Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Hope your 2015 is everything you want it to be and more. 

Looking for some good reading material for the New Year? Check out Carpinteria Magazine. See our cover with the Champagne glasses? You know there's gotta be good stuff inside. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

That's a capital idea!

What's red, showy, and screams the holidays?

Yes, the Poinsettia. Good answer!

Did you know that the Poinsettia is named after Joel Roberts Poinsett? That's why the plant's name is capitalized, unlike, say, a daisy. As you know, proper nouns begin with a capital letter.

dark chocolate -vs- Swiss chocolate
chardonnay -vs- Champagne
suit coat -vs- Nehru jacket
carnival ride -vs- Ferris wheel

The rules change as the language ages. According to AP Style, "Lowercase words that are derived from a proper noun but no longer depend on it for their meaning: french fries, herculean, manhattan cocktail, malapropism, pasteurize, quixotic, venetian blind.

World Wide Web is a proper noun. That's why Web site, i.e. not website, is the correct usage. As is Web page, but not webcam, webcast and webmaster. Go figure.

Back to the holidays. Want to know more about the Poinsettia? Read the article in Carpinteria Magazine, which I wrote. You'll find it on page 84. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A check and a thank you

Nothing better than a check in the mail, right? Well, I got one better - a check with a thank-you note for my services! Now, that's a good mail day.

Sara Caputo, productivity expert and principal of Radiant Organizing, made my day recently with that postal present. I was touched and flattered. And, I decided I am going to follow her example and send a few more thank-you notes in my life.

It's not such a big undertaking. Try it yourself.

Here are some thank-you note tips.

1. Keep a set of blank, all-occasion thank-you notes handy along with stamps and a good pen.

2. Write the first line about the other person. See how Sara told me about my writing. Examples: "You bowled me over on my birthday ..." "Your taste in music always has been superb ..."

3. Make it easy on yourself. A sentence or two is enough. Remember, it's the thought that counts.  Really.

4. Be timely. Say, within two weeks. And, if you're not, send a note anyway. No matter how embarrassed you are or how awkward you feel. For uber-tardy thank-you notes I recommend a handwritten note over an email.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Carpinteria Magazine has arrived

The latest issue of Carpinteria Magazine is on the streets! 

Not only is the Winter 2015 issue chockablock with interesting stories and gorgeous photography, it arrived on the streets ahead of schedule.

The Past Portraits feature showcases the talents of photographer extraordinaire Madeline Vite and superb storyteller Lea Boyd. Also, writer Emily Parker gives a sneak peek at the Holiday Spirit Parade. Calla Gold, a favorite personal jeweler, leads off the Palettes feature on jewelers. 

Awww, there's too much for a blog post. Read it online or pick up a copy around town. 

Above, photographer Glenn Dubock captures a winter sky from the vantage point of the railroad crossing on Linden Avenue. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Yes, and ...

The first rule of improv is to accept the offer. Some call it the "Yes, and ..." rule. Meaning you take whatever is given you. You keep the scene moving along. 

Your scene partner says, "Look at those flying dogs."
You answer, "Yes, and they look a lot like pterodactyls." 
As opposed to saying, "Those aren't flying dogs. They're pterodactyls." 

The rule applies to the freelance writing life, too. No matter what comes out, stay with the flow and continue the writing. Yes and ..., yes and ..., yes and ...! There's plenty of time for no's during the editing process. 

Actually, the rule applies to many aspects of life. My life, anyway. 

Say yes. Be open. See where the yes takes you. 

From left are Joseph Lawrence, moi!, and Robert Lehmann performing in the November 7th Improv show at the Plaza Playhouse Theater in Carpinteria. Photo by Debbie Woo.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Riddle of the Freelance Writer

You know the Riddle of the Sphinx? The Greek legend of the Sphinx eating those who couldn't answer "What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?" Oedipus answered correctly, saying "Man," and then the Sphinx died. 

Yeah, I don't think it's really all that interesting or clever, either. 

Try this Riddle of the Freelance Writer. If a freelance writer guest blogs, can that post be used as a post for her own blog? I say "yes." 

Check out what I wrote for The Goddard CompanyRead it here.

