Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 193:


Sometimes spelled lissome, this adjective means thin and easily flexed with graceful movements; lithe, limber or supple.  Lissom is an alteration of lithesome.  I remember this word describing Tinkerbell in Peter Pan - the perfect word for a weightless, airy creature with the wings of a butterfly.

I also, of course, think of ballerinas and their long, strong limbs and feet.  They may look fragile, but in fact, they're incredibly strong.


by sebastian ayala

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 192:


dwelling or situated on an island.  This has come to mean narrow-minded, as well as isolated and detached.

a Croatian island by Sphinx

Lately, I've come to realize the value of writing in an island mind set.  This is similar to my ideas in the post on hermetic, writing in an air-tight environment, keeping the door shut and visualizing Schrodinger's cat.  "Island writing" would point not only to keeping things contained, but also separating oneself so nothing can come in.  This is a challenge in the internet age where were swamped with commentary and blurbs and tweets and informational flashes everywhere we turn.  There is also a greater pressure for writers, especially for beginning, unpublished writers such as myself, to "build our platforms" online or create a following on Twitter, as well as visiting blogs, keeping blogs, reading, reading, reading the insights of others out there in the world.  It is confusing and exhausting.  When most of the time, all I want to do is write.

I've noticed that several months on Twitter leave me feeling this way at times.  Don't worry, I'm not about to leave the community, I'm simply taking this network with a grain of salt.  When those I follow tweet about insightful blog posts or articles, I am grateful.  Those things are innocuous, helpful and encouraging.  Some people really have a knack for crafting lovely, funny or intriguing tweets.  Yet... sometimes it amounts to a lot of distracting visual noise.  Too much of a good thing: read me! read this! you should be doing this!  you never should do that!  Ahh!

Much of this might be due to my struggles with anxiety.  When tweets suddenly feel like commentary on my personal writing life, I know it's time to retreat over the moat, pull up the drawbridge and write alone and unbothered in the tower... putting some distance between myself and others until the energy is back.  Just retreat and write.  It's all good!

Monday, March 25, 2013


Hello again!  I took an inadvertent break from delving into the depths of my logophilia collection to devote some serious time to editing and novel-building. 

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 191:


unfeeling, unconscious; incapable of understanding human things or showing sympathy; in other words, inanimate.

Does this man look insentient to you?

I have been watching Star Trek: the Next Generation for the first time in fifteen years or so.  Having spent a good deal of my childhood immersed in this world, there a few questions I find myself revisiting.  For one, I believe the one-of-a-kind android Commander Data feels a great deal more than he lets on.  I find it hard to believe that C-3PO and R2D2 are more capable of producing emotion - oftentimes irrational, biting emotion - than Data claims to.  Why?

Data is driven to understanding and becoming an acceptable participant in humanity.  We first see him whistling "Pop Goes the Weasel."  He proves himself an artist, classical musician and Shakespearean actor.  He is fascinated with Sherlock Holmes (aren't we all?).  He experiences grief many times.  Confusion and bewilderment, also.  He's been in love.  He expresses the desire to be a parent.  He owns a ginger-stripe cat named Spot - only a human would be able to embrace the irony of that.  Above all, he is a loyal member of the crew of the Enterprise, a friend to many, an enemy to few. 

And yet through all of this Data will declare that he has no emotions and is incapable of understanding love, grief, fear, humor because they (supposedly) reside outside of his original programming.  His brother Lore was the android outfitted with emotions, but he soon turned out to be the defective model prone to misanthropy and evil.  

Here's my theory.  Data was created by a human being - a human being he will refer to as "Father." He works with humans (and others) on a regular basis.  Without emotion, he'd have no drive, no curiosity, no will power to adapt, to learn or to better himself.  Without emotion, he'd reside in a closet until it's time for him to go to the bridge, would not be embraced by his crew, nor would he be a respected, trusted senior officer.  I'm not an expert on Starfleet, but would they really give such privileges to an insentient automaton?  My argument is that Data does have emotions.  The evidence is overwhelming.  He simply does not know what to do with them.  That said, he is like a child constantly learning about his world. 

