Three Easy Rules That Will Change your “Comma Life” Forever


Diamond 1, 2, 3

Commas have never intentionally hurt you, have they?

Okay, maybe you made a bad grade or two on a school paper because you used the two-inch rule; that is, you placed a comma every two inches on your term paper just to show your instructor you were seriously trying.

When your paper came back with severe grammar-scoldings written in the margins and a link for you to immediately hook up with Grammarly or fail the course, you may have sworn off comma-love forevermore.

Of course, if someone tried to eat your relative when you penned, Let’s eat Grandma instead of Let’s eat, Grandma . . . that surely could have caused a ruckus.

When you think about it, was it really the fault of the commas?

I believe if the commas you have used incorrectly over the years could talk, they’d probably thank you for all the interesting misadventures. Just a thought.

Falling stars on the red carpet with flash lights from camerasDon’t hold a grudge. Those little guys are waiting to make you look like a professional punctuator if you will but open the door to them. What do you say? Ready to be a Comma Star?

Exhale. Blow out the tension. Wiggle your fingers. Slap your cheeks, and let’s begin.

1. Introductory phrases/clauses

When you introduce your sentence with something that isn’t a stand-alone sentence, it needs a comma after it. It could be a phrase or a dependent clause, but who cares? It doesn’t stand alone, and that means it needs a comma for support. Don’t get nervous. It’s easy.

For example: When I go to sleep at night isn’t a sentence, is it?

Those are words used to set up (introduce) the reader to what you are going to tell them happens when you go to sleep at night.

When I go to sleep at night, I dream of galloping through the galaxies.

See that?

The introductory phrase (When I go to sleep at night) introduced the rest of the sentence (I dream of galloping through the galaxies).

To separate the two parts, you merely add a comma.

Here’s another example: Since I am king of the world, I can skateboard with a monkey on my shoulder.

Separate the introductory clause (Since I am king of the world) from the explanation (I can skateboard with a monkey on my shoulder) with a comma.

That’s it. Don’t get mired down with subordinate conjunctions, predicate verbs, and all that crap proper grammar terminology. It’s important, but not necessary to remembering where to place your commas. *And please don’t, in a fit of frustration, tell someone where they can place their commas if you know what I mean*

2. Commas between two independent sentences separated by a conjunction

This rule is as simple as stirring sugar in your coffee. In your writing, you don’t want all your sentences so short they sound like a robot learning to speak, do you?

I am Robot Maid. I can clean your house.  I can clean for you. I am Robot Maid. I do not clean windows. I do not clean refrigerators. I am Robot Maid.

When we combine a couple of the sentences and separate them with a comma and a conjunction (and, but, so, for, nor, and so on), our writing sounds more sophisticated.

I am Robot Maid, and I can clean your house. I am Robot Maid, but I do not clean windows or refrigerators.

How about this: I won a golden goose yesterday, and now I need to hire a trustworthy money adviser.

Two complete sentences separated by a conjunction need a comma. Easy-peasy.

3. Commas in a series

A series is a comma’s best friend. Or is the comma a series’ best friend? Anyway, in this instance, the commas act as little separators in a series, or a list, of items.

No commas:

We took salad chips cookies sliced tomato sandwiches and soda pop to the lake. I have to ask, are they taking salad chips to the lake or salad and chips to the lake? Are the cookies sliced? Why are they eating sliced tomato sandwiches?

Now use crafty commas to clarify what the sentence really says:

We took salad, chips, cookies, sliced tomato sandwiches, and soda pop to the park. (Yes, the sandwiches are sliced tomato sandwiches).

The last comma in a series is up to you, or your teacher, or your boss. It’s called the Oxford comma. In Associated Press (AP) style, the last comma before the conjunction is omitted. In many other venues, including the novel publishing world, the comma before the conjunction in a series is left in.

Example:

Gerard Butler is tall, handsome, articulate and talented. (AP style)

Gerard Butler is tall, handsome, articulate, and talented. (Oxford comma used)

Question: How are commas used in the next sentence?

To tell you the truth, commas won’t give you rippling muscles, money, or a live-in maid, but they will clarify your writing and earn you praise.

