Book Review: Between You and Me, Confessions of a Comma Queen

non-fiction by Mary Norris 

A fun, informative read for the writer dweebs, written by New York Times copy editor Mary Norris who’s spent 30 years in the trenches of the English language. If, like me, your brain falls into a coma when the rules of grammar are described, this book is an antidote. You’ll learn that somewhere along the way we all became worried about sounding like uneducated boors and adopted the You and I reflex. But here’s the lowdown: that is incorrect, it’s perfectly correct to say You and me. Norris’s helpful rule: “Maybe it would help if people practiced, like singers vocalizing: Between you and mi-mi-mi-mi-mi.”

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how to become a poet

at your first poetry workshop try
not to fabricate who
you are, admit to strangers
you’ve lied your whole life, turn
your name tag over to the blank side
because your helmet of bone
won’t let you out
without a very public fight

read aloud your bad poetry and try
to ignore the cool, almond-eyed girl
wearing cat-glasses who reminds you
of the painter in high school the last time
you were rejected by artists

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The Writing Life

You’ve been working hard at mastering the craft since you won second place in a grade six spelling bee. When you find an award-winning novel you consider a masterpiece, after reading the last page you begin again. You read until the artistry is revealed. Awe is followed by angst: can I really pull off something as good? Still, you keep writing. Finally, after years of study and practice, you feel you know a bit, your narrative tool box is stuffed full of tools and tricks, you’re edging closer to the prize. You listen to talks given by literary agents about the state of publishing today and are somewhat deflated but not at all surprised to hear that blogs are good, chat rooms are important, also tweeting; artful prose isn’t necessarily enough, these days one needs personal digital currency.

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