Journalists questioning President Nixon on Oct. 26, 1973. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Writing for Dollars

Invoicing is part of my monthly ritual as a freelance writer. Typically, I do my billing on the last day of the month. Seeing as the 31st is Halloween, this month should be extra scary. Scary may be a little strong, but, truth be told, I still am not comfortable putting a price tag on my services. 

That's why I found this month's Writer Magazine so helpful. Lola Augustine Brown's article "Show me the money" highlighted common arguments for for writing for free and debunked them.

In a nutshell: "Professionals do not work for free. Period."

I like that. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Remember this word - Mnemonic

One of my sharpest skills is juggling, sorting, and retaining information. For a writer, it may be more important than stringing sentences together to make a paragraph. (After all, there are editors. LOL.)

To keep this skill sharp, I frequently use mnemonic, a kind of memory aid. Been doing so ever since grade school when I was taught to remember the names of the Great Lakes by HOMES - Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

One of the best birthday gifts I received last Aug. 18 was a follow-up birthday wish from my older brother. A school teacher, he was prepping his classroom for the new academic year and while updating his "This Day in History" desk calendar, he saw that the Women's Suffrage Amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920. So, he sent me the calendar page along with a nice note telling me how fitting it is that I was born on such a milestone date. Our mother would agree.

I used to be embarrassed because I could never remember what Constitutional Amendment Women's Suffrage was, but today I devised a mnemonic. The Women's Suffrage Amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, it is the 19th amendment, and the year was 1920. Easy to remember - 18, 19, 20.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Another kind of Love Letter, uh, er, Love Song

Topaz Abbott wrote "How We Love Carpinteria." It's a love song to Carpinteria, where she lives. The YouTube video she created has a beautiful slide show highlighting some of the town's scenic spots.

"How We Love Carpinteria" is an excellent example of a paean. A paean is defined as a song of praise or triumph. Something that expresses enthusiastic praise. Paean is one of those literary terms that doesn't get much coverage. It's one of those obscure words that would show up on Final Jeopardy, maybe one of the contestants would get it right. Most definitely Alex Trebek would give it some foreign, and incorrect, accent.

Topaz's song is an homage. (And you know Trebek is going to lay a thick accent on homage!) Homage is defined as a special honor or respect shown publicly.

Do yourself a favor and listen to Topaz's YouTube video.

Sunset at a Carpinteria beach. 

Word of the day: paean. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

“The Very Early, Super Silly, Uber Cheesy, Huggable, Lovable, Wonderfully Tacky Christmas Show & Holiday Pageant”

It's funny, and not in the funny ha-ha way, how some writers find improv so helpful with their writing. After all, improv is unscripted. For me, it's the mental gymnastics and nonstop thinking on my feet. 

I love it. 

Improv really inspires my writing. Check out the blurb I wrote for the upcoming show at the Plaza Playhouse Theater on Nov. 7. I'm rather proud of it. 

Get ready for the holidays and batten down the hatches!
Join the Plaza Improv Players for “The Very Early, Super Silly, Uber Cheesy, Huggable, Lovable, Wonderfully Tacky Christmas Show & Holiday Pageant” at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7. For short we’re calling it “The Uber Cheesy Improv Show,” but there won’t be any shortage of merrymaking or displays of comedic genius.

Skits, games, audience participation, and general mayhem. They’re all included in “The Uber Cheesy Improv Show.” Start the most wonderful time of the year with a bang. No, not that kind of bang, though that does remind us to remind you that adult content is part of the fun. Always gets a rise out of the audience. Parental guidance is suggested. Heck! Bring the kids – imagine all those teachable moment opportunities.

Remember it’s never too early for the holidays. Just ask America’s retailers. So, start making that list. And, remember this, too, tickets to “The Uber Cheesy Improv Show,” or any other Plaza Playhouse Theater production, make the perfect gift. And a donation to the Plaza Playhouse Theater is a gift that lasts a lifetime. The bigger the donation, the longer your lifetime. (Get our drift?)

Act now! Tickets are $10 before Nov. 7, and $15 the day of the show – should there be tickets available … Buy your ticket right here

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Is the Press Release Dead?

I've asked this question to more than 10 professionals on both sides of the editor's/assignment desk. The answer is an emphatic "no." No, make that "NO!"

"Amy," you may ask, "why are you asking such a question?"

