Creating the do-it-yourself letter of recommendation

(Photo credit: J. Henning Buchholz,

(Photo credit: J. Henning Buchholz,

Tired of obscure writing prompts and other far-out literary exercises?

I have an alternative for you.

Write yourself a letter of recommendation. Scratch that. Ghost-write yourself a letter of recommendation.

What does that prove?

It proves that you’re ready for anything. Don’t be surprised if a professor, co-worker or good friend replies to your letter request with, “I don’t know what to say about you.”

That’s when you supply the letter. E-mail the reference the whole creation. Say, “I enjoyed imagining what a letter from you might look like. So I drafted this, adding pertinent points about how my experiences show that I’m a perfect candidate for this job. Of course, you could do better. I just thought that might give you an idea of what I’m dreaming of.”

Then, don’t be surprised when a letter from your top reference comes with much (if not all) of YOUR words. Watch the supporter dazzle you with cut-and-paste wizardry.

Such a game plan has worked for me. I’d hope it would do the same for you.

Wordsmithing 101: Exploring the opposite of ‘badass’

Good Ass BeerIt didn’t take long for the flip side of “badass” to spread.

Trouble is, I think there’s still a battle over how to spell the opposite. Is it…

  1. Goodass
  2. Good ass
  3. Good-ass

Well, the beer maker has chosen. Note the logo on their amusing beer. To me, their spelling suggests that the brew’s main ingredient is asses. Hee haw!

Don’t forget the first variation of the buzzword. Being able to read the word aloud is tricky. Is “Goo” a relative of “Ram Dass“?

The only logical choice, I feel, is the third spelling. Any wordage besides the hyphen would muddle the meaning of a sentence like, “What a good-ass man!” Split the words, and someone might include a subconscious comma in the sentence. In other words, we might think the guy’s backside is getting critiqued.

Supposing you’re a badass writer unconcerned about the debate. My only advice? Think hard about including either description in your writing. Your work could be dated faster than you could say “groovy.”

Milk cartons have expiration dates. Don’t rely on words capable of stamping a “best if read by…” warning on your creation.




Sued for a negative online review? It can happen!

(Photo credit: Daino_16,

(Photo credit: Daino_16,

And the truth shall set you free?

We’d all like that to be true. However, some businesses smarting over honest online customer reviews are taking the debate to a new level.

Meet the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, also known as SLAAP.

The Sunday Des Moines Register ran a jaw-dropping example of a business hoping to silence an unhappy customer. A lawsuit is the too-common answer these days to someone who won’t retract their review.

Investigative watchdog Lee Rood pointed out that Iowa is one of approximately 22 states without a law protecting consumers against intimidating lawsuits, or SLAAP attacks.

In this election season, ask candidates their First Amendment views. Do you live in a state without a law protecting online reviewers?

Your honest opinion shouldn’t result in a bankrupting courtroom battle. However, reviewers should know that they’ll need to be ready to defend those opinions.



One writerly lesson from Susan Quiet Cain

quiet coverI was delighted to see a sequel (of sorts) to Susain Cain’s Quiet.

This new book (Quiet Power) brings hope and insight to younger readers. A voice for the voiceless, once again.

Seeing Cain’s “Quiet Revolution” website proves that she’s not done yet.

For frustrated writers or authors feeling invisible, let me share two writing lessons I’ve gotten from Cain’s success:

  1. Be sincere.
  2. Be consistent.

How many books are abandoned even before a first draft gets finished? There are readers who can relate to any theme, provided that the whole literary meal is on the table.

Pick a path. Stick to it. If you don’t believe, neither will the reader.

Short story slot machine shines in France

Gambling on a good short story? It's free in France! (Photo credit: n3lson/

Gambling on a good short story? It’s free in France! (Photo credit: n3lson/

CBS Sunday Morning never fails to amuse me. When they air something from David Turecamo, he’s identified as “Our Man in Paris.”

I keep wanting to see a tuxedo-wearing sidekick for James Bond, not a reporter.

However, Turecamo deserves applause for his recent report, “Dispensing with Words.” A town in France has installed vending machines. People waiting in line can choose a short story that takes only one, three or five minutes to read. All for free!

Here is the website of “Short Edition.” The Google-translation of French to English is a thrill ride in itself. I did glean that San Francisco seems to have the first story dispenser in America.

The website promise seems to translate “Everything Reads in 20 Minutes or Less.”

Less is more? That might work for writers in any country.



New Steven Pressfield Book (Eventually) Helpful

Ever hear a parent offer to take you out foPressfield book coverr ice cream, but the drive includes endless detours and stops before you get to your promised dessert destination?

That’s the problem with Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That is and What You Can Do About It (Black Irish Entertainment), the newest from creative inspirationalist Steven Pressfield.

Frequently-blushing readers, beware. This book has more than one profanity. Plus, Pressfield chooses to close the book with “Porn,” a chapter on his foray into writing sex scenes for a “skin flick.”

I think irony gets the laugh last in the chapter “How to Write A Boring Memoir.” Pressfield preaches not to pack every detail in nonfiction. Writing chronologically is the easiest way to have a meandering manuscript. Well, this author’s urge to recount his own story year by year causes the same concern.

Granted, a writer can learn by writing ANYTHING. Nevertheless, this isn’t going to stop readers from scratching their heads over Pressfield detailing his years as a New York copywriter and Hollywood screenwriter.

Finally, in chapter 76, “My Overnight Success,” Pressfield recounts nine storytelling principles that he says were acquired in his previous tours of duty in an ad agency and in screenwriting.

The most patient readers will get rewarded with writing tips and insights. My favorite quote? “A novel is too long to be organized efficiently, like a screenplay. There aren’t enough 3 x 5 cards in the world.”

Many other fans of Pressfield’s The War of Art will like this new title, too. Yes, there are some how-to specifics on plotting, pacing and character, combined with dollops of the author’s biography. Unfortunately, I feel like Pressfield was the channel-flipping TV watcher next to you, the one who never surrenders the remote control. How-to. Biography. How-to.

This reader wanted to enjoy only one program, one format, from start to finish.




Don’t be Emily Dickinson

(Photo credit: Yale University, Wikimedia Commons)

(Photo credit: Yale University, Wikimedia Commons)

Emily Dickinson never had an agent.

She never went to a writer’s conference.

Quite likely, she never attended a writing group.

She never blogged.

She didn’t see any books published in her lifetime.

Therefore, she never lived to see a five-star Amazon review.

Stop trying to be like other writers. Be yourself. Write for yourself.

Compete less. Write more.