Friday, August 24, 2012

Can a title sell a book?

A few weeks ago, I picked up a library book I had placed on reserve. Our library has a self-serve system that shelves the books in order by the first two letters of the patron’s last name, followed by the first two letters of the first name, and then the title. 

When I picked it up, I couldn’t help but notice the title of the book NEXT to mine. “The Drunk Diet. How I lost 40 lbs. … Wasted” by Luc Carl. I actually laughed out loud. Of course, I reserved it as soon as I got home. 

Former literary journal editor Teddy Norris told my writers group that titles are the first place you market your piece. “Make it something interesting,” she said. “Titles have to do something quickly for the reader.” She told us that in some poetry collection competitions, judges begin with the table of contents. If the titles are interesting, they read it. If nothing catches their eye, they move on. 

A great title can mean the difference between someone selecting your book off the shelf, or the one next to it. A title that sums up the topic and is clever or intriguing will bring readers to your work.      

Oh, and the name of the first book I placed on reserve? I can’t remember.  

Write soon,

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Are you sleepy?

Maybe you should go to bed – or should you? If you have a plot, character or research problem that you can’t overcome, you might try staying up late to solve it!  

According to an article titled Perfect Timing in the September, 2012 issue of Mental Floss (my new favorite magazine), people think more abstractly when they are tired. “Letting your mind wander when you’re worn out might lead to a creative solution to a problem that seemed insurmountable at noon.”

So this weekend, ignore the clock, stay up late and work on your writing.

Write soon,


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Would you buy this app?

Are you motivated by fear? If so, I may have the perfect app for you!

Write or Die is a web application from Dr. Wicked that encourages writers to write. The program lets you set a word-count goal, enter a time limit and watch your progress on the horizontal bars at the top of the screen as you enter text in the box. 

Writers choose from three levels of motivation. On the gentle setting, you get a prompt to keep you moving toward your goal. On the normal setting, an unpleasant sound is emitted if you fall behind, and in kamikaze mode, words begin to disappear. Yes, words disappear from your screen! Is that enough motivation for you?

And if you’re one of those writers who goes back to revise when you should be writing, there are options to disable the backspace and save keys until the goals are met. Writers can also keep track of stats, and enter “Word Wars,” allowing them to compete with other writing buddies.

Write or Die was recently released as an iPad app for $9.99. Go to to find out how brave you are!
Write soon (and quickly, if you use this app),


Thursday, August 2, 2012

I'm not hanging noodles from your ears

Throughout the years, I’ve met students from many foreign countries, including Nepal, Afghanistan and Colombia. When it comes to learning English, several of them have said the same thing -- idioms make learning English more difficult. One student went so far as to keep a notebook of idioms to help her remember them.     

Idioms are figurative phrases, like “Cat got your tongue?” Idioms are used worldwide, but are difficult for any non-native speakers to understand because they literally don’t make sense.

Recently, I heard about a book of idioms used around the world titled “I’m not hanging noodles from your ears,” by Jag Bhalla for National Geographic Books. The title comes from a Russian idiom that sounded funny to me because it means “I’m not pulling your leg.” Of course, as soon as I realized that, I understood how ridiculous “pulling your leg” sounds because it also has nothing to do with being truthful, honest or believable.

In my search for more knowledge, fun and examples, I turned to Wikipedia, which offered several idioms for the phrase “Kick the bucket*.”  My favorite one was Latvian, for “Put the spoon down.” In Polish they say “Kick the calendar,” in Portuguese, “To beat the boots” and in Norwegian it’s “To park the slippers.”

I’m not hanging noodles from your ears (or pulling your leg) when I tell you I had fun researching idioms. Do you have a favorite? Don’t wait til the cows come home to leave a comment!

Write soon,


*Also a euphemism, a word or phrase used to soften a harsh or unpleasant word or phrase.