The Fin Is Dead; Long Live The Fin

My sweet two-tone '62, many moons ago

There are more than a million Priuses in the U.S. And if you live here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it might appear that 995,000 of the quietly efficient hybrids are here, doing their concerted part to combat the carbon demon. I have to applaud the mighty miles-per-gallon, the hearty hybrid powerplant, the eco-engagement of ownership—but frankly, the cars themselves leave me cold.

You see, I am guilty of forbidden love. I love the cars of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and lament the thought that they are reviled because of their drunken-carburetor consumption. For me, a car must be seasoned; like a good cigar, its oils must be developed. Naturally, in the course of that development, some of those oils might end up in your driveway, but that’s part of the romance of used car ownership: it’s a little like the affection you felt for your first girlfriend because she had a bit of a temper or crooked teeth. You have a relationship with your used car, you must negotiate—this can’t take place with these new robotic machines that go 100,000 miles before they need a tune-up. Where’s the challenge, where’s the evolution of your relationship with your car in that?

So, the flourishing of the Prius, the jolt of the Volt, the turning of the Leaf are all planetary plusses. But I fear the flare of a fin will no longer excite the eye, the capaciousness of a titanic trunk will no longer bewilder and thrill. Gas prices are once again fluctuating near their $4.00-and-climbing crime, and that pulsing of petrol sticks a sharpened fuel needle into the veins of classic car lovers. The carbon footprint of most 8-cylinder behemoths is Godzilla-like. But tally up cookie-cutter hybrids on the cool scale: zip, nada, nuttin’.

Gin-Dripping Rides and Fluid Drive
Some cars were engineered to leave those telltale deposits on your driveway, or so it seems. I had an ‘81 Jaguar that leaked everything: oil, power-steering fluid, transmission fluid, antifreeze—I’m pretty sure it was leaking gin before I sold it. My mechanic seemed to think it was perfectly normal. Of course I’ve had a guilt quiver or ten about the un-ecological consequences of owning these old gas guzzlers and oil drippers, but you have to look at the big picture: sure, I recycle, yes, I ride my bike when I could drive, I admit to once belonging to the Sierra Club and contributing to other Commie organizations—I’ve got to balance that with some forbidden pleasure, the delight of Detroit sin. Even an éminence grise of the environmental movement, Edward Abbey, had an abiding love for old Caddies, the ones that approach the length of the QE2, and he’s practically a saint.

My second car was a ’48 Dodge, a long, black voluptuous thing with suicide doors and a massive steering wheel. In that marvelous marketing vernacular, it possessed something called fluid drive, which allowed you to either drive away from a dead stop in high gear without using the clutch, or manually go clickety-clacking through the three gears on your way to its ponderous but satisfying top speed. That Dodge infused in me a need to find substance in a car, substance of look, of mass. Many of today’s cars seem to drive themselves; they are polite and transparent and subservient under the slight wiggling of your fingers at the wheel. That’s not a car, that’s a trained terrier. Give me a car like the ’62 Caddy I owned, a vast expanse of carchitecture, a car whose rear end was in another time zone.

Edvard Munch Express
Of course, they don’t all have to be as big as a 747 to be intriguing. I owned a ’58 VW bug (with a decayed rendering of Tweety Bird, possibly done by Edvard Munch, on the driver’s-side door) that was a mottled rainbow of colors, a car that wept at the sight of an upcoming hill. It was so small and I am so stringy-legged that I could sit my rear on the top of the driver’s seat and still be able to operate the pedals—with my head and shoulders out of the sunroof—so that summer driving was the pleasure it’s meant to be.

One of the sweetest vehicles I owned was a ’65 Galaxie 500, for which I paid less than $200. After I had some cheap valve work done, the fire-engine red Galaxie became a fire-breather: a charmer with the perfect V-8 purr, something that no computer-tuned lithium-ion-battery-pack buzzer will ever have. OK, OK, so 15 miles to the gallon isn’t truly economizing—knowing that when I leaned on the gas pedal I’d get that soulful sound and satisfying surge wasn’t something I put a price on anyway.

