Shaq, John Irving, Meryl, and Me

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This is NOT a photo of me and Shaquille O’Neal. However, she’s about my height, so this illustrates the story I’m about to tell you.   SEEING A FAMOUS PERSON is like seeing a mouse run in front of you. It’s startling. Larger than life. Odd, even. It suddenly transforms a routine stroll across the kitchen to check out the refrigerator into an adventure involving a spatula, shrieking, and a sudden spike in blood pressure. Once, while I was in line at the outdoor breakfast buffet at the Hotel Del Coronado in California, one of those guys from Friends and two other stars from some other television show (you see why I’m not good with famous people—you’re supposed to remember their … Read More

The Gender of God

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THE GENITALIA OF GOD is not a topic open to discussion among, well, almost everybody. It is at once sacrilegious to wonder what lies between God’s legs and heretical to not accept the commonsense dogma that God uses the door marked “Men” when He’s out to dinner and has had three glasses of iced tea. As an inhuman spiritual being, God’s gender is supposedly utterly unimportant, which is why we call Him “Father” and why He has a son and no daughters. We demonstrate His lack of gender by giving Him a beard, muscles like Neptune, and a countenance as furrowed as a rabbi’s. Some say He is an angry god, others call Him powerful or even frightening, but none … Read More

The New Alpha Male

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PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL players are thugs. They are hired to be thugs. If they are not thuggy enough on the field, they are mocked and shamed publicly for bad thuggery. The big business that is the NFL and its many media permutations depends upon the players’ willingness to be thugs. They are not hired to be heroes. They are not hired for their fine character. Americans need to disarticulate these two concepts. They are not connected. A naïve national idea exists—one to which fans relentlessly cling—that because a man can run fast or carry a ball, he is also automatically a mixture of Shane, MisterRogers, and Abraham Lincoln. Well, he ain’t. And it’s never been a secret. In 1998, Jeff Benedict … Read More

Don’t Wait for the Muse

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Every now and then, I’m invited to speak to a group of writers. I prepare my notes and deliver my little speech about inspiration and style and the proper use of the semi-colon, and then someone asks the big question, the one I suspect is the real thing I’ve been invited to talk about: “Can you make any money at this?” I have been a freelance writer for 25 years. Except for a three-and-a-half year interruption to edit a magazine, my full-time job during most of those years was to sit at the keyboard and pound. My other full-time job was to raise three children, so it was necessary for the keyboard pounding to have a direct relationship with putting … Read More

The Terrible Responsibility of Words

Pamela Hill NettletonBlog1 Comment

I am a writer, and words are my tools and my inspiration, my craft and my medium. Still, I do not always know what it is that I think about an issue or a person or a value until I am pressed to speak, and must pause and try to put those ideas into language. Oh, I have a sense about my beliefs and feelings—I have an awareness of what matters to me and how I feel about what matters to others. But it is not until I am forced to transmute those ephemeral wisps of thought into concrete, specific, vivid, precise language that I truly come to know myself and understand what it is that I want to say … Read More

Write Better-er

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I teach writing, so it saddens me to report this, but a teacher can make you only a better writer, not a great one. For that, an ineffable something is required—an instinct for language, a voracious appetite for crafting sentences that force previously content humans to break down and weep, and a love for the cadence and the weight and the heft of words. That ineffable something is provided by, oh, I don’t know—DNA from your grandmother, your parents having read Henry James to you in utero, your habit as a toddler of watching Jetsons reruns. Or something. Everyone should write. It’s a marvelous exercise in forcing yourself to think logically. It clarifies reason and enhances empathy. Go right ahead … Read More