"Because," I will answer, "I'm presenting a Webinar with that very title on Wednesday morning and I'm doing research."

I was asked to present "Is the Press Release Dead?" by the Association for Women in Communications. I'm a member of the Santa Barbara Chapter. The webinar is for the national membership.

Here's what AWC is saying on their home page. (Notice how the Webinar is open to everyone. And it's free. This time only.)
NEW Member Benefit: Introducing Know to Grow
These one-hour, quick-hitting, power-packed live webinars are designed with your diverse communication development needs AND your busy schedule in mind! This first event is being offered free to potential members, as well as AWC members, as we launch the fall membership campaign. All succeeding events are being offered FREE TO AWC MEMBERS ONLY.
CLICK HERE to register for the first Know to Grow Event: Wed., Sept. 24, 1 pm ET / 12 pm CT / 11 am MT / 10 am PT Is the press release dead?: Amy Marie Orozco, Editor - Carpinteria Magazine (Carpinteria, CA lifestyle magazine).

Friday, September 12, 2014

... and then I was asked to be a guest blogger

Need to add "guest blogger" to my list of services.

Yep, colleague Jennifer Goddard Combs, president of The Goddard Company, a public relations firm, asked me to write a blog post. The title is "Gimme a Grabber: 8 Tips for Writing Effective Headlines."

You can read my guest post here.

The post was fun to write. I hope I am invited back to be a guest blogger.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Time to take the stage

Yep, it's time for me to push the Improv Workshop. You know how it has helped keep my mind sharp and the creativity flowing. Think about joining. You won't regret it.

And also, want to try for the big time? Audition for the new troupe starting.
The Plaza Improv Players is holding auditions for new company members on Saturday, September 6, 2014. Auditioners will be required to reserve a 20-minute slot the morning of Saturday September 6 at the Plaza Playhouse Theater (4916 Carpinteria Ave, Carpinteria, CA 93013). 
To reserve an audition slot, please e-mail with your name, resume, and headshot. We will contact you with your audition time. (Slots based on availability.) Those auditioning must have improv performance and/or improv class experience.
P.S. Want to brush up for the next round of auditions? Plaza Improv Workshops start soon. Enroll Now

Monday, August 11, 2014

"The Happiness Choice" an AWC-SB Books for Breakfast Choice

Reading another great book for the Association of Women in Communication's Books for Breakfast. This time it's “The Happiness Choice: The Five Decisions That Will Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” by Santa Barbara-based author Marilyn Tam.

Here's a synopsis:  Tam takes what she learned from being an unwanted, neglected, and abused child in Hong Kong to become an international business success and humanitarian who is happy, healthy, and at peace with herself. In “The Happiness Choice,” she teaches readers how to live the life of their dreams. This book reveals the principles, tools, and philosophies she has used to achieve a balanced, healthy, and joyful life. People want contentment, love, and happiness from meaningful work, personal relationships, healthy mind and body, a spiritual core, and a reason for living. Tam details a path to get you there. “The Happiness Choice,” is filled with stories, tips, and insights on how anyone can live the life they've dreamed of living—a happy, healthy, successful, and dynamically balanced life.

One of the things I really like about the book is it's part workbook. 

Looking forward to the discussion. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Do Not Disturb

Flashing oversized packages of candy while striding into my office works better than any old “Do Not Disturb" sign. Add to that, the solid close of the office door and solitude is ensured. 

No one asks "how's it going?" when they see me sporting a "Share Size" of Peanut M&M's. 

"Share Size." Talk about a euphemism. "Share Size" my eye.


noun: euphemism; plural noun: euphemismsa mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing."“downsizing” as a euphemism for cuts"

Euphemisms are an important tool for writers. Being able to lay it out in black and white is important, too. 

So how about "Better Keep My Mouth Shut" size"?  "Sure Beats a Gun" size." Or, "Just Because You Shouldn't" size." 

I'm surprised there are no "Do NOT Disturb" signs. I think there may be a very good market for them

I stayed at the Hard Day's Night hotel on at recent trip to Liverpool. I think their version of the "Do Not Disturb" sign is the best I've ever seen. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Change your email password, now!

Monday morning greeted me with a hacked email account. What a nuisance that was. Still cleaning up that mess.

A firm believer in silver linings, allow me share with you two positives that came from that situation. 

