In Absentia

Apologies for a long absence. I took a vacation. I guess you could call it that. We herded our two kids onto two different airplanes and took them all the way across the country to hang out with their grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles. Is that a vacation? It was pretty fun. I ate a lot. I think it counts, even though I’m quite tired and discombobulated as a result. It was nice to be off work for 2 weeks…

I’m beating my head against the wall at work about punctuation. It seems that the advent of Internet EVERYTHING has begun to alter grammar rules that were once hard and fast. (wow, that sounds kind of dirty). I put my foot down with a colleague, telling her that I wasn’t sure about much in life, but that I knew for a certain fact that punctuation ALWAYS goes inside the quotation marks, at least in AP and Chicago style. The defense of this rule that I’ve sworn my life on turns out to be “purely aesthetic.” That’s a bit annoying, but I like things to look nice, so I can go with it. But it seems that computer programmers are at the forefront of messing with this lovely rule because in many cases, putting additional punctuation inside parentheses changes the meaning significantly (to the computer you are coding for…) And in my work as a tech writer, where I draft software usage manuals, etc, I cannot write: Enter “Tag.” when I don’t want the user to enter a period after the word, even if this direction does end a sentence. Here it has to be: Enter “Tag”. Ugh. Ugly.

Plus it makes me wrong. I hate being wrong. Grr.

If I had more time, I’d write a bit less…

Forgive the complete bastardization of one of my favorite quotes… Interestingly, I’d seen that quote (the above — something along the lines of “I’d have written a shorter letter if I’d had more time”) attributed to a variety of people from Mark Twain to Abraham Lincoln. However, my interwebs search this morning turned up the following:

“I made this so long only because I didn’t have the time to make it shorter.” Blaise Pascal, Lettres provinciales, Dec 4, 1656, Number 16 (near the end!).

“He would have made it shorter, if he had had more time.” Du Perron, as recorded by Ménage, Menagiana, 1693, p.178 (Here, the record reflects reported speech, and “he” is Coeffeteau. The reported speaker is Du Perron)

(Found here, if you are curious)…

Anyway, when I was doing a lot of freelance writing, I would dance a little jig whenever I managed to successfully get a magazine assignment. My dances were a little less celebratory when the assignment was 300 words or less. (Not just because I wanted, of course, to write a feature). I learned quickly how really difficult it is to say anything substantial — complete with compelling lede and memorable finish — in that few words. It often took me longer than a 1200 word assignment would.

All of this is my roundabout way of saying that I really appreciate a good short story. And that is not to say that I believe I can write one. But I’ve been working on it (mostly procrastinating doing anything on either novel at the moment, though I can honestly say that I’m researching the newest one).

Related: Why you should be writing short fiction at Anne R. Allen’s Blog…