Advice for writers


My advice to writers:

Write what you know.

Unfortunately, this has not worked in my case (read the DSM 5 for tantalizing clues).

So, here is my personal directive on writing: learn the difference between advice and advise, for starters, and never forget to take your medications. There are so many underutilized forms of psychosis, so much untapped potential. Add to this the fact that there are thousands of medications out there (the drug companies, your friends, have a wonderful assortment of pills for you; just ask your doctor if such and such is right for you, as if your own physician, Dr. Sugar, can’t determine what you should take!)  just waiting for a chance to get in the door–and you can soon see the scope of the problem. It’s an inequity that needs redress. Watch television, pay attention to the commercials, get ideas.  I am asking you to do something about this–you’ll be a better writer for it (and, concurrently, the drug companies will have better balance sheets, which makes for prettier graphs, rendered beautifully in prescription pill colors such as sucked-you-in red and loser-you’re-hooked yellow, in their annual report, a tradition among business people, which is, sadly never read, as sleeping in broad daylight can be dangerous, particularly in skyscrapers, where business people tend to cocoon in and can, quite easily, after a bout of somnambulism, result in  people falling out of windows, which can be painful.

Oh, one other thing. Exercise your brain. And no I don’t mean to put it on a treadmill. That’s silly. Brains don’t have a means of locomotion (a brain might swim though, so there may be some benefit to dropping it into a bucket of water and letting it do some laps–flailing about trying the butterfly stroke, the dog paddle… whatever. ) No, I mean exercise the body, such as performing a galliard with cinque-pace leaps, in the hopes that some motes of oxygen produced during the exertion may actually reach your gelatinous brain and do wonderful things.

For more writing tips please consult an actual writing guide (which can, in a pinch, be used as a paperweight, or as fuel–if things ever get as bad as I predict they will.

Of course you could get a butterfly dog (to do the butterfly stroke) simply for the beauty of the thing. No special advice or grammar required here.

“There was a farmer who had a dog. And Bingo was his name”… an old ditty, and a brilliant writerly segue to this–




For Cynthia (as promised):

About 500 years ago, I was presented with a choice: Beaucarnia recurvata or Beaucarnia stricta. Naturally I chose B. stricta, as I could foresee (having charlatanism in my blood) that B. recurvata–the so-called ponytail palm–would some troublesome day become quite popular as a potted houseplant, and I was having none of that.

So I planted my light-emitting Beaucarnia stricta seeds and went on a journey (called Odýsseia). Upon my return, I saw that my castle had been renovated several times by Mr. Wind and Mrs. Neglect (though these two were never technically married (living in sin for millennia), they spent a lot of idle time together and I use the Mr. and Mrs. ruse as a matter of pure though spectacular convenience).

Being a cad, I disguised my identity while ambulating around the scarcely familiar castle environs. From behind a giant cabbage-like plant, a giant hedgehog edged his way forward. He looked at me with doleful eyes, wagged his tail, and died instantly of a cardiac arrest (I guess he had a pickled egg for a heart, Sue). He was a puppy all those years ago when I had absconded with the company funds and was forced to leave the Ithacan island of my birth. Poor rodent (editor’s note: are hedgehogs really part of the rodentia order?).

In my grief, I heard, in the abstract distance, a panflute melody (based on the ionian scale, if I am not mistaken). Must be a group of lazy farm laborers, I thought. I was wrong. It was Gheorghe Zamfir and I told him to get off my land.  But later, under a halcyon sky, amid a field of buttercups, near a willowy windmill, I was disturbed by a rogue group of farm hands, and forthwith I told them the story of my life (leaving out all the bits of truth wherever possible). Mesmerized by their impassive faces, I regaled them (regale: windy again ) with long, epic-poem-like tales of crop failures and, in a compassionate moment, the benefits of good dentistry. One farmer (like Neptune, I mused) held a pitch fork so steadily I quivered. I bid them good day and wiped the miscreants from the page with my Pink Pearl eraser.

Once at the castle, I was met by my former housekeeper Goneril (a bastardization of gonorrhea, I suppose) and she died instantly of pleurisy (if you’re counting–that’s a second untimely death in a few paragraphs, Bruce). But her sister Cordelia recognized me instantly. I swore her to secrecy (not about her rigor mortisizing sister, but about my identity). (Note rigor mortis is not a verb–under normal circumstances).

The third sister was missing and Egon was put on the case. But this long preamble is to inform you that my Beaucarnia stricta was mislabeled and is most probably, recklessly, frustratingly the common Beaucarnia recurvata.  Some readers will no doubt make the connection between a man hiding his true identity and a Beaucarnia seed doing the same ( being recurvata while pretending to be stricta). That is epic.

P.S. you will notice the marionette strings operating the ponytail puppet (in truth, if you can believe it, designed to keep Mr. Wind in check).

Intertextually and at your peril, you may wish to visit:

Sue, to learn all about condiment hearts

Cynthia, to bask in the glory of  epic poetry

Bruce, for the science of untimely deaths

And Dagmar, for the adventues of Egon, master detective

Also this –

The Exorcist

Aloe excelsa


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O tempora o mores

Suddenly, in a hardware store. A man pretending to know nuts and bolts loiters in aisle 666. I approach in the hopes of making electric conversation with fellow DIY geek, but then notice a name tag stapled to the man’s breast plate. There’s some blood on the tag and the name appears to be Alvin.

“I think I want to build a garden shed, Dirk.”


“…and I need expert advice.”

“Glad to help. But I ain’t no garden shed expert.”

“I don’t need an expert, Dirk. If expertise were a color, I’d be red, Dirk. Full on red. Do you know what that means, Dirk?”

“No, sir.”

“Cut the sir crap, Dirk. It means I’m an expert. If I were salmon pink I’d be an expert’s expert.”

“Got it.”

“Do you sell plans? I mean plans for military grade garden sheds?


“Damn. You disappoint me, Dirk.”

“Try the internet.”

“I did. Spent four days glued to the screen. I bought a BBQ.”

“We sell BBQs.”

“Not a good idea to send people to the internet then, is it Dirk?”

“I suppose not, sir.”

“Some habits die hard… don’t they, Dirk?”

“I’m on my break soon. You’ll have to talk to my supervisor.”

Supervisor, in a super disheveled state, saunters into aisle. He’s a furry rodent, with flaming apricot streaks, looking for a hamster wheel.

“Simon, this guy wants to build a shed. I’m going on my e-cigarette break.”

“If your face blows up you’ll have to get a new picture ID,” says Simon informatively.

Turning to me. “So you want to build a shed?”

“Not really, Dirk. I’ve selected the site for a garden shed. That’s all.”

“Do you want some books then? South American authors. Bolaño, Borges, Cortázar.”

“No. I just bought a killer BBQ from a store in Australia. That’s when I started to have second thoughts about a garden shed.”

“A few shelves are as good as a garden shed.”

“Here’s the thing Dirk. I want to build an opera house. The garden shed was a teaser.”

“You’ll have to YouTube ‘building an opera house.’ I can’t help you. I do book bindings.”

“You’re a clown, Dirk. But stop over at the house anytime. Join me for some crudités. I’m told the celery and cheez whiz is good.

 Synsepalum dulcificum

Miracle fruit DSC_2742_fss_sm