a panda walks into a bar…


Lynne Truss tells the following story:

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

“Why?”asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife man ual and tosses it over his shoulder.

“I ’m a panda, ”he says, at the door. “Look it up. ”

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

“Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves. ”

Truss is the author of several books, a book reviewer for the Sunday Times of London, and she hosted “Cutting a Dash,” a BBC program on punctuation. In her 2003 Penguin book Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Truss advocates for us all to be sticklers for grammar: click on eats to read a brief excerpt.
13882672_10210897048568870_6034783845543033249_nPunctuation is important for many reasons. It provides the musical score for your writing as well as specific, important and sometimes lifesaving information.

A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.






6th Ojai WordFest Celebrates Library’s 100th Birthday, National Poetry Month

Join Ventura Community College Faculty Gwendolyn Alley, Sandra Hunter, Teddy Macker and Robert Porter today 1-2pm at Ojai WordFest!

art predator


Happy Centennial Birthday to the Ventura County Library System and to Ojai’s local library! Happy National Poetry Month!

As part of ongoing celebrations, join local poets and writers at the 6th annual WordFest, a literary arts festival that kicks off Friday afternoon, April 29th, at the Ojai Public Library located at 111 East Ojai Avenue with FREE Writing Classes, and Saturday and Sunday readings and signings by authors including ME with more events scattered around the Ojai Valley. Read on for the line-up. 

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A Letter to the Ventura College Swim Team

Go Pirates!

Cole In One

Some of my earliest memories in life are of walking on your deck at the old pool.

It was where I learned to love the water, it was where I “badly stubbed my toe” twice running on the deck (rule #1) and proudly displayed my battle wound to you, it was where I would play basketball with a bum water polo ball after you took my childhood hoop from me and put it in the back corner, and it was where I looked forward to spending every summer.

Through the years, especially now as your alumni base has come together so well, people tell me all sorts of stories about watching my brothers and I run around your old pool deck when the three of us had those bright, blonde bowl cuts.

I remember when your college started writing the names of those who were All-Americans on the wall, and…

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3 voices in writing: use the right one



This week we’ve been studying sentence style. Examples that we read of authors with awesome sentence style include Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, and E.B. White. Sentence style elevates the author’s writing so it flows smoothly, omits needless words, has parallel construction, and uses active voice.

Most people have heard there’s both an active and passive voice in writing. And they’ve probably been told more than once to “use active voice” — which means to change the “to be” or “passive” verb like “is” into an active verb like “dances.”

But as the image above so eloquently illustrates, there are actually three voices in writing:

  1. Active voice
    “You ate all the bacon.”
  2. Passive voice (as also illustrated above in my sentence)
    “All the bacon was eaten.”
    (The problem is this raises the question of by who? you?)
  3. Passive-aggressive voice
    “You ate all the bacon and no one else got any. Don’t worry; it’s fine. Clearly, you needed all that bacon.”

Please note that in the illustration above, the third voice example has a run-on sentence: “Don’t worry it’s fine” consists of two complete sentences (or two independent clauses). I fixed it with a semi-colon which usually does the trick.

Also note that “voice” can refer to how a writer sounds on the page–whether readers can hear the writer’s voice in the text. That voice is often reflected in sentence style. Revising for this kind of voice isn’t so easy, so that’s a post for another day.

Finding Your Voice: 2 Essays from Gloria Anzaldua

How do you find your way when it comes to writing? How do you keep your wild tongue?


Here’s a link to a pdf of two essays

Tlilli, Tlapalli: The Path of the Red and Black Ink”
“How To Tame a Wild Tongue”
by Gloria Anzaldua
as well as a brief biography of the author where she addresses her writing process and how she struggles to maintain her wild tongue and unique voice and language– how she finds her way out of the box.

How does Gloria Anzaldua’s writing process compare to yours? Can you relate to her struggles?

Here are 4 discussion questions for Gloria Anzaldúa, “Tlilli, Tlapalli: The Path of the Red and Black Ink” from Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Choose at lease one quote that supports your analysis.

