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Sand Dunes on the Border

The Imperial Sand Dunes were used by General Patton to train his troops for fighting in Africa.

Many people think that the Sonoran Desert looks like the Sahara. Sorry, it doesn't. Our desert has scrub brush, sagebrush, various cactus species, and lots and lots of granite rocks, burped up from volcanoes that shaped the desert when it was still an ocean. But in a tiny corner that scrunches Mexico, Arizona, and California into a wrinkle, there are sand dunes that look exactly like the Sahara. I drove through them today as I drove from … [Read more...]

Teacher Takes a Class

Photo credit: H. Armstrong Roberts.

This weekend, I'm participating in a three-day poetry-writing retreat. Taking a poetry class is something important to me. Even better, the instructor is John Fox, author of Finding What You Didn't Lose, a book I've written about on this blog. Everything is in place. So . . . why am I nervous? Because taking a class involves a lot more than enjoying learning. It brings up memories and ideas of authority figures and being wrong and not … [Read more...]

Comparing Happiness


You're on the interweb, talking about your life. You've just bought something and shared a photo.  Or posted about a book you read. Or signed up for an online class. You are happy. You stay on the computer and see a post about a different purchase, book, or class. Someone else is describing their (different) choice in glorious terms. And just like that, you are unhappy with your decision. You should have done more comparing, you think. The … [Read more...]

People Pleasing, Ego, and A Lesson

Lovely in its simplicity, the fish hook is still meant to kill the fish.

Note 1: Congratulations to amazing photographer Willow Paule, who won Writing the Wave in my giveaway! Get in touch, Willow, and the book will be on its way to you! Note 2: The blog post for Friday, May 22 did not launch. I still have no idea why, but I recreated it here (edited, because I can't help myself). Your experience is valuable, but no matter what your experience is, it's tempting to take the hook of possibility, especially if the … [Read more...]

Creative Hop, May 23, 2015


Marija Tiurina does colorful posters in a wry, simple style. Her posters illustrate words in languages that have no equivalent in English: Schlimazl (Yiddish, unlucky person), Gurfq (Arabic, the amount of water one can hold in one hand), Duende (Spanish, the mysterious power a work of art has to emotionally affect the viewer). She does her artwork digitally; this series was done for NeonMob. Tiurina has also done traditional illustration … [Read more...]

Book Review (and Giveaway)


Writing the Wave, by Elizabeth Ayers, is one of the best how-to-write books I've read in a long time. The exercises are inventive and interesting, even fun to complete. Thanks to poet Carolyn, who introduced me to it. Ayers style is light and engaging, and her exercises come from experience that she had met, struggled with and overcome. Whether you are blocked, filled with ideas, or just don't know where to start, this book will help … [Read more...]

Hating Change So Much

These Lisianthus plants start out a parchment beige, then change to apricot and pink over time.

"I hate change." "There is no need for change." "I don't want anything to change." Every time I stand up in front of a business writing class, and mention that some grammar rules have changed over the years (and some things you were taught were never rules at all), people begin to groan. Many of them complain about change in general, most insist the world would be much better if nothing changed. Sometimes I ask a few questions, … [Read more...]

Building Habits

"The Wave," a limestone formation in the Vermillion Cliffs, near Coyote Bluff, Arizona

Walking is my daily habit. Except when it's not. When I travel I often have to tailor my schedule to the hotel's breakfast time, a cab's appearance, and the time a client wants me in the classroom. If the hotel doesn't have an exercise room, I may not walk. Because I fly out the last day of class, I often have a long and strenuous day before I get home, often around midnight. This week, adjusting for time zones, I put in a 20-hour day. Last week, … [Read more...]

Creative Stroll, May 15, 2015


When you think "thread and nails," you might remember the peg knitting kits in which you wind thread around four nails in a spool and create a knit lanyard. This blog post is not about that, although it is about nails and thread. And a Ukranian artist  Zenyk Palagniuk, who wrapped 15 miles of thread around 13,000 nails to create a piece of art--the likeness of Justin Timberlake. Palagniuk first sketched the image on a board, then pounded … [Read more...]

The Two-Space Problem

A manual typewriter. All manuals used monospacing.

It's a question I get asked almost every time I teach technical writing--what's right, one or two spaces between sentences? Strictly speaking, it's a style issue and not a grammar issue. Style issues, and style guides, are developed by editors, grammarians and writers to answer questions not defined by grammar rules. These style guides or style sheets cover formatting, capitalization, comma placement in a series, and hundreds of other issues. … [Read more...]