Strippers and Stolen Cars, Oh My!
There are a few other cars I’ve paid less than $300 for—and some of them even moved under their own power. However, one of the more interesting cars I’ve owned didn’t cost me a dime—until later. It was given to me and my Las Vegas housemate on the freeway spot where we picked up its frustrated driver. He’d left it for dead—a serviceable ’65 VW bug that simply had some problem with its coil wire. I was later able to legally register it (under something like an “abandoned vehicle” statute) as mine. Later, I drove it to Northern California, where I began college. I used it there for several months, so that I no longer even considered how oddly it had been acquired; it was my car.

Even when a uniformed police officer came to my English class and asked if there was a Tom Bentley there, I figured that it was my hair that had probably broken some law (my 1976 hairdo was very expressive). No, it seems I was in possession of a stolen car, of all things, and that I’d have to come to the station and straighten it out. It was easily straightened out: the car was owned by a woman in Vegas that had just loaned the car to our freeway cluck, and she’d discovered his poor stewardship upon her return from Japan, where she’d been touring with an entertainment group.

Her particular talent was removing clothing from the profound grounds of her architecture. (I found some black and white glossies of her in/out of costume in the trunk; she might put you in mind of Elly May Clampett after five vodka tonics, wearing a mail-order Lady Godiva wig).

Her name was (and might still be) Angel Blue. Under her name, the tag line on the glossies read: The Heavenly Body. As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up. And neither were the cops, who despite my protestations (and my registrations), took the car and gave it to Ms. Blue’s lawyer, who had tracked me to my academic lair. The real question I wanted answered was this: what was a stripper of Lady Blue’s talents doing with a ‘65 Volkswagen? Ah, America, where Flannery O’Connor could have one of her unforgettable characters, Hazel Motes, say, “Nobody with a good car needs to be justified.”

Atomic-Bomb Toasters and Eye-Popping Brassieres
I have to agree with that, and that’s why I once bought a ’64 Studebaker, long years after the company went out of business. Hey, it had a beautiful rear end (yes, absolutely true, every sexual association made about men and their cars), and some lovely instrumentation. And, since Studebaker parts are about as numerous as King Tut’s first digital recordings, I got to meet some of the upholders of the Studebaker’s tradition of independence, the parts suppliers I had to drive an hour and a half to get to. Just a poke to the right of Karl Rove, they provided me with intriguing NRA slogans on every repair receipt.

Of course, Mother Earth cringes a bit when pedals like that hit metal, so that today it’s almost embarrassing to drive some Detroit pride from the Mad Men era. But much as I admire the concept of today’s hybrids and electrics, I just can’t dig the feel. Old cars have such a different texture, being of an era when toasters were shaped like atomic bombs, and brassieres could poke out an eye. I had a ’63 Mercury Monterey that had such a nice heft in the wheel and an appealing “floating roll” when I swung it wide at speed. It had enough chrome on its long, wide bumper to blind drivers behind me, or at least melt their ice cream. The grandmothers of everyone I know could have played bingo in the trunk.

And some old wheels have such distinctive irregularities: My ‘64 Dodge Dart had a perfectly operating 8-track player. (For those of you too callow to remember the 8-track, it was an audio device used by Nero to play back his first recorded efforts on the fiddle.) But who am I kidding? Those cars really are beasts of another, more profligate time. I raise my mad martini to yesterday’s steel, and martini #2 to the Tesla, which at least has some style. The fin is dead; long live the lithium battery.

And who knows—maybe I can convert a ’64 Lincoln to run on vegetable oil….

