January 6, 2015

Test Your Knowledge on the 2014 Word(s) of the Year



ON THE 2014


The word of the year for 2014 has been selected.

Rather, the words of the year have been selected.

Take the following quizzes to test what you know about these words.


Match the words (on the first list) with the dictionaries that chose them as their word of the year (on the second list) and then match the words (on the first list) with their definitions (on the third list).

Before you begin, I wrote a sentence using all six words: During 2014 we have had exposure to the vape culture, have overshared the heart emoji, and photobombed many photographs.


  1. Culture
  2. Exposure
  3. The heart emoji
  4. Overshare
  5. Photobomb
  6. Vape


  1. Oxford Dictionaries
  2. Merriam-Webster
  3. Chambers Dictionary
  4. Collins Dictionary
  6. Global Language Monitor (GLM)


  1. Variations of the symbol for love; an ideograph, not a word at all
  2. To inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device”  as a noun for the e-cigarette and for the act of inhaling itself.
  3. A nation, a workplace, an ethnicity, a passion, an outsized personality. The people who comprise these things, who fawn or rail against them
  4. Too much information
  5. Variations of the symbol for love; an ideograph, not a word at all
  6. The condition of being exposed to danger or harm; the act of bringing to public attention, especially through media coverage; publicity; an act or instance of bringing to light, revealing, or unmasking crime, misconduct, or evil; disclosure of something private or secret.

November 15, 2014

My Writing Achievement Photographed





The November 14, 2014, WordPress photo challenge is challenge/achievement: show us a photo that says “achievement” to you.

My writing is where I’ve recently achieved much. So how do you show writing in photographs?


I’m constantly asked when I will complete my novel. It’s coming. Slowly. Because this historical romance uses real names (from the post-American Revolution)—General Henry Knox, General Henry Jackson, William Duer among them—I must use caution in my historical detail. This takes time and concentration.

It was likewise with my magazine article that was published just last month. It took me almost four years to write.

The article, about a musical piece, Flight of Valor, which was commissioned by the Somerset County Community Band and honors Flight 93. I’m certain you recall that the September 11, 2001, Flight 93 crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

I took the music, which follows the events of the day, and interspersed stories of Westmoreland County persons involved in the after-crash activities. I interviewed many persons, and verified their statements with documents. The article is just under 4,000 words. This is my latest writing challenge/achievement, published in Westmoreland History, a publication of the Westmoreland County Historical Society in Pennsylvania.

Back to the photography. I turned to my art workshop editing and made collages of the article against a backdrop of the original Flight 93 memorial site. This is the result: FLIGHT OF VALOR 02BE


Read about the music  Flight of Valor: Honoring United Airlines Flight 93 Victims . To purchase the expanded article in Westmoreland History contact the Westmoreland County Historical Society, (724) 532-1935,  or stop in at their location at 362 Sand Hill Road – Suite 1,  Greensburg, PA 15601

On a smaller scale, I achieved writing a story about (more…)

August 14, 2014

A Bookish Choice: Authoring for Obscurity or for Popularity




A literary-minded witch gives you a choice: with a flick of the wand, you can become either an obscure novelist whose work will be admired and studied by a select few for decades, or a popular paperback author whose books give pleasure to millions. Which do you choose?

It seems my choice was made when I read one sentence in my maternal genealogy: Madame Rosalie de Leval gave her land to Louis des Isles. I set out to discover who Madame Rosalie was and why she would give my ancestor her land. In the process, I discovered a unique French woman whose story had never been told. Such a strong woman deserved to be recognized.

And so I set out on a journey of discovery.

Had I known then the paths where this journey would take me, its twists and turns, I might have flapped my wings and flown in a different direction, not unlike a bird does when it senses a cat nearby. By the time I realized I was in over my head I was too (more…)

July 13, 2014

Marketing Your Book: 4 Things Writers Can Learn from Business



Hug for Jan




Writers more than frequently than not tell me they are stymied when it comes to marketing their book. They prefer sitting at their desk writing. They would love to hide in their little corner of the world and let the book sell itself.

However, the book won’t sell itself.

There are multi-million dollar deals for some authors. For all but very few authors. However, they have a proven track record or have had a unique life experience. For example

  • Simon & Schuster signed Mary Higgins Clark, the mystery writer, to a $10.1 million, five-book contract.
  • Dell Publishing’s agreement less than two weeks ago to pay $5.2 million for hardcover and paperback rights to two books by Thomas Harris, the author of three best sellers, including the current ”Silence of the Lambs.”
  • Malala Yousafzai, 15, will get a chance to tell her story with the publication of a book I Am Malala. The deal: 3 million dollars.
  • Amanda Knox agreed to a nearly $4 million book deal with HarperCollins about her trial and imprisonment in Italy for the murder of her British roommate.

