General Writing

The Calling

This week, I found a faded manila folder containing my writer dreams. There were a few ugly form rejection slips, but also numerous personalized no-thanks notes.  Sometimes I was invited to submit more work, but I often did not follow up because I had allowed each rejection to infect a self-created wound of feeling not enough to be published.

As I dug deeper into this folder, I came across a treasure that I remember very well.  Small-town Cloverdale, California had decided to throw their first annual Dickens Street Fair in 1996, and the Chamber of Commerce was looking for a local writer to create a promotional piece. I jumped at the chance and, being a self-proclaimed poet at the time, penned a Dickens-style poem.  The Chamber of Commerce loved it and made it into an official invitation that was sent by snail mail to all 4,000 plus residents.  This gig made me no money, but it brought me notoriety because my grandmother made sure everyone in town know who wrote the poem.

The next year when I was commissioned to create a new promotional flyer for the second annual Dickens Street Fair, I asked to be paid my work.  I thought $20 for my work would suffice, but they refused and said they did not have money in the budget. It was at that time that I decided to walk away with the conviction that my writing skills had value.

I decided to do whatever I could to become a better writer. I took three semesters of creative writing classes at the local college. I enrolled in the paralegal program at the university, graduated, and then earned my B.A. in Liberal Studies. I excelled in all three programs because they were light on testing and heavy on writing.

Today, I get paid for my writing skills as a paralegal. I write articles that I am compensated for, and I have been awarded money for winning a few short story contests.  I now have another calling to expand my writing skills and become more available for freelance work.

Always follow your calling and do whatever it takes to make your dream lucrative for you.  Never allow yourself to be boxed in by conventional expectations. Make yourself available so that people who need writers will get to know you and your specialty.

Remember, you do not have to become a Stephen King or J.K. Rowling to be a writer because there are many ways to utilize your writing skills.  Do your research, create your platform, become available, and be patient.

Oxfrod Comma

To Go Oxford….or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you not? Some grammar sages say to make your own choice, unless omitting the Oxford comma will make the meaning of the sentence unclear.  Others tout that not using the Oxford Comma is a sin punishable by twenty lashes with a…well…wet comma.

I believe that the only rules are to be consistent your use of the Oxford, and always use it when your series in sentences are not clear.

There is a recent court case in Maine where the failure to use an Oxford Comma resulted in an ambiguous law. Even though this legal mishap was all over the news, I researched the Maine statute.  Title 26 of the Labor and Industry, section 664(F), says that overtime pay does not apply to (notice the bold text):

F.   The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing,
packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.

Notice the bold portion above.  I can see how this law is ambiguous because we don’t know if overtime is not allowed when it comes to “packing for distribution or shipping,” or if packing for distribution is separate from shipping.  Because of the lack of a comma, an employee won his suit for overtime pay.

If the usage of the Oxford comma is so serious when it comes to the law, then it must be taken seriously when we write our articles and our stories. We want clear and concise writing. Does this mean that we should always use the Oxford comma?

Personally, I believe this is a personal choice.  The most important thing is to make sure our writing is clear and concise.

This week as your write your wonderful story, grueling article, or fantastic legal brief, your priority is to create sentences that do not confuse the reader. How you get there is completely up to you