Again, if 3PO can express pain, mourn, worry, spew insults, panic and whine, then Data can, too.  (Someone would argue - "hey! They're in two separate universes!" That's true. But it makes no difference to me.  I could very easily throw in a blurb about Daleks or Cybermen.)  When Data is outfitted with an "emotion chip" in the later years, it doesn't necessarily produce his emotions but allows him to experience and express them more fully... though this gets him into a great deal of trouble.

In the film Star Trek: Generations, Data goofs around with a tricorder puppet, is paralyzed with fear when Geordi is kidnapped by Klingons, expresses triumph when the crew wins a victory, and cries with joy when Spot is found alive in the wreckage of the Enterprise.  It wasn't the chip that produced these emotions.  These emotions were there all along, just buried in his android programming, waiting to come out.

So try to tell me that Data has no emotions, and you'll  be hearing from me.  He's more human than he realizes.  He just happens to be a well-made machine.  But aren't we all?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wisdom from Oscar Wilde

The Telegraph yesterday featured an article on a recently discovered letter that Oscar Wilde wrote to a would-be writer around 1890.  It felt like he was speaking to me from the dawn of the last century:

Oscar Wilde

"The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread, and the highest form of literature, Poetry, brings no wealth to the singer... Make some sacrifice for your art and you will be repaid but ask of art to sacrifice itself for you and a bitter disappointment may come to you."

To me this sounds like: "so you're a novelist who earns her living as a receptionist? Excellent!  You're able to let your art remain art!  I know you dream of one day earning your living by your novels, but it might not be as rosy as you think.  Until then, use this time to grow as a writer and a student of language and see where it takes you.  You might go farther than you think."  Thank you, Mr. Wilde.


In a similar vein, author Matt Haig also had thirty pieces of encouraging wisdom to share via the Telegraph. My favorites were:

  • Being published doesn't make you happy.  It just swaps your old neuroses for new ones.
  • Success depends on great words and passionate people.  The words are up to you.  The people you have to pray for, and stand by them once you have them.
  • Beauty breeds beauty, truth triggers truth.  The cure for writer's block is therefore to read.


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 190:


having the ability or power of laughing; ludicrously funny.  Something that incites or triggers laughter.  Something worthy of laughter.  That strange moment when you feel like your life has suddenly transformed into a sitcom worthy of Seinfeld or The Office.  Happens to me all the time - if you cannot find a way to laugh in the middle of a stressful day, you'll be crying. It also makes for great comedic material.  And if you're as walking-into-walls clumsy as I am, well, there are plenty of opportunities!

laugh by matteo procopio

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 190:


This word is in my lexicon because I like unusual, archaic things.  If you're an American, like myself, you've probably not heard or seen this word outside of classic British literature.  Thole is Scottish verb meaning to endure (a thing) without complaint, to tolerate something unpleasant or difficult.  

I am in this unknown period that is seeking an agent.  I probably will be for some time.  The process has been overwhelming and far from easy.  When you send what you assume to be your best impression of your novel (in the query) and no one shows any interest in it whatsoever, it cuts you deep to your soul.  No matter how many times you can defend the agents for their difficult job sorting through a slush pile of queries, you cannot help but feel yourself lose energy, lose faith in yourself, and begin to doubt the merit of your writing.  It simply is the way of things.  I felt this in the days when I was hoping for graduate school; rejections felt like a door slamming in my face.  

But... as much as it hurts now,  there will be a door somewhere in this long corridor of agents that will be open, and will someday stay opened.  Until then, my job is to rewrite my query letter (many times if necessary), to listen to feed back about weak spots in the novel's plot, to do what I can to stay moving.  It's non-specific stuff.  It feels half the time like I am not doing anything useful at all.  But I'm going to thole it anyway.  There is always hope - with each draft, with each nugget of wisdom from colleagues out there in the world.  If I didn't believe my novel was something beautiful I wanted desperately to share with the world, I wouldn't be here.  I'd have given up long ago.

climbing by sara kallado

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 189:


A hub is the center part of a wheel, rotating on or with the axle, the spokes radiating outward from it.  From this object comes the over-arching macrocosm: the effective, productive, bustling center of an activity, a network or particular region.  Example: New York City is often described as the hub for the publishing industry - so it is no wonder that so many (though definitely not all) literary agents operate from such a place.