First, it was very nice to know so many of my contacts look out for me. I received phone calls, texts, emails to my other account, and Facebook posts alerting me to the situation. That made me feel very good. 

Second, this is a good opportunity to clean up my digital files, update passwords, synchronize social media, among other housekeeping items I tend not to not fuss with very often. 

Take a tip from someone who knows: change your passwords!

Below is the email the hack was sending out. I hope no one sent money. I'm sure they'll let me know. 


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Confidence Code

I have "higher than average confidence" according to a quiz I just took. And, the funny thing is I was confident I would score in the lowest percentile!

The Confidence Code Assessment is in tandem with the book The Confidence Code by Catty Kay and Claire Shipman, which is the first read for the Association of Women in Communication-Santa Barbara's Books for Breakfast series. 

Who knew that confidence is more important than competence in the workplace? Never once did I get that memo during my formative years. Now I understand how nincompoops rise to the top.  

The Confidence Code is a real eyeopener. I recommend reading this book. Really good stuff.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Can I get a suggestion from the audience?

I'll be working on Friday night ... at the Plaza Playhouse Theater. I'm in an improv show, part of the Plaza Improv Players. We titled it "The World's Safest Beach." Curtain rises at 7 p.m. 

I hope I see you ... though it's tough to see who's in the audience when those bright lights are on you. 

Come anyway, will ya?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Finding my way with The Artist's Way

Dusted off my copy of "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron last night. Somehow, that book, which changed my life (for reals), walked off my bedside table and joined a pile of books in another room. 

It's always good to check in with "The Artist's Way." Read a chapter here, do an exercise there. Restart the morning pages. 

It was fun to reread some of my thoughts from years ago. For example, I don't remember AT ALL having a desire to go skydiving. But there it was, in my handwriting (more than once) in the margins of a few pages. "Try skydiving." 

Decided I'm going to do the course again. There's an online version.  Want to get more focused. Need to get more focused to make some decisions on my business. Giving very serious thought to adding other ways of making money, such as handmade books. 

There's an online version, too. This is one of the most influential books I have read. In my life. No kidding. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Limerick laughs

Friday Funny

Limericks. Those are the five line poems, usually kind of naughty and funny with a rhyme scheme of AABBA. I'm sure you have heard the following, or a variation of it. 

There was an old man of Nantucket
who kept all his cash in a bucket
but his daughter, named Nan
ran away with a man
as as for the bucket, Nantucket

Edward Lear popularized limericks, he did not call them limericks, in the 19th century.

As a poetic form, limericks adhere to a set of rules. Actually, limerick rules are rather strict compared to other poetry. 

They are:
  • Limericks are five lines long
  • Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme
  • Lines 3 and 4 rhyme
  • Limericks are typically funny

Here's another example. Author unknown.

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical. 

And now, here's my go at it.

There once was a woman writer
whose mental blocks would bite her;
but she kept at her keyboard
til a story struck a big chord
now her job is a money counter

Now, your turn.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mission Accomplished

Day 30 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Mission accomplished. I did it. Successfully completed my 30-Day Writing Challenge. 

Maybe I should have called it the 30-Day Showing Up Challenge. Because that was the essence of it. The writing part was secondary. I am/was creating a container for my work, which is writing. 

The plan is to continue posting to Behind the Scenes at Orozco Ink. Twice a week is plenty. That may be a bigger challenge than the 30-day one. Sticking with the Friday Funny. Tuesday will be the other post day. 

Looking forward to growing my business by trying new things. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lessons learned

Day 29 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Lessons learned from the 30-Day Writing Challenge. First and foremost is Behind the Scenes at Orozco Ink needs to benefit the reader. Why would someone (other than good friends and relatives) bother to read this?

This next one is really about a lesson being reinforced, rather than learned. Show up and write. Start tip-tapping on those keys. Doesn't matter what comes out ... it doesn't need to be submitted or posted or emailed. What matters is the doing. The priming of the pump. 

You know, I learn by observing others. How do they run their business? What do they make a priority? What are they charging? Where do they get jobs? I like learning from others. 

And, just think ... I have one more day to learn more lessons from the 30-Day Writing Challenge. 

