonderful Success Hotline (973.743.4690).

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Something Wonderful

Serene will be our days and bright,

And happy will our nature be,

When love is an unerring light,

And joy its own security.

— William Wordsworth

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Contest Alert

The North Street Book Prize is a well-established contest for self-published work. Deadline: June 30, 2023.

  • Mainstream/Literary Fiction
  • Genre Fiction (e.g. romance, mystery, thriller, young adult, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, etc.)
  • Creative Nonfiction & Memoir (definition)
  • Poetry
  • Children’s Picture Book
  • Middle Grade (new!)
  • Graphic Novel & Memoir
  • Art Book (definition)


  • ONE GRAND PRIZE WINNER WILL RECEIVE $10,000, a marketing analysis and consultation with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a $300 credit at BookBaby, three months of Plus service (a $207 value) and a $500 account credit from Book Award Pro, and 3 free ads in the Winning Writers newsletter (a $525 value)
  • THE TOP WINNER IN EACH CATEGORY WILL RECEIVE $1,000, a marketing analysis and one-hour phone consultation with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a $300 credit at BookBaby, three months of Plus service from Book Award Pro (a $207 value), and one free ad in the Winning Writers newsletter (a $175 value)
  • ONE HONORABLE MENTION IN EACH CATEGORY Will receive $300 and Plus service from Book Award Pro (a $207 value)


  • $75 per book
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One Step

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”   E. L. Doctorow

Here’s what Dinty W. Moore, author of The Mindful Writer, has to say about this:

“The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is often remembered for his observation, ‘The longest journey begins with a single step.’

“Well, each and every writing project begins with the writing of one word.

“That’s not so hard, is it?

“That one word might eventually be crossed out, in fact, so what you put down doesn’t even have to be the right word, or even a good one. Just a word.

“Put one word in front of the other and soon enough, you’ll have a sentence, a paragraph, a page.

“A page!

“A page may not seem like much, but the pages add up fast. How many pages does it take to write a book? If you write five pages per week, how many weeks will it take to reach your goal?

“Time can be the enemy, but time can also be a friend.

“Don’t dwell on how far that road ahead might be. Just think as far as your headlights can reach, and keep on driving.

“One day you will look up and see that you have reached your destination.

“And there begin your next journey.”

What great advice! When we break our work down into words, sentences, and paragraphs, it doesn’t seem so daunting, does it? We can sprinkle “a little magic” in each paragraph (see Blue-clock Socks) and keep going.

OK, we can do this — write on!

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With Love

After she visited the world-renowned botanist Luther Burbank, Helen Keller said this of him: “When plants talk to him, he listens. That is why they tell him so many things about themselves….Mr. Burbank feels the individuality…of the plant…so he encourages the plant to put forth the best of which it is capable.”

When Luther was asked how he could keep track of details about his thousands of plants, he replied, “I do it with love. I feel an affection for everything I am working with, and so I can keep in touch with everything that concerns them.”

Miraculous, isn’t it? Luther Burbank has been called the “Plant Magician” and with good reason: His gifted hands turned grafting into an art: flowers and fruits he created still flourish today. He created more than 800 new strains of plants in his long career.

We may not be keeping track of thousands of plants, but as creatives, most of us have a number of projects in the works. Let’s take a few tips from a master gardener:

Let’s listen: As Helen Keller said of Luther, “When plants talk to him, he listens. That’s why they tell him so many things…” In some ways the stories we write and the characters we create are like the plants our friend Luther nurtured. Can we do the same with our own creations: Can we listen and let them tell us what they want us to know?

Let’s feel individuality: Sometimes the characters we conjure up feel generic—lacking a spark that makes the feel full-souled and unique. If you’re struggling with this problem, there may be an easy solution: Simply interviewing a character you’ve created can be so revealing! Use the Q & A approach with a character who seems flat or frustrating, and you may be surprised with what you’ll turn up. Sometimes characters have their own ideas about who they are.

Let’s look for the best: As creators, it’s our job to bring out the best in ourselves, in our work, and in the characters we are bringing to life on the page. Sometimes that means revising until a story and the people who inhabit it feel rich and multi-dimensional. If a character isn’t singing and dancing on the page, we’re not allowing them to “put forth the best of which it is capable.” We need to work harder and dig deeper.

Let’s do it with love: What a charming answer Luther gave when asked how he kept track of all his plants: “I do it with love.” Pouring his love into his plants, he nurtured their potential. Along with sunshine, water, and good soil, he gave them a priceless gift. Let’s do the same—let’s pour love into our work and nurture its potential as we all write on!

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“Unreasonable” Rules

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”   George Bernard Shaw

“People who lead a satisfying life, who are in tune with their past and with their future — in short, people whom we would call ‘happy’ — are generally individuals who have lived their lives according to rules they themselves created.”   Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, psychologist and writer

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.”   Somerset Maugham

Writing rules abound. We’re advised to avoid adverbs, never start a story with the weather, and always start a story in the middle of the action. The list goes on and on. It can make your head spin, especially since many so-called “rules” clash and, even more important, because many writers have gleefully ignored them and gone on to write wonderful books.

So, if all progress depends on the “unreasonable man” and the happiest people are those who live “according to rules they themselves created” — then let’s each make up our own set of rules to write by. Here are a few we might consider:

I will see writing as way of seeking wonder in the world.

I will gratefully mine my mistakes for feedback and fuel.

I will develop a “passion for completion” in my work.

I will seek out kindred spirits who support my writing.

I will make “Don’t quit, can’t fail” a writing mantra.

I will remember that “a relaxed mind is a creative mind.”

Are there any personal writing “rules” you’ve adopted that have helped you improve your craft and stay strong? If so, I’d love to have you share them as we all write on!

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