Answer:

1) This sentence has an introductory phrase (To tell you the truth) followed by a comma.

2) It has a series with each object separated by a comma, including an Oxford comma (commas won’t give you rippling muscles, money, or a live-in maid).

3) It also has two complete sentences separated by a comma and the conjunction but.

One last thing . . . which singing icon of the sixties made commas famous?

Neil Sedaka!

How?

Sedaka’s blockbuster song, “Breaking up is Hard to Do” (click the link to hear it), begins and ends with:

Down dooby doo down down,

Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down,

Comma, comma down dooby doo down down.

Strange as these lyrics are, they elevate the lowly comma to heights of greatness!

You now know three basic comma rules. I learned them in high school, and they have served me well. They’ll do the same for you.

Red umbrella in Storm.Are there other comma rules? Gosh yes. However, when you learn these three rules, you’ll be heads above the crowd.

 

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Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Series: Why I’m Proud of the Navajos – Code Talkers


Code Talkers Memorial, Window Rock, AZ

Code Talkers Memorial, Window Rock, AZ

The Code Talkers were our country’s best-kept secret.

Imagine serving during wartime in a covert undertaking that you swore to keep secret, even unto death. Additionally, your family had no idea what you did while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps; and even though your efforts literally turned the tide of two major wars, your contributions went unnoticed and unrewarded.

Additionally, your family had no idea what you did while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps; and even though your efforts literally turned the tide of two major wars, your contributions went unnoticed and unrewarded for almost sixty years!

Recipe for Military Success

  • Twenty-nine brave and brilliant Navajo men fluent in both English and Navajo willing to join the U.S. Marine Corp.
  • One extremely difficult Athabaskan language, not yet written.
  • A major war underway.
  • Seven hundred phonetically created and memorized code words.

Mix all ingredients, then add:

  • Four hundred more willing Navajos to become U.S. Marine Code Talkers

Turn mixture out into well-seasoned platoons and . . .

  • Bake in the jungles of Guadalcanal.
  • Simmer in the black sands of Iwo Jima.
  • Spread into every major engagement of the Pacific theater from 1942-1945.
  • Re-use all ingredients later in Korea and Vietnam.

The above “recipe” produced the world’s first and only indecipherable code and a group of heroes who were the military’s best-kept secret until 2001.

Navajo Enlistment Letter

 

Major Howard Conner, fifth Marine Division signal officer said that were it not for the Navajo Code Talkers, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima. According to the Navajo Code Talkers World War II Fact Sheet, six Navajos were in Iwo Jima working around the clock non-stop for the first two days of the battle. They sent and received over 800 messages, ALL WITHOUT  ERROR!

Where did these outstanding Code Talker candidates come from?

First 29 Navajo Code Talker Recruits being sworn in at Fort Wingate, NM

First 29 Navajo Code Talker Recruits being sworn in at Fort Wingate, NM

The Rez!

Government-run boarding schools were set up in the 1890s to assimilate Native Americans into American culture. The children were stolen participated by leaving their families at the age of five or six years old. They didn’t return until after graduation. The schools were run with rock-hard rules similar to an adult military boot camp.

From these prisons schools, came the Navajo Code Talkers, the only men in all of history to create a code so magnificently ironclad that the best code crackers in the world couldn’t touch it. It makes me want to scream, it’s so cool!!

The recruits had to meet age, weight, health and language requirements and went through the standard Marine boot-camp training. It is said that drill instructors and other recruits were in awe of the physical endurance of the Navajo men. After boot camp, the initial group of Navajo Code Talkers was charged with creating 211 military terms. The codes were memorized and never written down. Before it was over, the secret code words numbered more than 700, thus marking the end of constant interception and sabotage of US. military communications from our enemies.

Exactly how the code was conceived and implemented is nothing short of breathtaking.

Are you getting it why I’m so proud of the Navajos?

The code itself was declassified in 1968, but the Code Talkers were still under wraps until 2001. Some of the Code Talker’s own families had no concept of how their relative had served in the wars in which they participated.