Below, apropos of nothing, my cat Nella is one of my lessons from the universe. She's semi-feral and really doesn't like anybody or anything. Sometimes she really hurts my feelings. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The ol' shot of inspiration

Day 28 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Yay! It's Tuesday. That means Improv Workshop is tonight. The ol' brain workout of thinking on my feet is the perfect inspiration for work, life, and anything else.

No script. No writing. No computer. No microphone. (Did I mention how I love being encouraged to be loud?) It's fun, inspiring, and good for me.

Want to see what I'm talking about? Then view this 13-second long video by Chuck-Hou Yee.

So, yay! for Tuesday, an otherwise fairly humdrum day.

Below, the big news is that out of the Improv Workshop, the Plaza Improv Players troupe formed. (Maybe I've posted this already.) From left are Chuck-Hou Yee, Judy Sirianni, moi!, Juliette Rohde-Brown, Hope Zweig, Pauline Reyes, Sherri Mendenhall, and director John Pagano.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Day 27 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Here's something solo-preneurs do on a regular basis -- spend more time scheduling a meeting than the proposed meeting is expected to last. 

I'm sure it's not only solo-preneurs who deal with this. 

It's funny, if you're a fan of irony. 

(I know this post isn't really worthy of being part of my Writing Challenge, but I'll only do this once. Promise. Thanks. It's Monday after all. [Last time to play the Monday card, too.] Thanks. And, if you're a fan of irony, you'll really appreciate that this tag ending is longer than my post.)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The write time

Day 26 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Writing fiction is not my thing. I'm not talking about plays or scripts. I'm talking about novels, short stories, that sort of stuff. However, every blue moon, I sign up for a class or join a writers group and slog out some fiction. 

I do this out of a sense of "have to." Like they'll figure out I'm a fraud if I don't have some unfinished piece of fiction torturing me. Actually, I think I'm over that self-induced torturing, but there hasn't been a blue moon in a while. 

I wrote the following piece for a class I took. 

Dinner Party

“This country was founded by a bunch of wild-eyed religious fanatics,” Liz Gibson’s voice rose above the dinner guests. Not quite yelling, but still a far cry from the civilized act she had managed to pull off during the meal.  The collective look of surprise from around the table told her either the lack of a cigarette for the last half hour or the more-than-half bottle of wine accompanying her meal was showing.

“That’s why they came here,” she continued, standing up to get an ashtray. It was her house. She didn’t need to ask permission to smoke. “So they could practice their religion … and then forbid others to practice theirs.”

“And you can thank the soldiers in Iraq for giving you the freedom to say things like that,” Monroe finished his sentence in unison with the strike of Liz’s match. Opting out of the tired old discussion, Liz doubled up filling her wine glass, not wanting to call attention to herself in a few minutes when she would have had to refill it.

“Time for everyone to go home,” Liz silently wished her friends to be gone when she looked back up from her glass. She wasn’t opposed to clearing the table as a hint for them to get moving – she just didn’t want to leave her wine. Her focus was on finishing her drink and then maybe, much later, another one of the bottles bought for this dinner party. The religious fanatics remark did its job of involving all the other seven people around the table in a spirited conversation among themselves. And, isn’t that the job of a good hostess?

“What year did the Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock?”

“Our Founding Fathers would have finished the job during Desert Storm.”

“Roanoke was in Virginia.”

The debate whether Vermont was one of the original 13 colonies or not left her alone to concentrate on her wine.

Her husband, David, enjoyed giving dinner parties. Loved the planning, shopping, cooking, setting the table …he didn’t even mind the cleaning up. Her part was to keep him company during all the preparations, minus his grocery shopping. Her contributions consisted mainly of sitting in a high chair at the breakfast bar catching up on some reading, taking a taste here and there, offering a suggestion of where David may find a seldom-used kitchen tool, and answering the phone.

The phone rarely rang. Liz could predict who was on the other end by the time of day the sharp ring interrupted her. The sound blast, straight from out of nowhere, always set her posture stick straight. Why David hadn’t fixed that damn thing yet really irked her. A brrrrink during regular business hours indicated a telemarketer was on the other end, an early evening one indicated a friend, and after 8 p.m. meant one of the children.

