These are a few of my favorite things…

(Everybody sing now!)

ebooks and websites, some poems and a cool Nook.

music, In the Heights, and Yeats, Joyce, a good book.

Sondheim and Shakespeare, slow jazz and porch swings,

These are a few of my favorite things.

If the plot fails,

miss your deadline,

and you’re feeling blue

Just fire up your laptop and type ’til it’s fine

And then you will feel brand new!

With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein, of course! Seriously, as writers we need all the help and encouragement we can get. Sometimes this comes in the form of reading what other writers have to say about the craft. So here they are, my fab five short list of consistent favorites that withstand the test of time. Feel free to share your favorites, too!

All Around Favorite Writing Books–The Fab Five Short List

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

Ueland first published this book in 1938. She was way ahead of her time, and had a wonderful sense of humor. She believed, and I agree, that “everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say.” If you need a pep talk to help undo the damage of folks who’ve tried to rain on your word parade, this is the book for you.

bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

O.K. I just like Anne Lamott. She has more guts, style, and quirky humor than ought to be legal in any one person. Beyond that, she speaks with an honest voice. and offers some true gems of advice and observation.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

If you read only book on writing this year and have not had the pleasure of reading King’s memoir, then by all means lay hands on a copy or download it to your e-reader or mobile device. However, whenever, and wherever you can–just get it and devour it. There’s a reason King is a successful writer (however one chooses to define that term); he can weave a fine story, clearly loves what he does, and is honest about the craft.  You’ll find the advice practical and unflinching, the prose lively and witty, and the overall effect satisfying and inspiring. Enough said. Read it or reread it and then read it again.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Whenever I want a lyrical shot in the arm to remind me why I do what I do, I revisit Dillard’s slim, elegant reflection. I’ve read the book many times over the years and taught it in many advanced high school English classes; each time is a different experience because I bring my current context and experiences to the encounter. The common thread is that each reading is rewarding and makes me glad I am called to write.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

This classic volume is a must read for anyone who writes, be it for school, work, pleasure, or vocation. It will do more for your writing style than almost anything else I can think of besides relentless practice. My very favorite gem from this book is found on page 35 of the third edition and involves my hometown newspapers and the unintended result of a poor hyphen choice. Check it out, you’re sure to have a chuckle (and if you think I need a semicolon to separate the two previous clauses see pages 6-7).

Photo by Bright Meadow used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!

Thank a Woman Today!

Today is International Women’s Day. I didn’t hear much  about it in the United States aside from an article in The Christian Science Monitor. I suppose since women in the US and other western nations have long benefited from advances in health care, education, and opportunity, we may tend to take this celebration for granted.

The first celebration was held in 1911 in four European countries. The idea didn’t catch on in the US until the 1970s, when in 1975 the United Nations named March 8 the official date.

According to the official website, today “is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday.”

There is still much work to be done around the world to ensure that all women have access to the basic necessities of life, including safety, shelter, nutrition, education, and economic opportunity. Click here to read today’s post from ELCA missionaries Deborah and Joe Troester, who live and work in the Central African Republic.

Here in the US, young women face tremendous pressure from the media to be beautiful, popular, and cool. Click here to watch an excellent short (2.11 minutes) video about how media consumption is a powerful influence on teenage girls. I encourage you to take the time to watch this video and share it with others.

Finally, be sure to thank the women in your life who have made a difference. Thank your mother, grandmothers, daughters, aunts, and friends. Let them know you care, and tell them how special they really are. After all, if it wasn’t for a woman carrying you around for nine months, you wouldn’t be here today. Thanks, mom!

Lent 40/40/40 Challenge Update

Honoring Relationships

Today, I want to say thank you to all the women who have made a difference in my life. You are too numerous to name, but your influence, love, friendship, nurture, and support have had a profound impact on the person I am today. Whether I have known you one year or 50, you mean a lot! Thank you.

Giving Possessions

Today, in honor of International Women’s Day, I am giving away my copy of Anne Lamott’s delightful book Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. Lamott is honest, engaging, occasionally snarky, and endowed with a quick wit.  Leave a comment (preferably acknowledging a woman who has made a difference in your life), and I will select a random winner on Sunday.


I am thankful for a wonderful walk with my spouse and the dogs today. It was so warm I wore shorts!

Photo by Koshyk used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!