Wednesday, December 6, 2017

oh no! not another one!

This grammatical pet peeve (a new one now) is nothing if not downright funny. At first, I thought it was only this one waitress who said this, but then a few days ago my very own grandson said exactly the same thing! What is it?
First the waitress, when she saw that our coffee was getting low, she said:
"I'll go grab yourguys's coffees." First off, I hope she doesn't ever grab coffee. It could be quite dangerous, given the usual meaning of "grab"--but what is "yourguys's"?

Then my grandson, whose English is usually quite good, was driving my husband and me somewhere and then "to yourguys's house."  Very kind of him indeed, but he was really embarrassed when I pointed out that there was no such word as "yourguys's", a simple "your" will suffice. He said he knew that and couldn't believe he'd actually said that non-word. Then not ten minutes later he said it again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

pet grammatical peeve

So often, I find that what I want to blog about is one of my pet peeves. And so it is today. I don't know if I've posted this one before, but I just came across it in a book I purchased on Saturday at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. It's one of the for Dummies books, so that might account for this, but I don't think so.

My complaint is this. Many people who have university degrees in such things as creative writing or English literature, seem to think of themselves as experts in English grammar. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.

My bachelor's degree is in linguistics. I took countless courses in literature: English, Canadian, French, French-Canadian, Russian (both classical and Soviet). None of the lit courses qualified me as a grammarian in any of those languages. My expertise (and I believe 40 years of experience does make me an expert) comes from teaching English as a Second Language.

Today, in Writing Children's Books for Dummies, I came across a section in Chapter 7 about creating compelling characters. Page 127, to be exact. The subtitle was "Toss out passivity and indefinites." I'm sure the gist of the advice was very good. My complaint is the constant misuse of the term "passive voice" in books and articles and journals, etc., directed at writers. So many of these people want to toss out the verb "to be" labelling it as "passive". NONSENSE

In The Grammar Book--an ESL/EFL Teacher's Course, by Marianne Celce-Murcia and Diane Larsen-Freeman (Newbury House Publishers, Inc., Rowley, Massachusetts 01969, USA, 1983) the passive voice is addressed in chapter 17. (That sentence was written in the passive voice.)

Unfortunately, I don't have the most recent edition, so the page number and chapter citation may be different in the newer editions. However, the grammar has not changed. In the second paragraph of the chapter, on page 221, there is this statement (NB, this is not in the passive voice as the Dummies book would have you believe): "...English is a 'subject-verb-object' language and that common alternatives to the S-V-O order are S-O-V and V-S-O." The text goes on to give an example for the active voice." I'll try to avoid direct quotes here as there are some comments that direct the reader to earlier chapters.

The point is this: "John sketched the picture." (Subject John, Verb sketched, Object the picture) is an example of a sentence in the active voice. If we say "The picture was sketched by John." we now have a passive voice sentence. We did this by putting the object in the position of the subject and gave it a form of the verb "to be" which was immediately followed by the past participle of the main verb. We could have left it like that if we didn't want to accuse John of sketching it. However, here we added the original subject as the object of the preposition "by"--thereby creating the typical passive voice sentence. Passives are particularly popular with newspapers and other places where the writer might wish to omit the name of the perpetrator of the action.

Just having a form of "to be" in a sentence does NOT make it passive.
I wish those who pretend to be grammarians would first check with those who truly are.
There. That's my pet peeve for today,

SiWC 2017

Yesterday evening I arrived home after four nights in one of my favourite hotels, Accent Inns in Burnaby.
Unfortunately, I didn't get my dates straight in enough time to fulfill my volunteering obligations, and had to cut down my time at the Surrey International Writers' Conference to only Saturday--missing all of Thursday, Friday and Sunday. However, it was not time wasted.

At the conference, I went into the room I would have to be in for the next workshop in order to introduce that speaker. Luckily, the early workshop was ""The Whirlwind Researcher" presented by Kearsley. Very worthwhile! As was Greg Van Eekhout's "Middle Grade: Beyond the Formula."

After lunch, I tried a workshop on writing short stories, but I was very sleepy and had to leave. So that was it for the conference for me.

Next year, I'll reserve the hotel room sometime before summer for the October conference, and I'll sign up as a participant, not a volunteer.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

summer of 2017

I don't remember the date it started, but I could easily look it up. It's the forest fires (aka wildfires, a term my husband doesn't like).
This province has been on fire all of July and is still an inferno. Here, in Penticton, BC, where I live, we've been lucky. For the most part. First, before the fires started, we had rain and floods. I thought that would be a good thing, because this part of the world has wildfires every year--nothing new. So, with all the spring rain and run-offs and snow meltings, resulting in flooded basements for my neighbours (I don't have a basement) that would mean there wouldn't be fires. Unfortunately, the excess rain and flooding made the fire situation worse. Who would have thought? Apparently, the water made the grass in the forests grow faster and taller, so when the sun came out and heated everything up, the grass turned to tinder. Hence we have the worst wildfire situation in BC history.

As I said, we've been lucky. We weren't flooded, and as for the fires, the worst we've had is really nasty smoky air and all our beautiful mountains shrouded in grey smoke.

