A Gentleman in Moscow

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Just finished this gem of a book and wishing it could have continued forever.


The Writer’s Dilemma: Part 3, What am I Even Saying?

As usual, there are great gaps in my postings; the last few weeks have been full to bursting with countless projects at work as well as wedding planning for my sister’s upcoming wedding (and shoved in their somewhere horrific is a couple days spent in unfathomable sickness). However, I recently have been thinking about the last installment of my writing tips posts. While I have not done much writing lately, I have missed the activity and am attempting to return to this wonderful pastime.

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But, as I do, I find myself struggling with what words to say. I have fallen out of the practice of writing and subsequently have found it difficult to return. Perhaps there is some superhuman out there who is a natural writer; but everyone I know and every author I have read who talks about the process of writing has iterated again and again that writing is hard and takes practice and dedication.

Part of this practice is considering what your biggest flaws in writing are and seeking to correct them – that is how I came to recognize this final topic of this series: non-specificity.

I believe that foundationally the other two topics I discussed (redundancy and leaps in logic) arise from this issue. A person tends to repeat themselves and make leaps in logic when they are unclear about what they are talking about. During my first semester in college, the main critique I received on my papers was that I wasn’t sure what I was talking about. Not in that I didn’t understand, but that I hadn’t taken the time to define what I wanted to say.

So, the question I had to ask myself was – what did I want to say? (more…)

THE WRITER’S DILEMMA: Part 2, Why Your College Philosophy Class Matters

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It’s not uncommon to hate your college Philosophy 101 class.

This isn’t surprising, considering most philosophy classes at that level are taught badly by professors who care more about their own personal philosophy than helping students learn about the subject (a stereotype which is sadly true more often than not).

The failure of introductory philosophy courses is probably one of the biggest failures in college education.

I could go on about how the McDonaldization of degrees, and how the philosophy class is just one example of this…increasingly focused on efficiency (large classes who are reading summaries rather than primary texts), calculability and control (emphasis on exams – particularly online – with right or wrong answers rather than essays), predictability (focus on the syllabus and requirements rather than fostering an open learning environment) . . . .

Like I said I could go on. . . .

My point is, the failure of philosophy classes is the failure of teaching students how to read, how to think, and – ultimately – how to write.

My freshman Fall semester of college I took two courses The Good Life and Western Civilization I. These required honors class were intended to fulfill that Philosophy 101 class. We read Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Epictetus, Plotinus, Virgil, Homer, and many other great philosophers – all primary texts (we had the hard task of trying to decipher Aristotle without a handy summary of what some academic thinks he meant.

Once again, I digress (my mind is unfocused today, for that I apologize).

The point is, time after time I would receive papers back with glowing reviews for my writing style. Yet, these papers were also typically B grade papers. Why? Because I did not adequately explain my argument, I made leaps in logic, I did not carry the reader through my writing well.

Well shit.

How does a person do that? All those missed steps in my paper were filled in my head, but it didn’t occur to me to explicitly explain them. Wasn’t it obvious?


And that’s why I needed my philosophy class.

Those dull. Tedious. And – in my opinion – badly written books.


But what those books did was teach me how important it was to define my thoughts, my arguments, and my words.

Perhaps not so tediously though.

The 10 Step Process of Turning Bs into As

Beginning freshman year, I began to learn how to write without leaps in logic. The best part – this doesn’t just apply to college essays. I have found it useful in content writing, in my personal blog, and in my creative writing.

No matter what you are writing you want your reader to understand it. So, without further ado, here is the process I developed that allowed me to avoid getting Bs and start getting As.


Top Ten Tuesday: Forever Rereading

It has actually been forever since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday — I didn’t even know that the host had switched! (You go That Artsy Reader Girl!)

I thought it would be fun to get back into this, because I always enjoyed it before my life turned upside-down with craziness for a while! (Sadly this upside-down has less to do with Eggos and Demogorgons and more to do with coffee and new jobs).

This week finds us all choosing the top ten books we could re-read forever. This is fun…mostly because I haven’t reread a book in a while (because I have too many books to read for the first time! Gah!).

So, instead…I’m going to make a list of books I would like to reread in the near (ish) future.

Here goes!


Review: Human Acts by Han Kang


This book is a haunting.

It challenges in the most demanding way possible, that the reader consider humanity. Not just philosophies or theories about humanity, but also the little moments that define who we are to ourselves and each other.

It forces the reader to acknowledge the violence so often enacted on people’s humanity.

It requires a response. As the New York Times review so aptly put it:

“What is humanity?” the book asks. “What do we have to do to keep humanity as one thing and not another?” This question made me rethink — and retranslate — the Korean greeting, and realize how hasehyo could be taken as a more forceful verb, insinuating a command. Instead of “Are you at peace?”, it could also be, “Are you doing peace?” Or “Are you practicing peace?” As in, peace comes not with passivity but with participation. As in, peace requires action, just like violence. And only now do I see yet another aspect of the novel’s English title: “Human Acts,” the tacit verb suggesting that, in the end, perhaps our actions are what matter.

Am I practicing peace?

That question reverberated in my mind every time I put this book down. It is a question that lingers now that I have finished. I believe it is a question that will continue to pester me until I find some kind of answer.

While the book gave no clear answers to this question – only offered a rich, kaleidoscopic view of human life. It gave tears – both mine and the writer’s – and it gave glimpses of joy; but mostly it expanded slim definitions of who a person is and asked the reader to contemplate the secret lives of those around us.

Having Fun with the ABC Book Tag

I had planned to write the second installment for my writing tips series….however, after a work party yesterday I’m hungover and miserable today.

Also…just in general my brain is a bit fried this week. I am emotionally, mentally, and physically worn out. So instead of wracking my mind to come up with some clever or insightful post, I thought I would do a book tag. It’s light-hearted, fun, minimal effort….everything I need to get myself through the week.

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This book tag — well more of a book survey — originated at The Perpetual Page-Turner. This was the perfect tag for my worn out brain, practically created for just this situation. As she even writes, ” Feel free to join me. . . if you are feeling like you want to let down your metaphorical blogging hair and do something silly to relieve some pressure off your blogging shoulder. . . .”

So, here goes. . . (more…)

The Writer’s Dilemma: 3 Tips to Avoid Redundancy in Writing

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During my high school and college years I was the person to go to for editing papers. No matter the topic I had a knack for tightening prose (unfortunately, this generally applied best to other people’s work and not my own). It was a win-win situation too. I loved digging my teeth into a paper and making it pop, and my friends and family got free editorial advice.

A lot of my natural talent came from my love of reading. I gobbled up books and developed a taste for which ones were good, which ones were candy, and which ones ought to be spit back out. However, my natural talent and refined taste could only take me so far in helping my peers with their papers. It would take a lot of practice and learning on my part to be able to spot and edit beyond style, grammar, and punctuation.

Fortunately, early on in my college years I encountered several brilliant professors who taught me tips and tricks for developing quality content. During my freshman year I consistently received papers back with comments praising my style but disappointed in the substance.

The three substance based dilemmas I struggled with the most were:

  1. Redundancy
  2. Logic Leaps
  3. Unspecific

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share a few of the most helpful strategies I learned to resolve these writer’s dilemmas. These methods transformed my writing and have allowed me to play fairy godmother when I edit other people’s writing.

So without further ado . . .

Tiny Little Syrup Bottles – Or Three Ways to Eliminate Redundancy