Why You Should Write Like Katharine Hepburn Skateboards

Kate Hepburn Skateboarding

I love this photo of Kate Hepburn. Even though her both-feet-athwart stance seems to presage a butt-tumble to come, the fact that she’s cranking the angle shows she’s not just rolling a flat-foot-dead-ahead-I’m-terrified skate, but she’s going for it. Maybe it’s the only time Kate skated, maybe it’s just a publicity photo, but implicit in it is the kind of attitude confirmed by Hepburn’s bio: a brash kind of what-the-hell brio that was disarming and refreshing.

That’s what I think writers should do: push the angle a little, crank off some language that’s bolder or brighter, be willing to take a bone bruise to your writer’s elbows. I like to imagine Kate grinding on a curb in the Safeway parking lot, the security guard saying, “Hey lady, give it a rest!” From reading of her history, she rarely gave it a rest: she was opinionated, strong-willed and emotional, and it came out in her acting and her personal life. Whether you write for business, pleasure or both, writing doesn’t have any flavor unless you add some cayenne now and then.

The Long Hangover from a Word-Bender
When I was ten or eleven, I became slap-happy with words. I’d read the dictionary in chunks of pages, getting into the brief etymologies, mouthing the pronunciations. I remember running down to my best friend’s house, having memorized a line about a nice, old Volkswagen bus his highly educated parents had bought, so that I could spring on them something like “Congratulations on purchasing a well-restored vintage mode of transportation,” or some such gobbledygook. My friend’s dad just looked at me and laughed, though in a kindly way.

Despite regularly getting those kind of skeptical responses, I continued being a word-dweeb for years. The editor of my college paper was a guy who liked me and my writing, but one who accurately judged that my polysyllables-per-sentence count was choking many readers. He once titled an article of mine about an unconventional housing design near the college, “A Lot of Big Words About Housing.”

I’ve calmed down some from those days. I’m no longer so insecure about my writing that I have to forcibly lard it with fifty-cent words to make it seem worth something. But I’m still thrilled by language, still rifling through the dictionary, still wanting to goose a sentence with word-grease that makes it jump. So, take some chances with your writing: think of Kate Hepburn shredding in a half-pipe, no knee pads.

Bonus Celebrity “No Way!” Sighting
Agatha Christie was a surfer. I knew that Mark Twain did it in Hawaii (look for his tales of “surf bathing” in the Sandwich Islands), but Dame Agatha? Yes! I am hoping that one of you can find out whether Yogi Berra was a knitter.

Charles Dickens’s Five Rules of Compelling Copywriting

Detail from photographic portrait of Charles D...

Image via Wikipedia

Famed adman Charles Dickens (Oglivy stole everything from Charlie) started out as a struggling copywriter in London, at one point so desperate for work he scribbled his business address—he was also the first graffiti artist—on the legs of local trollops working the district.

But then Dickens had a revelation: he did a little fiction writing on the side, and wondered whether his attempts to sell buyers on the chewy goodness of hardtack biscuits would work if he tossed in some storytelling. Stories might deliver the needed ROB (Return on Bamboozling).


So he formulated his Five Rules of Compelling Copywriting, which sleazy scribes have cribbed from for more than a century. To wit:

Hit ‘Em with Headlines
Charlie dug that the headline is the hook. He landed big ones with whoppers like these:
A Whale of a Deal!
Call me (but call me Ishmael)

Finagle Your First Lines
Dickens doctored all the first lines of his marketing pieces with winning words:
For fresh fruit: “These were the best of limes, these were the worst of limes.”
For sandwiches: “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero sandwich of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

Never Short Your Sales Letters
You knew that Charlie pioneered the use of yellow highlighting in his sales letters, but you probably didn’t know that he perfected the use of the interminable sentence:

There once lived, in a sequestered part of the country of Devonshire, one Mr. Godfrey Nickleby: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason.

Charlie highlighted it all, of course.

Use Tongue-Torquing Character Names
For every vanilla “Bob” you’ve got selling your sparks, Dickens will give you a Wopsle, a Wackford Squeers or a Pumblechook.

