Working around the block|Shop Talk

It’s been nearly a year since I posted a damn thing to this blog. While I can’t in good conscience say, “I’ve had writer’s block,” I can admit to a year-long complete lack of desire to write.

But I knew it couldn’t last forever. The old itch came back, and I was prompted to revisit some old pieces, to take a look at editing some of my work with a fresh perspective.

Ever felt like this? Is writer's block ruining your life? Is this guy Toby Maguire? Does it even matter?
Ever felt like this? Is writer’s block ruining your life? Is this guy Toby Maguire? Does it even matter?

While scrolling through my documents, I found an interesting exercise in combating writer’s block (see below). The exercise came on the heels of a creative nonfiction assignment during my senior years of college. I was tasked with talking about the moon, the night sky, and how it made me feel–or some such blather. At the time, I couldn’t gather my thoughts on the topic, which left me feeling ridiculous. I mean, here’s this thing I truly enjoy, but I can’t help but fumble about my thoughts. Was I really experiencing writer’s block? Continue reading “Working around the block|Shop Talk”

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What gives ‘cunt’ its offensive power?

The offensive power of words. Don’t forget to emphasize the T.

Strong Language

The following is a guest post by Kate Warwick.

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It’s definitely a hand grenade of a word, especially in speech. But is it just the literal meaning of cunt which makes it so offensive? Linguistically, there are other elements of the word which contribute to its force: connotative layers of meaning, its sound and the impact on the hearer.

From the 11th century’s rather off-puttingly named Godwin Clawecunte[1] to the 21st century’s complete cunt, the word has clearly undergone some meaning extension; from literal or denotative to abusive or connotative. It’s notoriously difficult to pinpoint change, of course, but the development of connotative meaning can be seen in Pepys’s 17th century use to mean a sexually active women, ‘he hath to sell such a pouder as should make all the cunts in town run after him’.[2] Later, in Manning’s First…

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The smeg effect

The thin white line between vulgarity and mundanity is disappearing.

Strong Language

Smegma.

“Ewww”?

I hope so. Smegma isn’t a very common word, perhaps partly because so many of us are circumcised. But what it names (a cheeselike secretion that accumulates under the foreskin and around the clitoris – it’s also called dick cheese) is disgusting and prurient.

The disgust is something that gets worn off with repeated use, however; words lose their vividness as they become fixed idioms. Here, compare these two:

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Action in scene|Shop Talk

I’ve been thinking a lot about action in scene lately. Turns out I’m not the only one. In fact, according to this gem of a post I found on The Writing Garden, one of my favorite contemporary authors, Chuck Palahniuk, has some great advice on the subject: It’s all about eliminating thought verbs. I’ve reposted it here as I find the font of the original to be difficult on the eyes. Enjoy.

Continue reading “Action in scene|Shop Talk”

Writing Lesson: Observation|Shop Talk

A great bit of advice from Theodora Goss. Worth the read.

Theodora Goss

I thought it might be interesting to put down some of the things I’ve learned from teaching writing.  From writing too, of course, but I find that when I teach writing, I tend to make certain points over and over.  Because these are the sorts of things that many writing students need to work on.  So I thought they might be interesting to point out here as well, for those of you who are writers, or who simply want to improve your writing . . .

The first one I want to talk about has to do with observation.  If you want to be a writer, you need to also be an observer . . . someone who is curious about the physical world around you. I don’t know about you, but I find it harder to write about the physical world than about mental states. It’s easy enough to…

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Mid-class bathroom breaks land students in the poo

Originally posted in The Anchor

Joe King–Mediocre Investigative Journalist

If you’re looking to pass this semester, you may need to hold it. In accordance with the new Classroom Requirements of Accepted Protocol policy, Rhode Island College students are now forbidden to use the restroom during class periods.

The CRAP policy went into effect last Wednesday, and was met with immediate student outrage.

“Do you believe this CRAP,” asked senior English major, Tom Dunn. “I mean, I nearly soiled my britches all because a few uptight professors can’t get going without some prune juice? What a crock!” 0-days-since-a-nonsence-01-293x300

What’s more, the CRAP policy doesn’t just mean students aren’t allowed to leave the classroom for a much-needed bathroom break; the restrooms on campus will now be monitored via card swipe. If students would like to visit the restrooms in Craig Lee, for instance, they must swipe their student ID cards; if they’re supposed to be in class at the time of the swipe, the door will not open.

According to CRAP policy co-writer and professor of English, Katerina Knickyknack, the new policy addresses her need for firm control.

“When a student leaves during class to use the restroom, it is disruptive and extremely rude to both the class and myself,” said Knickyknack. “They can either go before class or hold it. And on a note of personal preference, I no longer allow water bottles in any of my classrooms; I like to avoid disruption at all costs.”

After the first day of hosting this new CRAP policy, the college community witnessed the onset of an angry student mob during Wednesday night’s Comrades-in-Arms meeting. Student Committee of the Communist Party commissar, Jim Brady, met the mob head on with sympathetic righteousness.

“Students—my people—I understand your plight,” started Brady. “The SCCP shall flush this excrement through the foul sewers of your fair college. No more shall you wallow in this CRAP policy.”

The steamed mob cheered, but the mood swung when a random student shouted.

“This new policy is shit!”

The commissar was quick to address the potty-mouthed student.

“Sir, I shan’t have such filth spoken in my chambers,” said Brady. “We go out of our way to speak without expletives—I appreciate if you would do the same.”

After the room took in Brady’s brilliance, a dictate was offered by the commissar himself to abolish the CRAP policy. The SCCP exploded with cheers for their wise leader and sang songs of praise to his eminence.

When policies such as CRAP are enforced, it is up to the students to take matters into their own hands. And when that fails, they find guidance in a strong student leader—the voice of the people. So, if you’re finding it hard to pass this semester, don’t force the issue. Instead, just relax—unclench those butt cheeks—and administer a much needed enema.