The children rarely called -- never having much news to report. How could they?  She and David saw Bridget at least once a week and Kyle made his way over there three times a week to watch a game, borrow a tool, or lend some muscle to one of David’s many projects. Their calls were usually responding to an invitation from David to meet at a restaurant or come over for a new recipe he wants to try out. Liz usually let the answering machine pick up the calls.

Thursday night David called Monroe checking to see if he liked cilantro. Lord, how that had peeved Liz. “He never checks with me on what ingredients I like,” she silently seethed. “Cilantro? What on earth could he be concocting …” smoke had floated out of her mouth.

The result of Monroe’s affirmative answer to the cilantro question was a special pesto dish, which now sat barely touched in front of Liz. All the guests raved about it. Liz enjoyed the dish enough but mostly just played around with the food on her plate to make it look like she had been eating.

She had not appreciated David’s insistence on purchasing all the red wine to go with the meal – a good example of why David shopped solo for his dinner parties. She much preferred white wine and the cheaper the better. Pairing wine and food didn’t matter a whit to her. She knew what she liked and didn’t care what some celebrity chef dictated or what anyone else thought.
White wine didn’t stain. That was something you couldn’t say about red wine. And household hints such as rubbing salt on the red wine stain didn’t register with Liz. She gave up that sort of thing when Bridget hit fifth grade and Kyle third. Just about the time when wine spills started becoming more common in the Gibson home.

“Uh, do you have any club soda … Liz?” Carolina interrupted Liz while she was adding “not enough white wine” to her list grievances she’d later present to her husband. “Some red wine spilled.”

“White wine will erase that,” David grabbed Liz’s glass and poured it over the red spot in front of Carolina. “Don’t worry about it. Here are some napkins.”

And with a stack of about twenty-five napkins soaking up the red Rorschach blot in front of her, Carolina held out her glass and asked David for some more merlot. And, he happily obliged before refilling Liz’s glass, the very one he had snatched out of her hands twenty seconds earlier – yet, another item for the grievance list.

The possible wine stain didn’t annoy Liz. Even David being so rude to snatch the glass out of her hand took a back seat to the dinner guests not picking up on the table mishap cue to make their exit. Now dessert was a certainty, which put everyone’s departure time an hour away at the earliest.

“Please,” she mentally implored David. “Do not suggest everyone ‘retire to the drawing room.’”

He amused himself by saying “retire to the drawing room” with an exaggerated English accent and a big flourish of a bow. Bridget and Kyle have incorporated it into their vocabulary, too. It has become family-speak to mean “dinner is over, time to leave the table.”

“Shall we retire to the drawing room” one of them would say, and each went their separate way -- Bridget to her room and Kyle to the garage.  And in no way near retiring, David, of course, went to the kitchen, where he talked about tomorrow’s meals while making decisions on leftovers, taking inventory of the pantry, and scrubbing the kitchen.

No, tonight Liz would not like to retire to the drawing room. The ashtray was perched perfectly behind her to the right and the white wine was on the table in front. “Retiring to the drawing room” would mess up her little nest and then there would be Carolina, Lorraine, and Ivy fussing around and wanting to clear the table. It would be impossible to get them not to help. 

“I found that merlot at the little liquor store next to Vons,” David informed the table.

“I like it,” Carolina answered and batted her eyelashes exaggeratedly when she added “it’s kind of peppery.”

“Remember who agreed to drive home,” Shep chided his wife and finished off his glass of wine so he could refill it with the peppery drink.

How Carolina put up with that bore Liz could not fathom. And here he is about to offer his two cents worth of wine knowledge.

“I wouldn’t describe it as peppery, but more tannic. A very good choice for tonight’s meal. Excellent pairing, David,” Shep said. “Usually, I prefer more hints of fruit, but this really does satisfy.”

“Usually you prefer anything you didn’t have to pay for,” Liz said to herself as she inhaled her ninth cigarette since the party started. “So, put a cork in it.”

“Tannic? Fruits? What are you talking about? I never taste any of that. I just know what I think tastes good,” Estes offered his glass for a pour.

“And, I’ll agree with you on the good taste,” Estes added. “But tell me, Shep what fruits are you tasting? Rotting grapes? … and, do you the difference between a connoisseur and a sewer?” he added.

“Quantity!” he crowed the punch line.

“David is a gourmet, and I am a gourmand,” Liz chimed in, not even acknowledging the joke.  