Calls to Action that Crackle
Use tactics like pathetic, big-eyed urchins whimpering things like “Please sir, I want some more.” Dickens really knew how to yank hankies. (Hankies are always followed by wallets.)

And don’t forget his exemplary use of Random Capitalization and Emotional Outrage. They don’t call the guy “Mr. Gutbucket Sales” for nothing.

Next week, we’ll examine how Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People started out as a how-to book on trimming hedges.

Anatomy of A Failed Book Proposal

The deed to my deep holdings in the fabled Hollow

I’ve been copyediting the forthcoming Guide to Literary Agents 2012 book, and seeing all of the do’s and don’ts on sending your queries and proposals to agents reminded me that one of my big ideas for a book flamed out a little while back.

Since I was familiar with the fundamentals of writing a book proposal, I think I put together a reasonable effort, one that addressed the usual requisites of Synopsis, Chapter Outline, Sample Chapters, Market Overview, Platform, and Blithering On About My Background. If you Google “How to Write a Book Proposal” you’ll get results out of the yin-yang (wipe them carefully), but Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal (updated to its 4th edition) is considered a classic.

If you can no longer bear the act of reading words on a page (the horror!), you can listen to Ted Weinstein’s Book Proposal Bootcamp audio recording, which is quite good. He has other proposal-writing tips on his site as well.

It All Starts with a Drink. No, I Mean an Idea!
Of course, you need an idea for the book. Mine started with a callow, whiskey-drinking youth who, upon seeing a prompt on a Jack Daniel’s bottle urging fans to write the distillery, wrote something like this: “Why, not only do I enjoy consuming Jack’s finest in a conventional way, but I also brush my teeth with it, and keep a glass on my bedside table, at the ready to ward off night sweats and other less congenial spirits.”

Little did I know that would prompt a tide of strange letters and documents, and even stranger objects (a rabbit’s foot, rubbing stone, chewing tobacco, sippin’ glasses and more) sent from the distillery to me. My first return letter from them came 35 years ago. I received another a month ago and I’ve faithfully returned the favor back to them, quirky letter for quirky letter. Even when months would go by without receiving a letter, that’s a lot of correspondence, marketing gimmick or not. (A lot of whiskey too.)

Thus, my thought that were I to package up the correspondence, and scans and photos of the mailed oddments between us (sent through their sister organization, the Tennessee Squires), and include a kind running chronology/commentary of what was happening personally and socially over the course of the correspondence, that would make for a weird, whiskey-soaked memoir. Egads, a book!

Putting the Kibosh on the Korrespondence
Anyway, if you scan the proposal, you can see that it’s a fair amount of work to put one together. It was composed a while ago, so some of the info is out of date. But one issue that Little Tommy forgot (and which was pointed out only toward the end of sending it out to a number of agents): I don’t own the copyright to letters sent to me. And when I politely inquired of the Tennessee Squires (of which I am a bonafide landed-gentry member) if I could assemble all our correspondence in a book, they politely turned me down. I asked twice, but no go. They just weren’t interested in publicity about the Tennessee Squire organization. Or they didn’t like the smell of my breath, who knows?

Anyway, I still might publish a shorter recounting of all this high-proof business, because it’s amusing. The next proposal I write, about Hugh Hefner’s pajama collection, will have all copyright issues solved in advance.

Memories: The Long Arm of the Writer

A long time ago, I read an article where the writer suggested that Hemingway killed himself not because of his depression, but because of the treatment for his depression. The suggestion was that the electroshock had erased a good deal of Hemingway’s memory, and that a writer without memories is not a writer—and that that loss provoked Hemingway’s hand. However, much information has come out regarding his long-deteriorating mental and physical state prior to his suicide, and the loss-of-memory issue might have only played a minor part, if any.

The reason I bring that up is because I was down in Southern California this past weekend, spending some time with my mother to honor what would have been my father’s 94th birthday, his first birthday after his recent death. We went out to the graveside and saw the stone for the first time. My mother, in her natively collected and humorous way, remarked that it was a little odd to see her own name on the stone, which awaits what I hope is a long time to make claim to its inscription.