In 2001, the Navajo Code Talkers were honored and recognized by this country as heroes. President George Bush awarded Congressional Gold Medals to the original twenty-nine code talkers. Of the original twenty-nine, only five were alive, and four were able to travel to Washington D.C. to receive their medal. Later, in Window Rock, Arizona – the capitol of the Navajo Nation – silver medals were bestowed upon the other men who later qualified as Navajo Code Talkers. Because recognition was so slow to come, most of the medals were handed off to survivors.

On a smaller but no lesser scale of heroic dedication, members of the Sioux, Choctaw, Comanche, Cherokee, Hopi, and Mohawk tribes also used their native languages as secret codes during WWI, WWII, and beyond. (If I left any tribes out, I apologize. Contact me, and I’ll be more than happy to add them to this list.)

In fact, More than 12,000 American Indians served in World War I—about 25 percent of the male American Indian population at that time. During World War II, when the total American Indian population was less than 350,000, an estimated 44,000 Indian men and women served.

Now that’s patriotism!

It is stunning and sad to realize that the Native American men (and women) who sacrificed everything to serve their country in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War were not allowed to vote in US elections until:

Arizona – 1948 *three years after the end of World War II*

New Mexico – 1953 *After the end of the Korean War*

Utah – 1957 *After Native Americans  had served in World War II and the Korean War*

On the Official Website of the Navajo Code Talkers, it says: They were a small band of warriors who created an unbreakable code from the ancient language of their people and changed the course of modern history.

That gives me goose bumps. I’ve studied the Navajo people enough to know that the sacrifice those young men made to the war effort is incalculable and that it goes far beyond serving a stint in the US military.

Navajo Code Talkers . . . we salute you!

Diné – what the Navajos call themselves. It means the people.

Diné Bizaad – the native language of the Navajo.

In Code Talker language:

Hitler was: He Who Smells His Mustache.

Mussolini was: Gourd Chin.

Amazingly creative, right?

In case you want to read about the Code Talkers on Wikipedia in their own words and language, please be my guest, and good luck!

What about you? Did you already know about the Navajo Code Talkers, or is this something you’ve never heard of?

If you are familiar with the real Code Talkers and their contribution to US history, do you think the movie Wind Walkers with Nicholas Cage portrayed them properly? I lean toward no. What do you think about that? We’d all love to hear!

Code Talkers 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chester Nez (1921-2014), last of the original WWII Navajo Code Talkers.

Chester Nez (1921-2014), last of the original WWII Navajo Code Talkers.

“All I thought when I went in the Marine Corps was they were going to give me a belt of ammunition, a rifle, a steel helmet, and a uniform. ‘Go and shoot (the enemy).’ That’s what I thought; but later on, they told us differently–different style, purpose of why they got us in.”  —Chester Nez, Navajo Code Talker, National Museum of the American Indian interview, 2004

 

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Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Just Connect Me, Dahling!


Robot waiter, butler background vector

Verella awoke to the sound of her wrist ringing.

Her wrist wasn’t really ringing, but the compact instrument strapped to it demanded her attention in a screechy, nagging tenor.

“Yes?” she whispered groggily, pushing her RESpond button. Her other hand rubbed her temple to quell the throbbing inside her head.

“Verella? Great! I caught you before you left the hotel. Send me another set of those charts we discussed this morning before you fly off to Beijing. What time is your flight anyway?”

While Mr. Hummph, Verella’s boss, blathered from the top side of her wrist bone, Verella struggled to control her rising ire. She tuned him out for a  femtosecond to gather her wits.

What the . . .? My plane leaves in four hours. Thanks to that global conference Mr. Hummph blared at 1 a.m. by setting off those gawdawful emergency X-Bells in our  laptops, I’ve had two hours sleep. I’ve got so much jet lag, I’ll probably run into myself sometime around noon. 

“Verella! Did you fall back to sleep?”

“No sir, I’m here. My flight leaves at 8. I’ll get those graphs to you in a few minutes, Mr. Hummph.”

“Minutes? Better make that seconds. Time is money, Verella, money. But you know that, you little globe-trekker you.”

Oh brother.

This week, Mr. Hummph’s globe-brokers, of which she was a part, but simply tagged as X705 to everyone but Mr. Hummph, were working in Beijing, Brussels, Moscow, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo and Never-Heard-of-It Nevada. Did that annoying man ever get any sleep? Lord knows she never did.

