Goodbye, McSheff


We lost a coworker this week. Early fifties. Heart attack. Seemed healthy and fit. A cheerful, optimistic, energetic person. He broke all the death rules, damn it. His passing has reminded us that sometimes, no matter how many safeguards you carefully stack in place, when your time’s up, it’s up.

He was always smiling and cracking jokes. Ready to spring into action immediately if you had a tech problem. His students pay him the ultimate teacher compliment. “He made history interesting.” (History is interesting, duh. But that’s beside the point.) So, then, what is the point?

I guess the point is that he’s gone. His humor and cheerfully flaunted weirdness. His goodwill and helpfulness. His classroom is right above mine and sometimes it sounded like a herd of elephants was performing gymnastic stunts up there. I’m going to miss that noise.



Blog Post #1

I feel inspired, finally, to begin the first of a series of weekly blogs about writing. Yes, I’m writing about writing. And, I enjoy reading about writing, so hopefully, this will all work out.
My first topic: a highly descriptive list of my favorite writing related things. Warning: this list will have no resemblance to Maria’s list of favorite things in the Sound of Music song. I have never liked that song. My apologies to my friend, Amy Huffenus (a.k.a. “Miss H.”), who loves all things von Trapp. Plus, why is the “von” not capitalized, but the “Trapp” is? Inconsistency. Another annoying thing about that film. Although, I did find the movie useful during my youth. When I was about thirteen, I used to stand on a kitchen chair and imitate Mother Superior singing Climb Every Mountain with a majorly exaggerated vibrato. My act was always a big hit at sleepover parties. I no longer perform this song for anyone, not even thirteen year old girls. (I’m not currently more mature than I was when I was thirteen, just more cynical and less of an attention whore.)
So, here is my list of favorite writing things, edited down because it’s long and quite possibly boring. I’ll stick with the three most interesting items on the list (interesting for writers, anyway).
Writers, English teachers and their ilk often have not only favorite parts of speech, but also favorite punctuation marks and favorite writing utensils. My favorite part of speech is, of course, the action verb. (No brainer.) Every twenty- first century writer needs to love action verbs. Adjectives are boringly mid-Victorian. Adverbs have never been in. You’re supposed to murder them all, according to Stephen King, who is a highly reliable authority on both writing and murder. Nouns are merely a necessary evil. If you’re writing a book, you need to name things. (But I’m saving the of naming things for another blog. And I intend to use the action verbs’ present participles Titling and Naming as my title.)
My second favorite item in this list is (parentheses). That’s not an aside, it’s me revealing my favorite punctuation mark. As you can observe in the paragraph above, parentheses allow the writer to digress often and obnoxiously but nonetheless punctuate these digressions correctly. (Insert blissful sigh.) I also love the way the plural form of the word parenthesis changes the second to last letter from “i” to “e” before you can add the “s”. Which brings me to one of my favorite words: idiosyncrasy and its many derivatives, idiosyncratic, idiocyncraticness and of course, my favoritest of them all, the action verb form: idiosyncrasize (which, of course, is totally made up, as is idiocyncraticness, but aren’t they wonderful?)
The last item on my favorites list is twofold (three if you count typing on a computer). Best writing utensils. I once had a writing teacher who encouraged her students to write by hand sometimes, to see what they could come up with, because writing by hand gives you a majorly different product. Why? Because you have to slow down and form the letters. When I write by hand, my mind tends to rush ahead and I can’t get my thoughts down fast enough and I lose some of them. Perhaps, however, I’ve simply lost the same “little darlings” whom I would have been compelled to murder if I had actually written them down. This whole paragraph so far should be encased in parentheses most likely. So, let me finally get to the point. For pencils, I like super sharp black, triangular Dixon Ticonderogas with black erasers. And they can’t be whittled down too short. For pens: mid-priced (never the cheap ones because they don’t glide) blue gel pens. With these blue gel pens, I prefer to write cursive capital “L”s. It’s the glidingest letter in the whole alphabet.
So, there you have it. Parentheses, action verbs, black, triangular Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, super sharp with black erasers and blue gel pens. If you ever bring up this topic in a social situation, you’ll know you’re in a majorly nerdful group of like-minded writers, English teachers and their ilk, if people start interrupting each other all over the place to shout out things like, “I prefer the yellows, but you’re right on one point; they have to be Dixon Ticonderoga.” Another yells out “Semi-colons!” And yet another “Hyphens!”
(The End)
P.S. Stupid puns, like the point I made about my favorite pencil (twice), are another obnoxious English teacher-type thing.