“David is a connoisseur of fine food and drink, and likes to cook. I just like the eating.”

“And the drinking,” Estes added. 

Below, Dinner Party was included in AnneThology. I have a copy. Lots of good reading in the book. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Licking my chops

Day 25 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

"Blue Plate Special" is one of the best books I have read this year. I love Kate Christensen's writing.

I'm thrilled to discover she has a blog. Yep, I'm a follower. Signed on immediately. Yummy. 

Man, weekends aren't long enough. There aren't enough hours in any day to get everything done. So many great books to read, so little time.

Below, if you haven't done so already, I highly recommend checking out Blue Plate Special. Buy it from a local bookseller. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mad about the funny people

Day 24 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Friday Funny

Name your favorite humorist. 

Kind of tough, isn't it? 

OK. Let's start with when I say "who do you think of when I say humorist?"

What about Scott Adams? You know, the creator of The Far Side. How about Chelsea Handler

Some of my personal favorites are Dick DeBartola of Mad Magazine fame and Sandra Tsing Loh.

I like how they deconstruct the accepted norm and illustrate the craziness. Many humorists do that but are mean about it. For me, Dick DeBartola and Sandra Tsing Loh have a 'we're all in this together" approach, which makes it easy to laugh at myself. 

Below, some things you never outgrow. For me, it's Mad Magazine. It still makes me laugh ... and cry. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ladies who lunch

Day 23 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

It's always good to get out from behind my desk and surround myself with industry peers. Especially inspiring, high-achieving ones. 

Like Nancy Leffert and Marianne Partridge, who were honored today at the Association of Women in Communication - Santa Barbara Chapter Women of Achievement Awards luncheon.

Nancy is the president of Antioch University (yowza!) and Marianne is Editor-in-Chief of the Santa Barbara Independent

Inspiring women who do very good work. Thanks for sharing your afternoon with us. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When all else fails, start writing

Day 22 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

Three appointment in the morning followed by a backlog of administrative stuff (straightening my desk for starters) and some overdue phone calls made. 

Now I'm supposed to write. Or, maybe I can make a few sales calls. Follow up on some query letters. Yeah, some rejection would feel good right about now. Build me some character!

No, I think I'll take a couple of deep breaths. Maybe make a cup of tea. Take a couple more deep breaths. Put one figurative foot in front of the other and carry on. 

Literally (and I mean this in the literal sense) put my fingers on the keyboard ... and begin writing. It hasn't let me down yet. 

Above, the messy desk is always ready to serve as an excuse for not getting any writing done. Poppycock! I say to that. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Who versus That

Day 21 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

In the battle of Who versus That, That appears to be wining. Grammar purists aren't going down without a fight, though. 

Who fans deride That's strategy of becoming acceptable speech through common, albeit incorrect, usage. Check out what Professor Mark J. Perry has to say

Who refers to people. That refers to groups and things. 

Example: Marilyn is the woman who is in charge of the book club that meets on Wednesday night. 

Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Use Who for people, and that for groups and things. 

Not to complicate matters, but That versus Which is a completely new and different battle. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

This question never goes out of style for freelance writers

Day 20 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

It's June and the air is rife with advice for college grads. Especially for the job market.

Well, advice for finding work as a freelance writer applies to all stages of life - new grads, new retirees, old teachers, and so on.

Check out what Grammar Girl has to say about finding work as a freelance writer. It's good advice, applicable to all freelance writers.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Say NO! to overusing the exclamation mark

Day 19 / 30-Day Writing Challenge

June 1. A new month. A good time to make a writing resolution.

Lots of people toss resolution in the same category as budget and diet. A category they don't want to touch. I'm with them on the budget and diet thing, but for me, resolutions aren't like that.

Here's my resolution: Cut back on using the exclamation point. How that punctuation mark started littering my writing I'm not sure. But it's time to knock it off.

I'm not completely giving it up. I'm using them as they were intended -- to indicate an emphatic emotion, interjection, or command.

Check out this essay on the exclamation mark by Melissa Dahl for "New York Magazine." I like how she refers them as "shouty and juvenile."

This post got me thinking about how Catholicism uses the term "ejaculation" to describe a mini-prayer meant to be repeated throughout the day.

I bet those ejaculations use exclamation marks.