Verella dug her GPFX *GlobalPORTOTrans* from her purse, connected it to the laptop and issued a verbal code-connect-go. She stared at the purple pulses and wondered if Mr. Hummph could possibly be one of the new HU-ROBS already speculated to be infiltrating earth’s population. Of course, HU-ROBs were vehemently denied as myth, but exponential rumors about anything always adds up to something, Verella believed wholeheartedly.

Promising she would check out her suspicions when she returned stateside, Verella clapped her hands. Travel Tesauro, her constant travel assistant, whirred to life—his crimson, green and amber lights twinkling.

After a Command-String, TT – as she affectionately called him – instantly packed Verella’s suitcase, leaving the lid open for her pajamas after her morning toilette. He magnetically started the bathroom shower and waited for her with a warmed towel as she stepped out three minutes later.

While she sat in the hotel chair, TT presented Verella with a frothy latte and a power beet bar. TT’s front quadrant morphed into a giant clock with a second hand ticking away in Verella’s face. She allowed herself a long four minutes to relish her breakfast, thankful her assistant had made the latte lukewarm for fast downing.

A tray loaded with Verella’s makeup flipped out from TT’s left side. The tray exuded soft musicRobot 1 with a rousing under beat – one of the new music strips that soothed and hurried a person at the same time.

A peacock blue *Verella’s favorite color* panel glowed from TT’s other side as he awaited her makeup instructions for the day. “Moisturizer. Foundation. Enough rouge to cover my ghastly pallor. Comb out my eyelash extensions with the burr brush. Teal eyeliner. Relaxed eyebrows. Ratta-2-ee coral lipstick,” Verella commanded in soft tones.

After the last dab of robotically applied lipstick, TT zipped the suitcase closed and waited while Verella wiggled into her travel clothes.

Less than 30 minutes after arising, she emerged breathlessly from the Marriott Village d’Ile-de-France into a waiting cab, her freshly pressed suit crisscrossed with straps holding her TransGlobal-Connecting devices. TT carried her luggage and a medium-hot paper-cup latte for the ride to the airport.

While Verella settled into her plane seat for the flight to Beijing, TT worked at blinding speed to set up her in-flight office so she could begin working before takeoff.

She put her head back and sighed.Watching TT, she calculated she had at least sixty seconds before he completed his tasks – enough time for a few random reflections.

Thank the galaxies I became a biz-globe-broker and not one of those poor, weird women who manage households, she thought with a little shiver of disgust.

Their lives are so demanding.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course, this is satire, but do you think our connectivity might reach a point in which we scream, Enough! ?

Do you sometimes feel you are part of a surveillance society? As Orwellian as it sounds, we can now be contacted and/or observed anywhere in the world 24/7. Does that bother you? Personally, it doesn’t worry me that much. At least I can still choose WHEN and WHERE and HOW I want to be connected via computer, smartphone, etc. That gives me a bit of an illusion of retaining control.

Even if genuine seclusion is becoming a thing of the past, I can live happily in a 24/7 Connectivity World as long as I still control the finger that turns on *or off* all those connectivity devices! Make sense?

Make sense?

P.S. I recycled this post from a published article I wrote long ago. Understandably, I’ve had to seriously update the technological elements in the rewrite.

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches fall 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Don’t Just Sit There . . . WRITE!


Don't Just Sit There . . . WRITE!

Don’t Just Sit There . . . WRITE!

My personal advice to budding writers is not simply . . . WRITE! but dang near it.

Like all writers and novelists, I followed a myriad of roads to be where I am today. I can see that many of my roads were constructed of circumstances. Yet, the gritty asphalt of the highway leading to the inkwells of corporate writer, humor columnist, scribe, and author was built from pure tenacity.

Writing in the library, the car, in bed, on the toilet . . .

I’ve always written. In school, I loved nothing more than getting essay questions. I’d fill up the page and write on the back or in the margins of the test questions. Off and on, I kept diaries and journals. I wrote Christmas letters, poems, free verse. My letters to friends and family were dubbed “epistles.”