The Wheel [77%]
The London Eye by Brian Robertson

Monday, March 18, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 188:


You may not have heard this word before because I first heard it from my mother, who invented it.  You can imagine it took me a while to figure out the proper spelling of this word. Bajiggity is one of those words you find yourself saying to describe a feeling or a state of being that no "real" word can accurately describe.  Bajiggity is an adjective in the vein of "going berserk," describing (as far as I'm concerned) a state of agitation or hyperactivity brought on by excessive caffeine, stress, adrenaline, or related anxiety issues. This is pronounced ba-JIG-ity.

My mother says: "The definition is unknown, but we all know what it means."

by Samantha T

You might say I'm bajiggity because filming for Sherlock Series 3 begins today.  My cat is usually bajiggity in the evenings, when her nocturnal senses are piqued and she wants to play (using her teeth, of course), resulting in the occasional hippity (another word from Mom), or jaunty little skip. 

Ombrifuge etc

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 187:


Anything that provides shelter from the rain - from an enclosed porch to an umbrella to a gazebo.  Any word beginning with ombro- will relate to rain, as ombros is the Greek word for rain shower.  On this note, one of my other favorite rain words is ombrogenous which describes a bog or that icky stuff called peat which depends on large amounts of rain in order to form.  Spring is by nature ombrogenous

Rain,rain and more rain........

rain in scotland by Nicolas Valentin

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Neverwhere on BBC4

I have just finished listening to the BBC Radio production of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.  It is exciting to hear one of my favorite novels transformed into such drama; nothing unlocks inspiration quite like hearing a story unfold, and letting the visuals come to life inside the imagination.  Neverwhere, though it has its short-comings, is one of the richest worlds ever created... from the streets of London Above to the sewers Below, to conversations with rat lords and the bustle and chatter and chaos of the floating market.  It has its own rules, legends, and dangers.  The first episode made for an excellent, transporting hour that I was sad to see (or rather, hear) end. 
Episodes will be broadcast in 30 minute episodes this week through Friday, and then they will be available until the end of March.  Neverwhere features the voice talents of James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Bernard Cribbins, David Harewood, Sophie Okondeo and Natalie Dormer.  Visit Mr. Gaiman's blog for a fun cast photo.
About Neverwhere
Click on this cast photo for a link to the program website!

Trust me - you want to make yourself an artist date and lose yourself in London Below this week!


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 186:


This is a child's toy that operates in a whirling motion, like a pinwheel, a weathervane or the seed pod from a maple tree blown by the wind.  More generally this means one that continuously whirls or changes or is constantly in motion.  A whirligig more universally can describe a whirling or circling course of events, particularly those out of our control.  This describes my writing life 80% of the time.

As the whirligig whirls

Friday, March 15, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 185:


To remove an article of wear (clothing: jacket, hat etc) from the body - taking off ones hat as a sign of respect.  In a more general sense it means to rid oneself of something or put it aside.  Think of Mr. Darcy taking off his hat to Lizzie Bennet.

Top Hat
British gentleman doffing his hat by Alistair

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 184:


A dash of individual flamboyance and style in one's actions or creations; a flash of distinct personality, i.e. writing style and voice, a pair of red shoes with a grey dress. This came into English from French and Italian versions of the Latin word pinnaculum, which means "little feather" referring to the ornamental feathers and tufts worn on the helmets of soldiers, perhaps Roman soldiers.  What does your panache look like? 