During the visit, my mother, sister and I shared memories of my father, a couple of which were new to me. That conversation in turn pushed me to rummage through my memory attic, blowing the dust off some crusted considerations of my boyhood long ago. It struck me that I hadn’t made good use of some of the eccentric characters I’ve known over time, many of whom are easy subjects for the kind of tales that evoke a “No way! That couldn’t have happened!” response from astonished or amused listeners.

Memories Are Writers’ Clay
It’s clear to me that most lives, whether you were raised in a dusty Ethiopian village of 100 souls or born to a gilded Manhattan penthouse, are suffused with character and incident that could fill books, if you selectively shaped the telling. And that working of the clay of character or incident needn’t be exclusive to fiction’s floor—the mad workings of the human animal are prime frameworks for engaging essays as well. (Note that libel issues can sometimes constrain a telling, though with the right makeup and hat, you can hide your pawn in plain sight on the narrative chessboard.)

I’ve seen enough peculiar and striking expression of the vagaries of our species to fill the memory banks—I’m going to start withdrawing some so the investment pays off. Poke around in your skull a bit, look at some old photographs, ask a relative about the time your great-aunt poured a drink on Maurice Chevalier’s head at a dinner party. Memories are material from which writers weave.

Bonus Bloggishness
I wrote a post of copyediting tips for the Men with Pens site last Friday. Putting the post together was fun, but it was more fun yet fielding the comments. Check it out.

Writers, When Awake, See Beneath the Surface

My girlfriend and I live on a small piece of property in Central California, a few miles from the sea. Though only minutes from the freeway, our neighborhood is semi-rural, with many neighbors owning several acres of land. Our little bit of sod is about 1/3 of an acre, essentially surrounded by open fields. Over the winter and into the spring, the field grasses grow high, drying to reedy, golden weeds, sometimes five feet tall.

And then, on an appointed day, a couple of the locals get on their riding mowers, and do an all-day mow, criss-crossing the territory in loud, patterned swaths of removal. That happened this weekend, and how we see is different: it’s like wearing welding glasses and having them fall off. Look, a cat, fixed but quivering, paws flexed in front of the gopher hole! A covey of quail, their topknots bobbing, busy harvesting seeds. And how did we not know that under the waving weeds, a clump of calla lilies stand shining?

Writer’s Slump
Writers are observers, but even observers fall into unseeing slumps. The buzzing of the hours, lunch followed by dinner, thoughts hovering on subjects well worn by prior thinking. You don’t actually see your work, your girlfriend, your very self. There’s a surface, and then there’s what’s underneath. What’s underneath is often new, bright and fresh—but that freshness is actually there all along. If you only tilt your head rather than hold it straight, not hold it expecting today’s fields to be the same as yesterday’s.

I’ve been feeling trapped in my mind of late, touchy, pessimistic, my thinking circular and petty. I’ve felt jealous of other people’s success, doubting my own path, my mind small and cramped. But the walkway to my Airstream office is lined with bright poppies, supple stems swaying in the wind. Gabbling goldfinches merrily dunk themselves in the deckside water garden. The flowers are impossibly bright.

Spring. Time again to see like a writer, see underneath the surface, to mow down the weeds of the small mind. Breathe.

PS When you’re all wrapped up in your small, sour self like I’ve been, it’s good to read something like Leo Babauta’s latest, 38 Lessons I Learned in 38 Years.

