Words that Mean Nothing


Sad, but true: Sometimes, some words add nothing to the page. Poor things, but a fact's a fact. And you know what? We use the words anyway. Andrea Ayres-Deets blogged about weak words on Uberflip Blog. Reader Adele Ver Steeg (Des Moines) forwarded the blog to me. Here are five words Andrea calls weak:
  1. Really - as in "The swimmer really performed admirably." As Andrea points out, we'll be just fine with, "The swimmer performed admirably." "Really" does nothing to enhance our vision as reader.
  2. Things/Stuff  - as in, "The article said a lot of things and stuff." Unless your readers are teenagers, whose very lives revolve around things and stuff, these words are really (oops) vague. Using those words is like telling the reader, "Just go figure out for yourself what things and stuff I'm writing about."
  3. I believe/I feel/I think - If you're the writer, don't we know automatically this is what you believe, you feel, you think? Andrea says inclusion of those words changes the focus of the sentence from being on the subject to being on the author. Good point, unless the author's intent is to be the center of attention.
  4. Was/Is/Are/Am - Which seems more engaging: "The letter was mailed by Sally," or "Sally mailed the letter"? Depends, I guess, on whether you want to be told what happened (passive voice) or to see Sally in action (active voice).
  5. Very  - as in "Scientists are very interested in ..." They're either interested or not.  Andrea quotes Mr. Twain: "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete (the word) and the writing will be just as it should be."

So back to Adele, who says, "I've been "thinking about which five words are my writing saboteurs. Maybe this could be a Words survey?" Adele makes a perfect suggestion here-which is not surprising since she's a redhead. So, please:


Send us a few of your word saboteurs and how you deal with them-or how you are going to deal with them once you finally get around to it. Send your response to  marykayshanley@gmail.com with Writing Saboteurs in the Subject line.


And do read Andrea Ayres-Deets' blog:


whttp://hub.uberflip.com/h/i/19920605-5- weak-words-that-are-sabotaging-your- writing?utm_source=outbrain&utm_ medium=cpc&utm_term=b2b-content& utm_content=b2b-content&utm_campaign =blog







Three Green Rats-An Eco Tale

 By Linda Mason Hunter


Reviewer Keely is a vociferous reader. 

Of books, she shares:  

Too many to choose; Too many to choose; Any
time, anywhere (except I get car sick); Reading brings me joy YAHOO!

 In second grade, my teacher did a lot of teaching about recycling and Three Green Rats reminded me of that. Recycling makes the world better for future generations. I'm in fifth grade and am 10-1/2.


Three Green Rats-An Eco Tale

should be recommended to children of all ages who enjoy tales that are funny, odd, adventurous and cleverly written. This tale is a fairly quick read about living in the balance of nature. The Green brothers - Oli, Will and Tom - are resourceful, not needing to buy much from Rat Mart because they've learned to make items around them into everyday supplies. They Three Green Rats are, well, "green." Maybee is the Green brothers' friend, and Maybee's aunt  founded the Super Duper Big Box Store. The lane where the Green brothers live will be the site of the first market. But the brothers don't want to vacate their property, announcing, "No way! It's our

patch and nobody can make us leave!"

Oli, Will, Tom and Maybee intrigued me because of their own unique characteristics. Oli is rough but still nice. Will sounds imaginative, curious and fun. Tom doesn't speak much, but when he does, he's wise. And at first, Maybee seems unimportant, but she learns to make her small voice heard. In the end, do the Green Brothers have to move? You'll have to read the book to see.

Although I love this book, there are still some things I would change. For instance, there was only one female protagonist and three male protagonists; I mean, come on, girls are resourceful, too! Also, if there isn't going to be a sequel, Three Green Rats is too short. I wanted to read this book over and over. I give this book 4.99999... stars out of 5. Note to the author: You must write a sequel!



For a personalized, autographed copy:

FYI: Linda Mason Hunter (Des Moines) is a pioneer in America's green movement. Since her first book, The Healthy Home: An Attic-To-Basement Guide (1989) she has authored 12 books about architecture, design and living in balance with nature. Three Green Rats is her first work of fiction. Suzanne Summersgill (Vancouver, British Columbia) is co-author/illustrator.