Today, and yesterday we had some blue skies. First time since last June, I think. But the fire hazard is still threatening. We could easily be the next fire victims. Thousands of people in the northern part of the province have been evacuated, and are living in temporary accommodations until heaven only knows when. All it would take to put us in that position, would be some idiot tossing a cigarette into the bush, or one simple thunderstorm complete with lightning. Yup, we're a risk, but lucky so far.

Friday, June 2, 2017

back to writing about writing

The travel rants are done. But not necessarily all the traveling. I just had a four day rest in Vancouver. Keeping busy, of course. I was able to see several friends and a grandson, so that was great. I also had a very special honour. The Faculty of Arts at UBC (my alma mater, of course) had invited me to be an alumni representative on the stage, greeting new grads as they paraded across the stage receiving their degrees. I was the first person ever to greet each PhD recipient with the words, "Congratulations, Doctor!"  Thrilling! (Robed in university regalia and processed in with the Mace and dignitaries, WOW!)
But that's not about writing!
Today I'm here at my desk, at Cowork where I rent my lockable desk and come to be away from all distractions) and writing.
My novel, HOUSE OF SECRETS, has been "finished" for several months now. But I still see things I want to fix. Meanwhile, I'm sending out queries to agents.
The first agent I pitched this to was Laura Bradford at the SiWC (Surrey International Writers' Conference) in October 2015. Laura asked for the first 100 pages, with some significant changes. I did the rewrite and sent it to her the following September. No response, so I guess no sale.
So, I continued working on book 2 of the trilogy (BABY'S BREATH), and tweeking HOUSE OF SECRETS.
Since my return from Europe, I've added to my work schedule the task of researching more agents and submitting queries. To date, I've queried Michael Hoogland at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. Unfortunately, he has already passed on my novel. However, I now have queries out to Sue Miller at Donaghy Literary Group, Cori Deyoe at Three Seas Literary Agency and Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
No more of this nonsense of submitting to one agency or publisher and waiting for an eternity for a response--or lack of one. More and more agents are saying they expect the submissions to be simultaneously sent elsewhere. They only want to be advised if and when someone actually accepts the novel and makes an offer. I can do that!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Adventures in Travel

This will (probably) be the last post about the January 9 to February 9, 2017 trip to Europe and the UK.  Just because I want to move on to other topics. However, I did want to say a few words about the actual traveling.
I really love traveling--that is to say, I love seeing other countries, hearing other languages (and trying out the few words I might know in those languages), and meeting people who live in these "strange" (to me) places.
What I don't love is airports. Not even a little! I especially don't love big airports. So, this recent trip had moments, quite a lot of moments, that didn't help my temperament. Probably, exacerbated my annoyances with my travel agent. I should say that she was a very pleasant person, and other than the fact that she didn't think my travel plans were any of my business, she was in many ways, helpful. One thing she did that I was very grateful for, was she lent us her father's wheelchair for my husband. Without that, I really don't know what we would have done!
But this is mainly about airports. Given what I have just said, look at this list and you will understand why I spent most of the thirty days abroad filled with great frustration.
January 9th, we went to the little airport in Penticton. Fine. Not one of the big ones where we have to race from one gate to the next. But the frustration began because of the weather. Traveling in January, one expects weather problems, but this was a bit soon. The wind was too much and in the wrong direction or something, so we sat there for at least two hours for the wind to allow us to go.
At the Vancouver airport (YVR is my least favourite), we had to wait for a few hours because of a medical emergency on the plane we were supposed to be boarding.
Next stop: Frankfurt. Bad weather all over Europe was shutting down some airports, obliging us to wait for a few hours there. So by the time we got to Rome (you'll remember we didn't have any reason to go to Rome), we were thoroughly fed up with waiting. But, of course, that was a stopover, so we had to wait until the next day (in a comfortable hotel, though), for our next flight.
Ho hum. Airports--I hate them, even when the delays are not their fault!
Once in the air, however, I love traveling.
Crossing the Alps! From Rome to Prague

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Nearing the end of the journey. Leaving Edinburgh, we went by train to Aberdeen and on to Inverurie, to visit relatives.
Why Edinburgh, you ask? As well you may. Initially, we had a dream list--that's all it was, just a dream list. Unfortunately, the travel agent liked it too, and immediately went ahead and booked (and paid for with my credit card) more flights than we really (in real life) wanted to do. Oh, sure, it would have been nice to have our visit to Assisi, but unfortunately, we realized that it was not practical for my husband with his physical limitations. But, the agent had already booked Assisi, including the Rome stop, before we had a chance to tell her to go ahead. I had told her that I wanted to book the accommodations and would let her know when that was done so she could book flights. But, she didn't listen and it was none of my business.
The same thing happened with Edinburgh. We had hoped to stay at Borthwick Castle. My husband and I had stayed there once before, and we wanted our son to see it. Unfortunately that was fully booked. Nevertheless, the agent had once again booked the flight to Edinburgh. And arrival and departure dates at a hotel. That stop was really unnecessary, but it was already done before we had any chance to confirm our plans.
The rest of it, the trip to our relatives' home, was pretty much as we expected it to be and was certainly the best part (tied with London).
So, aside from resting with loved ones, what did we do? Well, one day we spent touring Glenfiddich Distillery and tasting the best Scotch whiskey there is.
And another day, we headed for the Highlands, and visited another battleground, Culloden.