Word of the Day: Ferment

This word is fun.  In my oversimplified, mental expressions of the word, it’s either talking about beer, or it’s talking about a slow-burning riot.  Two things that have nothing to do with each other but at the same time can have everything to do with each other… yeah, my mind is a strange place. 😉

Sierra_Nevada_Pale_Ale“The death of their dictator sent the country into a self-destructive ferment for months.”

Ferment – verb

1) to cause or undergo fermentation

2) to be or cause to be in a state of agitation or intense activity

~per Merriam-Webster

Word of the Day: Cagey

I did not know I’ve been using this word just slightly wrong all along.  Oops!

cagey“The cagey old codger had already worked out a plan for getting those damn kids off his lawn.”

Cagey – adjective

1) not willing to say everything that you know about something
2) careful to avoid being trapped or tricked
3) very clever
~ per Merriam-Webster

Writerly things: Take the train!

Train travel is still a viable and reliable transportation system in the United States, despite the popularity of planes or cars.  Christina Vuono, a 30 year old speech language pathologist from Philadelphia, PA, travels by train to Atlanta, GA, every year.  Amtrak is her preferred and trusted carrier.

“I like it. Now that I’ve tried a sleeper car I never want to go back. It takes longer but the conductors are usually friendly and helpful,” said Vuono. For her, it’s something of a different experience than that of planes and busy highways.  “I like seeing the countryside. I find it relaxing. I can read or do work.”

That change in experience is exactly what Amtrak is hoping will attract more customers and travelers over the long run.  Vuono, like many other customers, is a hobby-writer with a twitter account, and that combination is good for business. In the new age of social media and instantaneous word-of-mouth recommendations, the positive experience outlined in a single 120 character tweet from a happy traveler can encourage new ticket purchases.

This year, thanks to a chance twitter conversation with a writer who later took the trial pilot run, Amtrak rolled out plans for the Amtrak Residency program for writers.  The program is now a reality and a limited number of 24 passes will be awarded by application process over the next year.  The Amtrak Residency program will allow selected writers to take a round-trip, 2 to 5 day tour of the country on any of their long-distance rail routes in a sleeper car with a desk to help encourage writers’ creativity.

The application asks why a writer wants to take the residency program, requests a writing sample, and a writer’s twitter handle as confirmation of their intent as a “creative professional.” Anyone can apply at no cost.  There is no requirement that a writer be published, or even write a review of their experience if selected.  The applications are reviewed by a panel to determine approval for the residency program.

More information, and the application, can be found at Amtrak’s blog. http://blog.amtrak.com/amtrakresidency/

What would you write if you had a week on a train?  The next Great American Novel? A news piece on the changing historical/political landscape? A kid’s story about trains? Or a sci-fi novel about space travel?


Word of the Day: Deadpan

This is one of those often-used words that we think we know what it means. I think maybe Inigo Montoya disapproves when we use it too much.


deadpan“The deadpan delivery did nothing to soften the blow of the bad news.”

Deadpan – adjective

1) showing no feeling or emotion

2) marked by an impassive matter-of-fact manner, style, or expression.

~per Merriam-Webster

Word of the Day: Machinate

Dues ex machina! Only, you know, less godly…

machinate“The evil principal ultimately fell victim to the machinations of his clever senior students and their determination for a day off.”

Machinate- verb

intransitive verb
:  to plan or plot especially to do harm
transitive verb
:  to scheme or contrive to bring about
~per Merriam-Webster

Here’s one for the Character Files

Life happens.  It’s why characters in stories are important.  Because that’s a representation of a life, and no life is one-dimensional or single-minded.  There’s always other stuff going on.  So here’s one for the character files.  This is the stuff that goes on in a life that makes a person or a character behave and think and speak how they do by the time they hit your head.


I’ve been kicking myself lately for all the “trauma” I unknowingly caused my little sister growing up.  All the fights and the teasing and everything copied from the Older Sibling’s Dirty Tricks playbook.  People leave a lasting impact on each other through memories and sometimes all you remember is the bad stuff.  It’s not fair and I don’t think that’s anything anyone sets out to do, it just happens.

But then I remembered that I was 10 years old when she came around.  Suddenly I  shared a bedroom with a crib and a changing table. I was pulling night time screaming duty. I knew how to make a bottle.  I was changing diapers.  I was getting peed on and puked on.  I was the one getting sneered at by holier-than-thous who assumed the 12-year-old with the toddler was a child-mom.  I was the taxi service by sixteen. I was the bad-luck soccer jinx who couldn’t watch the games or the team would lose.  I was the boring babysitter.  I was the swim coach.  That was how I spent the formative years of my adult life.  Trust me, I can tell you as a 31 year old looking back, that did damage. Social skills were never learned because I didn’t need them in order to help my family. I wish I had them now.

So that’s kind of what family is.  Especially siblings.  They are trauma-inflicting and you love them for it. It is not possible to escape a family of any kind without another person changing your life.  We don’t live in a vacuum.  But there is a balance there; you give it and you take it.

It’s still kind of sad.  The four-year-old version of my sister made a banner in school that said she wanted to grow up and be me.  (I hope like hell she grows up to be better than that.)  It hung taped to the wall in her room until it got torn.  But that’s one of those little things you don’t feel the weight of until it’s gone.

Word of the Day: Zaftig

Today’s word I’ve only heard about on the internet as a friend’s username.  So I’m going to completely botch my effort at an intelligent use of the word in a complete sentence.  I’m okay with this because this is a weird word but very fun. (It is such a fun word that auto-correct wants me to change it to rafting!)  It certainly falls under the category of “Learn something new every day!” because I never would have thought this word was referring to women specifically.

zaftig“My friend is a zaftig geek and proud of it!”

Zaftig – adjective

1) of a woman:  having a full rounded figure :  pleasingly plump

Interesting Origins of the word:
Yiddish zaftik juicy, succulent, from zaft juice, sap, from Middle High German saf, saft, from Old High German saf

~per Merriam-Webster

Word of the Day: Cabal

This word is just plain fun to say.  It even sounds mysterious, really.  I think it is entirely underused.  I know it is in my own work.

cabal“The den was forfeited to the cabal of teenagers for their D&D afternoon.”

Cabal – noun

1:  the artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); also :  a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues.

2: club, group.

~per Merriam-Webster

Word of the Day: Verbose

It’s the word of the day.  I had to use this one at some point! Just getting it out of the way… 🙂

verbose“Not feeling particularly verbose, she replied with only a nod of her head.”

Verbose – adjective

1):  containing more words than necessary :  wordy ; also :  impaired by wordiness
2):  given to wordiness

~ per Merriam-Webster