Red Shoes
malias gideon on flickr

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 183:


This adjective describes something that is lacking in any sort of nutritive value, or (aside from food) without significance or interest, or something that is generally simplistic, naive or superficially rendered.  This is from the Latin jejunus, meaning "barren or fasting".  Somewhere along the line this came to mean "not intellectually nourishing." (Oxford Dictionaries)

It's important to be conscious of how we're feeding ourselves intellectually, because that will feed into the writing we produce.  The things we read - from novels to newspaper articles to tweets - can either amount to tons of cake or a bowl of highly nutritious blueberries.  Too much television is comparable to a surfeit of caffeine. Are we going for the superficial and the sugary or the vitamins and antioxidants?  Are we learning?  Or are we merely being entertained?  Are we energized or left feeling tired?  Believe me, I struggle with these things all the time.

Blueberries are better than cake.

I've learned that staying intellectually healthy may include:

  • Not letting Twitter run your writing life.
  • Reading "new" things - books and stories outside of the comfort zone, whatever that may mean.
  • Getting off the internet (ahem, Pinterest) and the computer and basking in some quiet time.
  • Taking walks without the aid of an iPod soundtrack.
  • Reducing caffeine intake.  
  • Keeping a journal and writing by hand (to maintain tactile connections between the act of writing and the connections made in the brain).
  • Watching television sparingly.  I don't believe that television is completely bad for us, because it is an alternate form of storytelling... although I find it is not very helpful on terms of craft.  Nothing clears the brain faster after a stressful day than losing oneself in an episode or two of something that makes me wonder about life.
  • Getting out of the chair.  We tend to work best planted in a sedentary fashion - there really is no way around that.  But getting up and moving around pushes blood into the brain and keeps us thinking.  Do it!
  • Sleep!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 182:


A little world, especially: the human race or human nature seen as an epitome of the world at large or the universe.  Generally, a microcosm is a small community or other unity that in some way mirrors a larger society.  I prefer focusing on microcosms rather than macrocosms.  The microcosm is the immediate setting, the macrocosm would be the era, the year and the country (or planet) in which the story unfolds. 

Snow Globe Church
snow globe = microcosm

Monday, March 11, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 181:


This adjective means having the wings extended as if in flight, like a heraldic bird; generally used to describe something flying or capable of flight, or simply quick and nimble - metaphorically, moving as if flying.  This is from the Latin verb volare, to fly.

Juvenile Least Tern in Flight
juvenile least tern in flight by mike forsman

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Blackthorn Winter

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 180:

blackthorn winter

Generally, a blackthorn winter is a spell of cold weather at the time of early spring when the blackthorn trees are in bloom.  Though it is not officially spring, we are right on the cusp.  March is that odd time of year when anything can happen with the weather.  Yesterday, temperatures climbed to 60 degrees and I took a breezy walk in the sunshine.  It was warm enough that I had to take off my sweater.  Spring was definitely in the air.  Then, this morning I woke up to discover a world transformed from muddy, nascent spring to blustery, white winter.  The robins seem mightily confused.  But this is a good omen, methinks, for a wet spring and a greener summer to follow.

Crocus in the Snow
snow crocus by corbeau du nord

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 179:


A sprite is an elf or a fairy, an Middle English warp of the word spirit.  The word has also come to refer to flashes of red light in the atmosphere during thunderstorms as electrons clash with other high-energy molecules.  This is related to spright, an alternative spelling.  Someone who is described as sprightly is spirited, vivacious and cheerful lightness about them.  I find March to be quite sprightly, delightfully so after another (inevitably) gray February.


Friday, March 8, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 178:


to give off a faint shadow or slight representation of something.  In writing, this is an outline we write out for ourselves to guide the way through a novel, and also the technique of foreshadowing events to come.  This is an art - the ability to intimate by overshadowing, to shed light on other things by putting all the distractions in shadow, to draw what's important out into the light.  A little meta, no?

shadow on the wall

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 177:


Breton coif: Plougastel-Daoulas (near Brest)
A girl from Breton (France) wearing a traditional coif.
James Holland.