Greetings from Mary Kay Shanley

Can life get more exciting than this? In August, our son Jason married Alina Kiessling from Melbourne, Australia. In September, we ran The Rule of 10 Contest in Words. In October, the contest winners were chosen. Now, here we are in November, announcing the winners' names. That's quite a four-month run of exciting events.


The Rule of 10 Contest, you'll remember, invited readers to submit original sentences that absolutely require an exclamation mark. I had crafted the contest after noticing that people are putting an ! on everything but their grocery shopping list. Such over-use waters down the drama of the ! which we do not want to do since the is already thin.


Reader entries were forwarded to Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Illustrator Tom Lichtenheld to judge. Appropriate since one of their books is Exclamation Mark (Scholastic Press). They selected a first-, second- and third-place winner. And their winning sentences are - drum roll here -



First Place Winner

So, you're telling me that before your daughter went on vacation with her live-in boyfriend Susan Hoffert

to his family's reunion, she hinted that they might stop in Vegas on the way home, and instead she went into labor and birthed an 8-pound baby, which no one was expecting, not even the ultrasound nurse who was looking for a kidney stone!   

From Susan Hoffert of Newton, IA  


Second Place Winner

Entry:        Freeze!

From Elodie Opstad of Indianola, IA


Third Place Winner

Just thought I'd let you know that you have given me a phobia about using an exclamation point!  

From Peg Shelton of Des Moines


(Susan Hoffert later shared that her sentence was about a real-life situation. I say good grief to that.)

Thanks to Amy and Tom, who each have successful Amy Rosenthal Tom Lichtenheld solo careers in addition to working together on many children's books, including New York Times Bestsellers Duck! Rabbit! and Exclamation Mark. Dubbed the "Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of children's books," Tom and Amy continue their creative collaboration on two new books, I Wish You More and Friendshape, both releasing in 2015.

If you like unique children's books, please spend time visiting the author's and illustrator's Websites. You'll find a boatload of books for the youngsters in your life -- but you'll probably want to read them before you give them away.



And Now - A Review of Exclamation Mark


By Craig Graziano, Youth Services Coordinator, Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Fredericksburg, VA


Who knew punctuation had so much pathos? Exclamation Mark stands out from all the periods around him. He tries fitting in, but that line above his head just makes him stand out so much! He must eventually face the fact that he is different. At first, it does not feel good.


Amy Krouse Rosenthal creates rules for these punctuation marks and sticks to them throughout the story, making their dialogue fit with their types. When Exclamation Mark meets Question Mark one day, he is bombarded by inquiries. "Do you like frogs? What's your favorite ice cream? When's your birthday?" and so on.


Overwhelmed by all these questions, Exclamation Mark yells, "Stop!" With that one word, he realizes that his differences offer the potential to be exciting and wonderful.


Tom Lichtenheld's illustrations are appropriately sparse, committed as they are to a story about tiny dots and dashes. I love that the whole book takes place on the sort of lined paper people use when they are just learning how to write.


Rosenthal's story is a splendid metaphor for anyone who feels like an outsider. Exclamation Mark would be great for children starting school, especially those who may feel badly about being told to quiet down or stop asking questions.


The book could also help them to understand the concepts behind these symbols. Read it with your children and discuss the differences among the characters. Soon, your children will have a solid foundation in the art of punctuation. If only the authors would write one for adults about semi-colons, I'd be set!


Reprinted with permission from the LibraryPoint Blog, published by the Central Rappahannock Regional Library


 Writing from the Soul II
-- A Retreat for Women

April 15-18, 2015


Joyce Rupp and I extend an invitation to all participants in the Writing from the Soul I retreats in Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota to join us for Writing from the Soul II. Here, you are encouraged to go inward more deeply and stretch out further. The format is similar to that of the first retreat, although there will be more quiet time. The focus will be on you as writers, listening to and learning from one another's creativity as you hone your writing skills. The retreat is limited to 40 participants.


Writing from the Soul II takes place at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in Norwalk, IA, seven miles south of Des Moines. Retreat opens the evening of Wednesday, 15 April, and closes Saturday noon,18 April. Overnight accommodations will be available at nearby motels.


For more information and/or to register: