Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Around the Word

Today's spin around the word is equal parts corrective and reflective:
  • Ghostwriting in broad daylight? Reporter and gossip columnist Mary Ann Akers will help Rep. Patrick Kennedy (son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Joan Kennedy) pen his memoir about alcohol addiction and growing up as a Kennedy. FishbowlDC blog wants to know: what are the rules? Does Akers need to abstain from reporting on the "national" beat while working with a lawmaker? Can she accept book profits at the same time? Akers's Washington Post "Beltway Gossip" blog The Sleuth went dark in 2009, but she wrote a story about Edward and Joan Kennedy for the Post this August. We wonder if any of our ghostwriting friends have encountered conflict-of-interest tangles and how you handle them?
  • Who's afraid of the big bad style manual? Writers navigating the wilds of accepted usage can consult a bewildering array of guides and tools—and may feel more lost than when they started. Communications director Denise Baron, writing in Ragan, advises getting cozy with your thesauri and stylebooks so that you know what's in there—and how to find it—when you actually need it. Practice using Roget's International Thesaurus (this is more fun than it sounds) and familiarize yourself with the Associated Press stylebooks or the Chicago Manual of Style. Baron's polestar is Strunk and White, a small but staunch ally. Which writer's tools do you keep at arm's length?
  • For most writers and editors, the QWERTY keyboard is sliced bread. Typing speeds up the process of transcribing thoughts into sentences and eases editing, but it also alters our interaction with the words we put down, and at a more micro level than you might imagine. According to studies published in the Wall Street Journal, the act of physically shaping letters triggers portions of our brains connected with memory and information management. Learning to write out letters (or Chinese characters or mathematical notation) impresses them more strongly on our minds and gives our neurons a workout. According to a neuroscientist at Duke, handwriting retraining later in life is good "cognitive exercise." Not to mention the uncanny character analyses that handwriting experts can conduct using handwriting samples.
  • À la Jon Stewart, here is your daily Moment of Zen: short story writer Lorrie Moore, speaking at the New Yorker festival, says she gave herself until thirty to become a writer, and names two indispensables for aspiring writers: your own permission to try, and desire. Plus a day job. The Rumpus's Elissa Bassist jotted down Moore's remarks from the festival, including some personal wisdom that sounds like a Zen koan: "You can't carve solitude out of loneliness—you need people to get away from them." What are your tips for keeping afloat—mentally and monetarily—as a freelance author?

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