A coif is a woman's close-fitting cap, now only worn by nuns underneath their veils.  It was also the term for the skullcap men would wear with their armor in battle.  In America, coif is short for coiffure, which means one's particular hairstyle.  

Coifs in general fascinate me.  I went through phases as a kid where I wore a knitted beret over my hair most of the time - not just because I was trying to grow my hair out and thought it looked gross, but because the hat looked cool.  And, you know, it did have the shape of one of those coifs worn by the kitchen staff in Downton Abbey

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 176:


Folly is the lack of good sense, understanding or adequate foresight; an act of foolishness, or more specifically, a costly undertaking which results in embarrassing or ludicrous ruin.  This word is Middle English, which means it was borrowed from the Old French word folie, meaning "madness." (Oxford Dictionaries.)

0 The Fool
The Fool, as seen on a tarot card, is about to fall step off the edge of a cliff.

I actually don't believe folly is all that bad - it is the state you start out in when embarking on a journey.  I've learned that I am still the fool when it comes to this trying-to-get-an-agent business.  The important thing is to realize that blunders will be made.  I will trip and fall several times.  I will have to go back and rewrite that one chapter I thought was perfect.  I will write stupid tweets and worry about what people are thinking, if anything at all.  Folly is a learning curve; I've learned that the Fool on the tarot card is represented as a perpetual youth... and aren't we all?  I don't mean perpetually young, but constantly learning.  How else can we learn but through trying and stumbling and getting scraped up... and picking ourselves up again?  

Embrace the fool.  He's really not that bad.  Or fatal.  Or stupid.  He just has convictions about things that haven't been (but need to be) tested.  He doesn't watch where he's going, but he'll soon learn his lesson.  I'd like to see him after he picks himself from tumbling off that cliff, dusting himself off, examining his bruises and looking up to see where he came from. "Well, that was dumb," he might say, "but I don't regret a moment of it."  

So... write like a fool to write better.  Laugh at yourself.  Move on.  Harbor no regrets.  I think I can handle that.


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 175:


the over-arching influence or authority over others, domination. 

Monday, March 4, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 174:


 oil lamp
by louveciennes

to express studious efforts, working (composing, studying, reading) by lamplight.  I suppose this might be where "burning the midnight oil" comes in.  Whether it's late at night or early in the morning, we all put this to practice because art is calling us.  And there is something about a single lamp (whether electric or flame-illumined) lit in the dark, quiet hours that promises peace. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 173:


to put forth fresh growth, or to grow vigorously, flourish.  

I think we're all about ready for Spring, aren't we?  In another sense, after a week of craziness at work and strange stomach issues on top of that, I am ready to get back into my writing soil and put down roots once again.

 Seedling growing out of log

I remember I saw this word on the cover description of a novel I read a lot as a kid.  I didn't know how to pronounce it, so I took it to my dad who say "maybe, bur-GOYN?" So for years, that was how I said it, perhaps incurring many a puzzled look.   I later realized that it rhymes with "surgeon," and was actually quite relieved.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 172:


to insert a day into a calendar, or to insert between or among already existing layers or elements.  Every four years we intercalate February 29, otherwise known as Leap Day.

Day 60
Matt Preston

I've always had this strange fantasy of mixing up the months which contain 30 days with the those containing 31 days.  It would be an easy mistake to make, wouldn't it?  I don't know much about our calendar and why certain months were given a certain number of days to total out to 365 or 366.  I imagine that if we had to insert another day into our calendar to, say, balance out dramatic changes in time, adding days to November, February, April, June and September would be an easy change.  There's a science fiction story brewing here.  I just know it.  Dibs!

Friday, March 1, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 171:


A tessera was a small tablet made of wood, clay or bone, which the Romans used as a ticket, tally-token, voucher or even a means of ID.  These came into play in The Hunger Games, as the number of tessera traded and bargained for by eligible candidates for the Games could mean the difference between surviving and starving under the rule of Panem.  It is just one of many Roman flavors Suzanne Collins gave her series. 


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