1. What distinctions does Anzaldúa make between how “Western culture think(s) of art works” and how Mexican tribal cultures think of art works? About the life of the artifact, for instance? Or the idea of “virtuosity”? Or the idea of artistic “power”? Or about ethnocentrism, “borrowing,” and the role of art in everyday culture? What statement does Anzaldúa ultimately make about the future of Western culture? What solutions does she propose for the problems that “unchecked, could blow us into acid rain in a fraction of a millisecond”?

2. Is “The Path of the Red and Black Ink” a work of nonfiction or fiction? What, for instance, does the line “I write the myths in me, the myths I am, the myths I want to become” suggest about the work itself? Are there passages in which the genre of “The Path of the Red and Black Ink” seems to change, or in which the author’s relationship to something the reader might call “fact” or “reason” dramatically changes? Using the standards for creativity that Anzaldúa offers, what transformation of consciousness (if any) has occurred in those passages?

3. What is a “Borderland”? Anzaldúa writes, “Being a writer feels very much like being a Chicana, or being queer.” How does the idea of a “Borderland” describe a variety of psychological states, and positions within a society? What makes living in a “Borderland” a “numinous experience,” not a “nightmare”? How is writing–and the author’s relationship to her work–“symptomatic of a larger creative process–cultural shifts . . . cultural ambiguity”?
4. Anzaldúa describes the body as a “crossroads,” creativity as painful “continuous multiple pregnancies,” and her writing desk as an altar composed of ceremonial objects. Overall, what relationship does Anzaldúa construct between Western and tribal cultures? What objects, for instance, can be found on her desk? What is the source of her inspiration? And where (and how) does she find resolution?

What if I told you…


No one except a fellow teacher would really understand what it takes to put together a solid syllabus.

And how frustrating it is when students don’t read it or refer to it.


One semester students even called the class publication “It’s In The Syllabus!”


I try to be patient. After all, the class policies part of the syllabus is four pages. And the syllabus itself is six pages. That’s a lot of information to digest.

When students want to join the class after missing the first day, I’ve been known to just hand them the syllabus and class policies and say, “Read this over the weekend. If you still want to be in the class, talk to me next week.”

We also do two scavenger hunts during the second and third weeks of class: one that takes place using the syllabus and class policies handouts, the other around campus. When I take the time to do these scavenger hunts, it reduces the number of questions that are answered in the syllabus. Continue reading

the mirror before you


art predator

true nature

If you come across a true sage who has realized his true nature, you will not be required to do anything in the way of spiritual disciplines.

This is because through his teachings, he will reveal your true nature, as by placing a mirror before you.

Nisargadatta Maharaj/ˌnɪsərɡəˈdɑːtəˌmæhəˈrɑː/ (17 April 1897 – 8 September 1981), born Maruti Shivrampant Kambli, was an Indian Guru of Shiva Advaita (Nondualism), belonging to the Inchagiri Sampradaya, a lineage of teachers from the Navnath Sampradaya and LingayatShaivism,” according to Wikipedia. “The publication in 1973 of I Am That, an English translation of his talks in Marathi by Maurice Frydman, brought him worldwide recognition and followers, especially from North America and Europe.[1]


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Being A Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence

The Belle Jar


I am six. My babysitter’s son, who is five but a whole head taller than me, likes to show me his penis. He does it when his mother isn’t looking. One time when I tell him not to, he holds me down and puts penis on my arm. I bite his shoulder, hard. He starts crying, pulls up his pants and runs upstairs to tell his mother that I bit him. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about the penis part, so they all just think I bit him for no reason.

I get in trouble first at the babysitter’s house, then later at home.

The next time the babysitter’s son tries to show me his penis, I don’t fight back because I don’t want to get in trouble.

One day I tell the babysitter what her son does, she tells me that he’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know…

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The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About

how do YOU de-escalate? what can YOU do to change it or make the situation better?

Drifting Through

image: Shutterstock image: Shutterstock

There’s this thing that happens whenever I speak about or write about women’s issues. Things like dress codes, rape culture and sexism. I get the comments: Aren’t there more important things to worry about? Is this really that big of a deal? Aren’t you being overly sensitive? Are you sure you’re being rational about this?

Every. Single. Time.

And every single time I get frustrated. Why don’t they get it?

I think I’ve figured out why.

They don’t know.

They don’t know about de-escalation. Minimizing. Quietly acquiescing.

Hell, even though women live it, we are not always aware of it. But we have all done it.

We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all…

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