What Martin Luther King, Jr. Can Teach Us About Creative Power Writing

MLK's "I Have a Dream"
Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaims, “I Have a Dream”

A Dream of Peace

After the recent horrific terrorist attacks, it’s comforting to remember someone who advocated change without assassinating cartoonists or eradicating entire towns. We celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday. King was electrifying, and as a speaker he drew on his experience as a charismatic preacher. He also pulled from an enormous stock of rhetorical devices to add even more creative power and evoke emotion. His now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., employed dozens of these, including charged words (last week’s topic!).  Continue reading What Martin Luther King, Jr. Can Teach Us About Creative Power Writing

The Shocking Truth about Charged Words

Danger: Words
Danger: Words
Your mama is so fat… Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
The “N” word I have a dream…
Death panels I win!
Danger! Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows
Our little girl has cancer Free kittens!
Hijacked jets destroy twin towers Je suis Charlie

Sweet Emotion

What do the words and phrases in the above columns have in common? They are “charged words”—words and phrases that, by their very sounds, definitions, connotations, or denotations, evoke a strong emotion in the reader or listener. Note the variety of emotions represented here—the horror you felt on 9/11, your anger at the racial epithet, your delight as you sang with Mary Poppins, the excitement you’ll feel when you win the lottery (even a dollar!).  Continue reading The Shocking Truth about Charged Words

Addendum: Je suis Charlie


When I wrote my “Je suis Charlie” blog post last night, I was unaware of the latest Boko Haram atrocity, its worst ever. Beginning last Saturday, January 3, and continuing for five days, these terrorists raided the town of Baga, Nigeria, slaughtering everyone and burning the surrounding villages to the ground. At least 2000 were massacred and the town of 10,000 is empty, as everyone who could, fled. Boko Haram has terrorized Nigeria for five years; in 2014, they killed more than 10,000 people.

Today, more than a million people gathered in Paris in solidarity with the 16 who died in the Charlie Hebdo assassinations. The Baga slaughter didn’t even make most news outlets. Nigeria’s own president expressed sympathy to the French government, but said nothing about Baga.

In my blog post, my main point was that people were on fire over Charlie Hebdo because of the freedom of speech connection. However, my secondary point about third-world terrorist attacks being ignored by the West (and in this case, even by the country in which it occurred!) is certainly borne out by the lack of news coverage of this event. It took nine days for me to even learn it had happened, and this only occurred because I subscribe to a service that supplies me with human rights articles. So maybe it wasn’t just the freedom issue.

What do you think?

Je suis Charlie

Je suis Charlie
The standard layout, as copied from The Charlie Hebdo site

Unless you’ve been toasting s’mores under a boulder, you know that on January 7 terrorists assassinated twelve people at the Paris offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Two days later, they took hostages at other locations and executed four before being killed by police. At least 21 people were injured in the attacks.

Reaction was immense and immediate. By Wednesday afternoon, “#Je suis Charlie” had been tweeted more than 3.4 million times. Reddit gave its mascot a “Je suis Charlie” card. The Simpsons had Maggie hold a black banner reading, “Je suis Charlie.” Newspapers and magazines the world over used the slogan as a banner across their websites.  Continue reading Je suis Charlie

How to Make a Writing Resolution You’ll Finally Keep

New Year's Eve, Sydney, Australia
New Year’s Eve, Sydney Harbor, Australia

Happy 2015! Have you broken all your New Year’s resolutions yet?

Did you make any writing resolutions? Did you resolve to write more frequently? To send your moldering manuscript to publishers? To join a writer’s group? To take a writing course? To start that blog? Guess where I came up with those ideas? Heh heh.

Only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions, says health and policy writer Dan Diamond. In Forbes, he cites research from the University of Scranton that suggests most of us fail because we make promises that are all-but-impossible to keep, like that of the mother of four who teaches school, but resolves to write for six hours a day.  Continue reading How to Make a Writing Resolution You’ll Finally Keep