I volunteer-wrote for charities and ministries and rewrote safety manuals for an insurance company. I simply wrote . . . before I had children, while I was raising children, and after my children were adults.

What happened?

A little book happened.

Wherever I volunteered, I was always given some kind of writing task. Researching how to write press releases for my children’s school one fateful day, a little book practically fell off the library bookshelf and into my trembling hands. It was Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write, an archaic book written in 1938, of which Carl Sandburg said was “the best book ever written on how to write.”

Ueland essentially said that if a person wants to write, she or he will. By hook or crook, they will plow ahead. I can’t explain it, but that book inspired me to return to college and get my Business Management degree. Naturally, I had to sign up for something related to writing, and I decided on a journalism class.

It was the best decision I ever made.

Before long, I was a campus editor, and soon I was making professors laugh with my crazy brand of humor columns. I learned how to interview and take my own human-interest Journalistphotographs. I took a summer job at a small, local newspaper where we set up our own columns on an old Apple computer.

It turned into a circus-worthy balancing act with two children, a husband, and my penchant for keeping a dirt-free habitation, but I never stopped smiling!

What a ride!

If you ask, I will answer

It’s awesome to be honored with a question about your journey to an accomplishment. Recently I received a personal message on my author Facebook page from Skylar. She had just completed her sophomore year in high school, and she aspires to write books. She asked for my advice.

Skylar agreed that I could use her name, so here, in microchip fashion, is my advice for her and all budding authors:

Hi Skylar! Thank you for writing me. I’m happy to offer you a bit of writing advice. My journey to becoming a corporate writer and author came through journalism.

My college journalism courses taught me to “hook” my audience with my very first sentence, my first paragraph, and my first page. I highly recommend studying journalism because it also teaches you to write succinctly and to the point.

Let me also say that a highly developed sense of grammar and proper sentence structure/syntax undergirds all types of writing.

Creative writing course do not get my stamp of approval since they seem to focus on writing wildly descriptive sentences that, though fun to read, are not popular in our sound-bite culture. Learn to say a lot using powerful adjectives and few words.

Whenever you can, attend writing seminars and take online writing classes for fiction and/or non-fiction.

I was always a non-fiction writer, but I decided to challenge myself to take a fiction magazine-writing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature — a great institute, by the way. At the end of the course, my mentor, Chris Eboch, encouraged me to write a novel. I didn’t think it was possible, but she believed in me.

She was right! My third novel comes out this summer, and I’m already working on another one.

It hasn’t been easy, but nothing worthwhile falls into our laps without sweat equity and a burning desire to improve. If you really want to write, you will, and you’ll take every opportunity to get better at your craft. We writers never stop learning!

Good luck, Skylar, and keep me posted on your progress. Never hesitate to ask me anything, and if I can answer it, I will.

The Sky's the Limit, so WRITE!

The Sky’s the Limit, so WRITE!

 

And I’ll do the same for you.

 

 

 

 

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches summer 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.

Bungler or Ace . . . What Kind of Interviewer Are You?


Do You Struggle With Interviewing?

Stop Struggling. Conducting Award-Winning Interviews is a Matter of the Proper Ingredients.

The recipe for conducting an excellent personal interview can be compared to making a delicious cake.

Use the proper equipment, mix up a few high-quality ingredients, bake at the right temperature, add the icing, and voila! You have something the interviewee loves and others clamor to read or hear.

The Right Mixer = The Right Research

A high-quality mixer gives an advantage in producing a fancy cake just as research makes the difference in creating a powerful interview. The “mixer” in this case is the interviewer beefing up on the highlights of the life of the person about to be interviewed.

A person will be sitting across the table from you, or speaking to you via telephone or Skype. What has made them who they are right now . . . today? What have they designed, written, studied, invented, or changed? How have they affected others?

There are so many ways to discover factoids. I personally use the Internet, public library, business periodicals, company history pubs, trade rags, etc. If it’s important enough, you might consider conducting mini-interviews with family, friends, or colleagues. Without being a nuisance, you can learn a lot in a short time.