How to Find Your Why

One of my most esteemed, smart, good-guy writerly pals, Joel D Canfield (don’t you dare punctuate that “D”) is stepping out on a limb to offer his services and counsel in a new enterprise-cum-enchantment called Finding Why. I suppose this venture is not really stepping out on a limb for Joel, because he has built this philosophical tree of his over time, and this latest branching is sound. Here’s how Joel might have explained it in his own words. (Actually, these are Joel’s own words, pre-trademark violation):

“Too many people spend life stuck, going through the motions; believing they know what to do and how to do it, but never really clear on why. Finding ‘why’ makes ‘what’ and ‘how’ become clear. I want to help folks who are stuck being what the world expected to find their why, to find meaning and joy in life, and show the world who they really are.”

Joel proclaims that there are already 10,000 ringing words on the site. (Joel, these words weren’t selected at random, were they?) There’s also, “… hundreds of thousands to come. Free downloads. Room for conversation. A little insanity.” That “little” is Joel’s first effort at understatement ever. Well done, man!

I do suggest you hie on over to FindingWhy and find out why. Joel’s broad shoulders can bear the weight of the “Renaissance Man” title (while at the same time, I can see him well-fitted for jester’s shoes. But a canny, giving jester at that). He likes good beer, laughs freely and makes excellent pancakes. He will give you good Why.

The Editing and Style Guide Doffs Its Swaddling Clothes

As I threatened you with earlier, I’ve written a 55-page Easy Editing and Spiffy Style Guide that will make the world safe for clean copy and sterling style. The guide (whose handsome bookish face you can see—and click on!—to your right) is a collection of editing tips and advice for anyone who needs to spruce up the written word. Or at least ensure that their written words don’t have that telltale trace of toilet paper on their shoes when they emerge into society. You can try before you buy with this 8-page sampler.

As I explain on the landing page, the guide holds these within its happy walls:

• Best Practices in Editing—Learn how editing is critical to effective communication
• Editing Tools—How to use all editing tools to maximum effect
• Types of and Approaches to Editing—Harness the power of every editing stage
• Proofreading Methods and Examples—Don’t let typos tangle your efforts
• Editing Checklists—Perfect your documents, step-by-step
• Editing Resources—In-context URLs providing expanded editing knowledge
• Style Guide Covering Numbers, Possessives, Semicolons and More!
• A Pocketful of General Usage Tips

And, as the saying goes, much more! Oh yeah—it costs money. But not much, and it’s worth its weight in chocolate electrons if it saves you from the humiliation I felt
years ago, when as the copyeditor of a big software company I let the annual product guide go out with the incorrect 800 number on the order page—a number I’d seen approximately 101,000 times.

Oh yeah—the guide’s kinda funny too.

What Does Editing Have to Do with Potatoes?

Let’s consider a nice serving of mashed potatoes, hot and buttery. Most cooks probably don’t think too much about preparing their potatoes, so it’s often a rote task, hurried through to get to the entree. But what if those potatoes were served with panache, with some kind of style point or spicy twist? Say you were served potatoes with a tiny derby hat on them. You’d remember those spuds, wouldn’t you?

You’d probably remember them even more, if under the tiny derby was a clump of hair. Wouldn’t that drag an interesting expression of creativity into an unappetizing corner? The reason I bring up potatoes, derby hats and unwanted hair is a point I want to make about editing. Competent editors are able to shape the standard serving of potatoes so that it’s without lumps, smooth and palatable. Good potatoes, but still just potatoes.

Better editors recognize when a piece of writing has a derby hat in it—they would never take that hat out, robbing the writer of a unique angle or voice. They’d find a way to allow the hat to fit snugly in its potato surroundings, fully expressive of its quirk and charm, without it seeming unnatural or foreign. And of course, a good editor would remove that hair—typos, kludgy expressions, dully passive voice, et al—posthaste.

Seeing What’s Missing from the Plate
Another skill possessed by a good editor is recognizing when something’s missing. If you don’t provide the reader with a fork, they can’t fully enjoy those potatoes. Some pieces of writing are strong, but they might have gaps in logic, or need to be buttressed by a few more starchy facts. Good editors notice if the writing meal is missing ingredients, and they know how to persuasively suggest adding them so that the writer chefs promptly step back up to the stove.