Yes, the multimillion dollar book deals are out there for those persons with name recognition or with bizarre experiences. However, they aren’t out there for you or for me. For us marketing is viewed as a struggle and a challenge. We must work diligently to sell our books.

Business persons offers some marketing hints for authors. I’ve collected a four to share. NOTE: I’ve changed some of the material to reflect writing and readers rather than businesses and customers.


As I read articles and columns about being successful in business I see hints which might help us market our books. After all, our book is a product and a product must be marketed if it is to be sold. And marketing requires us to develop an outgoing side to our personality. Sitting in a corner mouse-like doesn’t cut it.

In this article I’ll share four business-model lessons I’ve gleaned from reading different columns: developing an opening line, sell yourself first, developing empathy, and developing self-confidence.


When selling your book (product) what you really sell first is yourself. The ultimate product is (more…)

June 10, 2014

Op-Ed Articles Part II: How to Write an Op-Ed

Filed under: WRITING TOPICS — carolyncholland @ 3:00 am


(Early today Carolyn’s Compositions hit its 290,000th view)



(Part1: Op-Ed Articles Part 1: Discussion )

By definition op-ed articles are statements of opinion on controversial matters of public interest. A good op-ed is not just a rant by an uninformed writer. It presents a well thought out and researched point of view.

An op-ed article doesn’t use too many words providing background information. It gets to the point and makes it well.

It should be written in the traditional three-point essay format that has

  1. a news-hook oriented intro
  2. about a third hard factual material that will sell you to editors as an expert.
  3. a very brief conclusion

NOTE: This is the second in a three-part series on writing op-ed articles. It discusses the how-to-write aspect. The first article was a discussion on op-ed articles, and the third is an actual op-ed on an issue I am particularly interested in.


 The 3 “Cs” of op-ed:




 Check and follow the newspaper guidelines on length. A concise, to-the-point 500 words is infinitely preferable to a meandering, meaningless 1,000 words.^ Don’t follow the guidelines and chances are the publication will edit for length as they see fit ***—and your major argument could be lost.

Structure your op-ed article logically:

  •  begin with a provocative or original thought that grabs readers, making them want to read the rest of the op-ed.
  •  state the op-ed thesis and back up its argument.
  •  conclude with a fresh angle or new point that cinches your argument with a single, cohesive message—summarize its argument in a strong final paragraph with a memorable last sentence.

Use the active voice (“I believe that”) rather than a (more…)

May 25, 2014

Op-Ed Articles Part 1: Discussion

Filed under: WRITING TOPICS — carolyncholland @ 3:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,



You want to have your say.

Especially when you are outraged over an issue and feel impotent to deal with it, you want to have a way to have your say.

One means of accomplishing this it to write an op-ed letter and submit it to your local newspaper. Your ideas and input can have an astounding effect on the readers of your op-ed.

However, like anything else, there are proper and improper ways to write op-eds. Op-ed Part I provides background information on op-eds. Op-ed Part II will provide information on how to write an op-ed.

The term op-ed means opposite the editorial page, the newspaper site of opinion articles. Op-ed articles, published by newspapers and online, are pieces that express opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper’s editorial board. They discuss diverse opinions on timely news from international to local issues.

NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series on writing op-ed articles. It discusses the ins and outs of this genre. The second article is a How To Write Op-ed, and the third is an actual op-ed on an issue I am particularly interested in.

The first op-ed page was created by Herbert Bayard Swope (The New York Evening World) in 1921 as a catchall for book reviews and obituaries.

The opinionated editorial essay is one of the few newspaper open to anyone with something to say about an issue they are concerned about.

The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed submission guidelines state, “The article should be a strong argument about an issue in the news.” As long as it is strongly opinionated with a valid argument, almost any topic is considered worthy of print.

Op-eds differ from letters to the editor in that

  • they are longer
  • authors can more fully develop their arguments
  • they carry more weight and authority

Op-ed articles are important because they

  • offer people not affiliated with the editorial staff an opportunity to share an authoritative view or perspective on current events or local concerns.
  • are an excellent way to get (an issue’s perspective) into the news.
  • offer alternate positions, generally from an expert in the industry or subject area (or occasionally a more general reader in the case of local news angles).
  • raise awareness by bringing attention to political, social, or other issues of particular importance to both the writer of the op-ed and the public they’re trying to reach** In a general sense, op-eds are offered to educate members of the public about an issue, beyond what the media outlet may have been covering independently
  • can have an astounding influence on readers
  • offer the author exposure by the simple act of his/her name and thoughts shared publicly through the media
  • published op-ed articles allow the author to state he is published
  • offer image-building—by helping to brand the author of the piece as an authority source on the particular issue at hand.