Of course, the amount of time spent on personal research directly correlates to whom you are interviewing, why, and how much time you have in your schedule. The fact remains that most people – celebrity, businessperson, politician, author, or Joe the Plumber – are complimented when an interviewer has taken the time to learn a thing or two about them.

No matter what you find out in this initial process, be open to listening to different versions from the people themselves. Unless you’re writing your interview for the National Enquirer, avoid gossip and hearsay.

High-Quality Ingredients = Respect, Sincerity, and Dynamic *appropriate* Questions


Pinup american military girl pulling sea anchorRespect
Set a time for the interview, and don’t be late. No excuses. If the person must cancel, be gracious in rescheduling another time. Use good manners, and don’t be disrespectful. Ever. You catch more fish with delicious bait than a sledgehammer, right?

Sincerity –  Don’t try to feign sincerity. Do you care about people? You’d better, or your phony earnestness will quickly become a throbbing blister on the heel of your credibility.

Questions Make your questions insightful and real. Ask things others haven’t thought of asking. Find out why Barbara Walters had the reputation for making interviewees cry during their interviews. (Hint: It wasn’t because she was mean!)

Something to keep in mind: attempting to fake yourself into the interviewees’ world will show up quickly in the question stage. Keep it real.

Don’t be rude, but do be persistent if you feel an appropriate question should be addressed. Save your hardest and/or most controversial question for last. Trust me, it works out better that way.

Be creative! The questions you design for interviews can define you as a Barbara Walters superstar interviewer or as an amateur wannabe. It’s up to you to study the greats and put your own spin and heart into each facet of your interviews.

Bake at the Proper Temperature = Finish with finesse

End on a positive note. Thank your interviewees for taking the time to talk to you. They didn’t have to, but they did. Be grateful.

If the interview is to be published, get busy and finish it while everything is fresh in your mind.

Icing on the Cake = Your Reputation

  • Don’t rat out your interviewees by blabbing things they told you in confidence.
  • If you promise a printed copy or a copy of a verbal script to your interviewees, be true to your word.
  • If you told them you would call them when the interview airs or comes out in print, do it!

Pin-up sailor girl on boat. Holiday abroadYou’ll be surprised how quickly your reputation as an interviewer will spread. Your integrity is on the line every time. If people trust you, they will tell others. Soon, you will be in demand, and that’s when the icing on the cake becomes your path to being an acclaimed interviewer.

Good luck!

 

Arrow

Feel free to wander around my website. It's guaranteed non-toxic.

If you like Sassy, Danger and Mystery, you'll love my any-age novels. Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT and Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: CANYON OF DOOM are available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller, on this website, Amazon, B&N.com and more. For your convenience, it’s also available on Kindlethe Nook and most other eBook readers.

Book Three of the Silki trilogy, VALLEY OF SHADOWS, launches summer 2016. Here's a quick synopsis:

Bummed that yet another summer has passed all too quickly, Silki and her best friend Birdie head out for one last hurrah at the Navajo Nation Fair. When the fun is overshadowed by the theft of a famous horse, Silki is plunged into a baffling adventure teeming with international undercurrents and intrigue. What’s more, boy-crazy Birdie is fluttering her eyelashes at Silki’s good-looking, visiting cousin at every turn, and Rez legend Old Man Concho is coughing up secrets dating back to 1942. What possible connection could he have to the Japanese tourists, and will Silki discover an ancient truth about the Valley of Shadows in time to save Lava, the leader of the Ghost Herd, as well as salvage her own broken heart?

Meet my CANYON OF DOOM AND VALLEY OF SHADOWS illustrator, the Drawing Hands.

Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas and grew up in Apache County on a cattle ranch near Concho, Arizona. She left the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love and exactly what she didn't want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised two children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional western articles and served as managing editor of a Fortune company newsletter. She currently resides in Texas and New Mexico with her husband, two Standard poodles, two rescue cats and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants. SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT is Jodi's debut novel and Book One of the Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves trilogy. CANYON OF DOOM came next, and VALLEY OF SHADOWS hits the shelves summer of 2016, completing this exciting and fun adventure-mystery set in the Navajo Nation. Next on the horizon? A historical mystery novel set in the 1930s told through the eyes of a sharecropper's daughter.