The Saturday Writing Quote: Going Home Again

“Going back is a creative process. The events of childhood are like the Hebrew alphabet; the vowels are missing, and the older self has to make sense of them. Robert Frost’s famous poem about the two paths diverging in the woods isn’t only about the two paths. It also describes how older people go back in memory and impose narrative order on choices that didn’t seem so clear at the time.”
— David Brooks, in the New York Times, 3/20/14, in an essay called “Going Home Again,” inspired by a TED talk by Sting, describing how going back to his childhood helped him return to songwriting

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Subscribing to Garner’s Usage blog

GarnerI’ve quoted from Bryan Garner’s blog, Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day, based on his Garner’s Modern American Usage, and readers have told me the entries are useful but they can’t find a way to subscribe. One way is through the publisher’s website. The email subscription option is midway down the page.

Try another route through this page on Garner’s website. The email subscription option is below Garner’s signature in the right-hand column.

And feel smarter already.

References for Writers

The Saturday Writing Quote: “Creative Solitude”

IMGP2181 “An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing. Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction, and resiliency. Such time, space, and quiet will strike our family as a withdrawal from them. It is. An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude. An artist requires the time of healing alone. Without this period of recharging, our artist becomes depleted…. We strive to be good, to be nice, to be helpful, to be unselfish. We want to be generous, of service, of the world. But what we really want is to be left alone. . . .”

– Julia Cameron, from The Artist’s Way (1992)

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Back to School for Lawyers

IMGP2172Lawyers are required to take continuing legal education courses, typically 15 credits a year. Some states mandate ethics courses as well. Here’s a sampling of the topics from a recent stack of brochures that crossed my desk — they’ll give you an idea of the wide range of practice areas your fictional lawyers may be involved in, and maybe spark an idea or two:

Auto Injury Litigation – Start to Finish

Payroll Law Bootcamp

Medical Malpractice — Expert Witness Strategies

Hydraulic Fracturing Land Lease Negotiations

Medicare Requirements in Injury Settlements

Quiet Title Actions (just tell it to sit down and shut up, or you’ll send it to bed without any dinner!)

Prior Appropriation Water Rights (as Snoopy says, I don’t even understand the lunch menu)

Collection Law from Start to Finish

Estate Administration Procedures: Why Each Step is Important (lots of story fodder here)

Drafting School Handbooks and Policies

LLC or Inc.? Entity Selection for a Small to Medium Sized Business (Anybody else think of The Exorcist when you hear the word “entity”?)

Human Resource Law

The Art of Settlement

HIPPA Compliance for Lawyers: The New Requirements

Social Security Disability: Advanced Issues & Solutions

Farm Injury Litigation: A Plaintiff’s Guide — includes determining liability, finding insurance coverage, maximizing recovery from multiple wrongdoers, workers’ comp, and other sources, OSHA regs, defective machinery design, and proving damages

Several courses on land use issues, understanding surveys, title insurance, and boundary disputes

Litigating School Bullying & Cyberbullying Lawsuits

Law Practice Management

Construction Defects

Marijuana in the Workplace

Authenticating Social Media and Email Evidence

And a postcard for the annual On-Campus Interview Weekend at the Law School, for firms looking to hire. 


writing about legal issues

The Saturday Writing Quote – Cynthia Ozick

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely. We write as the birds sing, as the primitives dance their rituals. If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. When I don’t write, I feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in a prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing.”

– Cynthia Ozick, American novelist and short story writer (b. 1928)

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The Saturday Writing Quote — Tim O’Brien

“For me, a good story embraces both the ordinary and the extraordinary. I’m not interested in simply holding up a mirror to the world. I’m not interested in reporting on actualities and calling the result fiction. To my taste, a good story is a mix of the so-called real world and a much more mysterious and elusive interior world we all live in.”
– Tim O’Brien, American novelist, b. 1946 (“The Things They Carried; Going After Cacciatto“)

[What I tell beginning writers] “Be stubborn. Be tenacious. Commit yourself to the inevitability of failure. Sentences are going to fail, chapters … whole books … [P]ay close attention to [your] own life. Don’t avoid your own passions and fears. There’s a tendency, I think, to sublimate it all, or to become so oblique as to avoid entirely that which has hurt you or that which has jerked you awake at night. I know of no rule that commands a writer to be subtle at all costs. At times, I believe, it doesn’t hurt to be blunt.”
– Tim O’Brien

Both quotes excerpted from a July 2010 interview in The Writer 

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Stupid Criminal Tricks: the fake deputy

th_badgeAccording to the Seattle Times, a man posing as a King County sheriff’s deputy, wearing a T-shirt reading “Sheriff,” a holstered revolver, and a radio of some sort, knocked on doors in an apartment complex, telling residents he was looking for the suspect in an auto theft. Several residents got suspicious and called 911 — they thought he “lacked a police presence” and said when asked for I.D., he ignored them and kept talking.

When a real deputy spotted him, the imposter took off, eluding both a tracking dog and a helicopter search. According to the Times, “Investigators believe the man probably got into a nearby car and split. The sheriff’s office doesn’t know what the imposter was up to. One possibility is that he was looking for the supposed car thief and figured this was one way to find him. Or maybe “he was looking to get his kicks.””

And yes, impersonating a law enforcement officer is a crime.

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The Saturday Writing Quote: on story

03_Flowers1_Watercolor_WEB“In the entry into the world of imagination, from which all story springs, I believe that we come closest to the world of the spirit, and hence all making of story becomes a spiritual place. It is a place of the most intense solitude but also a place where the most intimate communal experience can be achieved: that of sharing story. Story is a place where meaning can be made and remembered. And story is also the creation of a vision: balancing what was with what might have been. Balancing what is with what could be. Balancing dark against light. Balancing joy and sorrow. … As writer, I am transformed in the making of story; the reader is transformed in the reading of story.”

– Eunice Scarfe, American-Canadian short story writer and teacher, in Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity by Jan Phillips (1997)


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Domestic partnerships — the Washington state wrinkle

In Books, Crooks, and Counselors, I answered questions about common law marriage, pointing out that it could not be used by same-sex couples living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage as a way to establish a legal marriage. Likewise, domestic partnerships are not marriage. But now, as part of its same-sex marriage law, Washington State is about to convert some 10,000 registered domestic partnerships into marriage, effective June 30. According to this piece in the Seattle Times, Washington’s domestic partnership was available to same sex couples of any age and to heterosexual couples in which one partner was over 62 at the time of registration, as a way to provide many of the financial benefits of marriage.

Of course, not everyone in a d.p. will want to become married. No doubt some d.p.s have ended, but remain registered — ending one can be much like a divorce. The state is sending out notices, but some folks will have moved. And as the Seattle Times story points out, some will have legally married other people — only to find themselves unexpectedly illegally married, because of the conversion. Others may have moved to states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages, although an increasing number of states have now concluded that they must recognize marriages legally formed in another state, even if not legal to form in that state.

Can you envision a way to complicate your characters’ lives with this law?

Join me on Facebook for a chance to win a taste of Montana. Each new “like” will be entered in a drawing for a gift pack from Eva Gates Homemade Preserves.

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The Saturday Writing Quote

“There are things that you do because they feel right and they make no sense and they make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: To love each other and to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good.”

– Brian Andreas, in a “Story People” painting

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