Friday, December 31, 2010


So, I said last week – or maybe it was two weeks ago (time has a way of getting away from you when you’re grading 350 papers) – that I’d talk about favorite words.   Here are some of mine:


Okay, so the word ‘chocolate’ doesn’t really do much for me, it’s more the chocolate itself.  But words like ‘sparkly’ and ‘soffit’ (and I don’t even know what that is, just that it goes on my house) please me, probably more than any word should.  For some reason, I smile when I hear them.  I always said that if I had a kid, I would name it Sparkly Soffit…unless it was a boy, then I might have to rethink that whole thing.  In any case, I started to wonder why that is, why I have favorite words.  What is our affinity for certain words all about? 

And are there ever words that repel us, the same way that words like ‘sparkly’ and ‘soffit’ attract me?  I think there must be. 

For example, my sister Kathleen is terrified of the word ‘tribunal.’  She doesn’t know why, she just shudders whenever she hears it.  And really, how often does one hear that word?  Not too often, I suspect, unless a pesky younger sister wants to bug an older sister, then you hear it pretty darn often. 

However, the word itself:  Tribunal.  What’s that about?  A friend of mine pointed out that the word ‘tribunal’ isn’t a good word because no good ever comes out of using it.   And he’s right, of course.  When have you ever heard the word ‘tribunal’ used in a positive fashion?  “Hey, come on over tonight – it’s New Year’s Eve and we’re having a tribunal with a few friends!  It’ll be a blast!”  Eh…not so much.

So after much thought (hey, don’t judge – I have little to do now that those papers are graded!), I came up with my own word that I’m not too fond of.  It’s the word “but.” 

Think about it.  When have you ever heard the word ‘but’ used for the purposes of good.  NEVER!  I’ll give you some examples:  “I really like you, but…I just want to be friends.”  Or, “This lasagna is great, but…it would be better if you used more cheese.”  Or, for my writer friends, the ubiquitous rejection letter that starts out with, “This manuscript is great…” and ends with, “BUT…it’s not for me.”

So for my New Year’s resolution, I am going to drum that bad word right out of my vocabulary.  No more ‘buts!’  Not even that old chestnut, “Do these pants make my butt look big?” 

And by the way, that does not require an answer…I already KNOW.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


So. Why a blog, you might ask. And why WordSmith?

Well, the second part is probably obvious. My last name is Smith – and I like words…a lot. All kinds of words. Big words. Small words. All words, really. You can do some pretty amazing things with them. But despite that love of words, it took the brilliant suggestion of a good friend (and aspiring writer) Ms. Stacy Toon to come up with that snappy title of WordSmith. Stacy, you rock. I owe you one!

As for the why…well, I guess that’s a little more complicated.

I suppose all aspiring authors want someone to read their work. Why else would we do it? About *mumble mumble* years ago, I read an editorial by Bob Greene called “Why Writers Write” – the original www. I kept that newspaper clipping for years, until it was raggedy and yellowed and finally fell apart on one of the many days I pulled it out to remind myself why I’m bothering with this whole writing thing.

His editorial boiled down to one simple answer: Writers write to be read.

We don’t necessarily do it for our own enjoyment, though for the most part it’s a nice way to pass an afternoon; we do it because we like to see a reaction from our readers. We want them to laugh when we make a funny. We want them to cry when we cry – which is a lot, especially during the revision process. But mostly we want readers to react – to feel something, think something, want something, need something…preferably more of our words on paper!

So that’s the why of it, in a nutshell. I want you to read what I write. I want to be a better writer, so I want to know what you think. I want to talk about writing with other people who love writing, and reading and words in general.

There will be more comments on other things later, but I think this is a good jumping off point. Who knows where we can go from here?

Next time:
The words we love and hate. What are some of yours?