Of course, editors should always recognize when that potato serving is too big. I remember one of my first copywriting jobs out of college, writing catalog copy for an outdoor equipment retailer that sold a lot of camping goods. One of our products was the Backpacker’s Bible, which was a tiny book that gathered some of the most powerful/popular Bible verses (no “begats” allowed). My first round of copy for it had the line “The best of The Book with all the deadwood cut away.” [Note: for some odd reason they didn’t use my copy.]

And editors recognize when something’s just off. If you’re serving your potatoes to Lady Gaga, you don’t want her wearing her octopus-tentacle bra tinted some neutral shade of grey, do you? It cries out to be Day-Glo puce! If writing has a certain rhythm established, and the rhythm, without context, goes awry, a good editor will re-establish that rhythm. And the proper bra color.

You Don’t Mean He’s Trying to Sell Us Something?
Why is he going on like this, about potatoes and bras? Easy. I’m getting ready to unleash The Write Word’s Easy Editing and Spiffy Style Guide on the world, perhaps as soon as this week. It’s a 55-page ebook chockablock with editing potatoes and other good stuff. And unlike my first couple of ebooks—available here for free—I’m going to charge money for it. But it’s worth it, because it will keep the hair out of your potatoes, while preserving the stylish hats. The guide is filled with editing tips, so that you don’t have to pay me to be the potato masher. Look for its buttery goodness soon.

Writers Need More Than Their Lonely Keyboards

Yes, I have reached the point where I manipulate you with puppy pictures

The writer’s life can be an isolated one, where you, sequestered near your gnat-swarming compost heap, concentrate on your compositions, in between bouts of bitterly denouncing 14-year-olds who get publishing contracts for writing YA novels about zombie-vampire aliens who look like rutabagas (albeit sexy ones).

Wait, you mean I’m the only writer forced to scribe next to the compost bin? No matter. What I’m actually getting at is that in these cyberspheric times, writers don’t have to be the lonely Kafkaesque wretches that they were in the past. They can be connected wretches, which is so much more sociable.

In that light, I’ve listed below some of the sites and personas from which I get good writerly info, or where I can pull up an electronic chair and sit a spell (to be spellbound), or where I know the site’s owner always provides food for thought. Any thought leftovers I just put in that nearby compost bin.

This list is by no means exhaustive, because that would be exhausting. Nah, it’s just me picking among the URL wildflower patches. Please list any good bouquets of your own if you’re of a mind to.

Blogging, Copywriting, Writing and General Good Info
Men with Pens
All Freelance Writing
Freelance Folder
Write to Done

Idea Sparking and Entrepreneurship
Seth Godin
Jonathan FieldsArt of Non-Conformity
The Fluent Self
Chris Brogan

Publishing and Such
There Are No Rules
Guide to Literary Agents
Query Shark
The Rejectionist

My Pals (Who Have Gotta Lotta Soul Savvy)
Below are some personable folks who are all smart cookies, and I’m happy to be their friend; many of these are their business sites, where they can help you with copywriting, marketing, presentations, graphic design, world-changing, and of course, dentistry. Some of them I’ve only exchanged electrons with (wearing protection, of course), but I have intuited from the lovely letter choices they make in their writing that they are good folks.

Jodi Kaplan
Megan Morris
Becky Blanton
Rick Wilson
Joel and Sue Canfield
Michael Knowles
Jule Kucera
Chris Landry
Ricki Schultz
Rich Luhr
Annie Dennison
Mary Louise Penaz
Marcos Gaser (Brush up on your Spanish)
Bob Poole
Jai Joshi
Pace & Kyeli
Bernd Nurnberger
Sue Greenberg

If I forgot you, it’s not because I don’t love you any more. It’s the pain pills (plus the cocktails) from the hip surgery. Remind me and I’ll add you. For $100. And a new compost bin.

And I would put my mother on here too, but she just won’t start her damn blog. Sheesh!