One key to writing op-ed articles is their timeliness in dealing with issues. If they are not timely with the news— current events or popular topics—papers will not print them because what’s hot in the news this week may become dull or over-analyzed by next week.

Thus, a quick submission is essential. Crucial, in fact.


You might be stirred to write an op-ed on an issue that is close to you. Or you just might want to (more…)

February 27, 2014

How to Write a Letter to the Editor


Hugs to the members of the Beanery Writers Group


On February 12, 2014, the Greensburg Tribune-Review printed my first letter to the editor, Open birth records.

What inspired me to write this letter? Why would you, I, or anyone else want to write a letter to the editor?

I wrote the letter because I felt strongly about an issue I hadn’t seen in the local Pennsylvania media, yet it affects a great number of the state’s citizens—

  • adoptees (born and released for adoption in Pennsylvania
  • adoptive families
  • women who released their children for adoption

I wrote the letter to inform citizens about HB 162, which, if passed by the State Senate, will allow adult adoptees access to their original birth record. The Bill passed the House unanimously on October 23, 2013.

UPDATE: HB 162 will be heard in the Senate Committee on Aging & Youth on March 18 at 10:00 a.m. 


There are many reasons why you might want to write a letter to the editor. 40 reasons (from a survey asking this question of National Post readers) are presented in an article by Paul Russell.

I’ve excerpted three here. Visit his site to read the others.

  • The “letters to the editor” page is the perfect forum for exchanging ideas and finding out what other people are thinking about specific issues. Even if I don’t change anyone’s mind, at least it might make some people think and realize that there is more than one way to look at anything. Sometimes I think I am the only person with a specific viewpoint until I open my National Post to the Letters page and find that there are many likeminded people.
    — Renate Roy
  • Letters matter, otherwise nobody would bother writing. While factual reporting and editorial content are important, private citizens comments are no less so. Letters are metaphorically the hooting, foot stomping, hand-clapping, head shaking, tongue-wagging ministrations of a (more…)

November 30, 2013

New Words: Selfie, Footle, Splenetic, & Twerk




Today I’m introducing four new-to-me words:

  • Selfie
  • Footle
  • Splenetic
  • Twerk

Selfie: a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. Selfie was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries 2013 word of the year.

Footle: Act foolishly, as by talking nonsense—classifed as a verb of political and social activities and events

I found this word in a Colin McNickle opinion column in which he explained the word dates back to 1892, and means talking or acting foolishly or wasting time.

Splenetic: of or relating to the spleen, affected by ill humor or irritability; a person regarded as irritable. I came across this word in the novel The Coquette (page 265).

Twerk:  dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting. Twerk was NOT the word of the year in 2013, being beaten out in a close race by the word selfie.


Melanie became splenetic when she heard a friend describe her as footle after her twerk performance, during which she uploaded a selfie on her social media accounts.


(A NaBloPoMo post)

November 3, 2013

New Words: Insouciant, Halcyon, & Glamping

Filed under: New Words — carolyncholland @ 3:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,



Hug for Jane



I came across the words insouciant, halcyon, and glamping during routine reading.

Insouciant is an adjective meaning unconcerned, undisturbed; carefree and nonchalant, derived from the French words in- (not) and souciant (worrying). Pronounced ( in-su see – ent)

Halcyon is also an adjective defined as a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. It’s three syllables, hal-cy-on are pronounced halsēən

Glamping, glamorous (more…)

October 10, 2013

From Postcards to Tweets: The Byte Connection



Hug to Peg

We think that today’s “modern” communication is new. Perhaps it is, but it has the basic elements of historical communication.


In 1869 a revolutionary technology appeared in the form of postcards, a form of communication that was open to all eyes (no privacy here). It happened in an Austrian post office, where three million postcards were sent in the first three months, according to columnist Monica Cure, writer of Tweeting by mail: The postcard’s stormy birth.

Four years earlier Heinrich von Stephan, a German postal official, had proposed the adoption of what he described as an “open post-sheet” made of stiff paper. One side would be reserved for the recipient’s address, and the other side would have just enough space for a brief message. It would circulate at the cheapest rate possible.

His idea was rejected as too radical.

The postcard’s popularity baffled and even appalled the (more…)

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