In the Game of Life, Bad Spelling is Like Bad Breath

Why You Should Bother About Spelling

I love the BBC.  They are so smart and always take time to do things right. They dot their I’s and cross their T’s, you know what I mean?.

I stumbled on this excellently reasoned and well substantiated piece on the perils of bad spelling on the BBC site today. If you think it’s not a big deal any more in this age of rampant typos facilitated by the dumbing-down  of social media, you are dead wrong.


As an editor I get darn tired of correcting spelling mistakes and lecturing writers about the importance of correct spelling, but, hey, it comes with the territory. Now I can at least save my breath, if not my red ink, by referring morphological derelicts to this masterpiece (link above) on the horrendous toll bad spelling can take on a life.

As in covfefe. Saaaad.


Posted in Editing, Literature, Margaret Langstaff Editorial, online communication, Spelling, writing | 9 Comments

Emily Dickinson’s Summer Reveries

(c) Copyright 2017 Margaret Langstaff, All Rights Reserved

Summer, The Dickinson Homestead, Amherst, Mass.

dickinson garden small

Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most beloved and misunderstood poets was an astute observer and student of the natural world.  Nature’s changing pageantry, big bold and colorful depending on the season, was just outside her windows and just beyond the door. This was the 19th century; most Americans were still engaged in farming, horse- and-buggy was a common mode of transportation, and everyone had a kitchen garden and a flower garden.  Spring and Fall, planting and harvesting, were considered joyful times, times of celebrations and festivals marking nature’s bountiful fecundity and its reliable cycling through the underlying mysteries of birth, fruitfulness, decline and death, only to begin again.

Emily kept her eagle eye on this ever-changing scene, alternately mystified, rhapsodic, and pensive at what passed before and near the Dickinson Homestead. Not much escaped her line of sight that did not inspire her to record her impressions and interpretations in verse.  The natural parade of different multi-colored foliage, “slants of light” and the distinctive sound and sense of each season were on the one hand mighty in themselves, and on the other hand deftly used by the poet as metaphors, figures of speech–even as allegories.

Of all the seasons, Summer held particular fascination for the poet because it was the apex, the high point of the growing season, and wherever one looked there were vistas of ripening grain and lush green crops, images of the invisible hand of Providence supplying the provisions necessary for the continuation of life for another year.

In a tribute of sorts to Dickinson’s  innovative surprising “nature” poems, I feel honor bound as a life-long Dickinson understudy to exhibit them now and then, and to present, maybe introduce new readers for the first time to the teeming kaleidoscopic wonder of the world outside Dickinson’s family home. Some parts of them may seem somewhat obscure or her meaning opaque or enigmatic, but these poems repay frequent re-reading and soon unlock their secrets, yielding new and bountiful ways of seeing and feeling.



Further in Summer than the Birds
Pathetic from the Grass
A minor Nation celebrates
Its unobtrusive Mass.

No Ordinance be seen
So gradual the Grace
A pensive Custom it becomes
Enlarging Loneliness.

Antiquest felt at Noon
When August burning low
Arise this spectral Canticle
Repose to typify

Remit as yet no Grace
No Furrow on the Glow
Yet a Druidic Difference
Enhances Nature now


[More to come.]


Posted in American Literature, Emily Dickinson Poetry, Literary Classics, Literature, poetry, poets | Tagged , | 2 Comments

From the new and edgy digital mag “Real Life”

Worth Reading. Warning: Thought required.

“All My Ghosts”

The intensity and immediacy of online correspondence accelerate the intimacy of relationships — and the ghosting

A digital pen pal is not so different from a pen pal who uses ink. As the nuclear family is no longer the main formation for cohabitation, as villages bleed into suburbs of big cities, there are so many new ways of getting in touch, and we can keep a far greater number of people around for longer, and never be entirely sure, when they disappear, that they’ve disappeared for good. Throughout history, there have been relationships based mostly or entirely on correspondence, often stretching over months or years — certainly by the Victorian era, letter-writing had become a part of daily life. …. more

Posted in Digital Correspondence, Digital Journalism, Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr (author of The Liar’s Club)

Margaret Langstaff

[NOTE: Having just finished editing two massive and interesting/ well written memoirs, ‘The Art of Memoir,’ by Mary Karr is of immense interest. Questions are raised that can’t be answered conclusively, yet they must be raised. Very intelligent review, most worth reading and pondering! — MJL.   By GREGORY COWLESOCT. 23, 2015 NYT]


Why not say what happened? All right, then: St. Augustine stole some pears. Kathryn Harrison had sex with her father. Tobias Wolff didn’t do much of anything to disturb his sleep, it would seem, but he still managed to turn his boyhood into beautiful, reflective music.

The vogue for memoir, like all vogues, comes and goes. But the impulse perseveres. Celebrities, addicts, abuse victims, politicians, soldiers, grieving children: Every­one has a story to tell and a conviction that the world wants to hear it — and often enough, if the best-seller lists are any indication, the…

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Posted in Literature | Leave a comment

Merciful Travels with Anne Lamott

Written by a writer friend and client

Sarah e McIntosh

Thought 2: Reading

Anne Lamott’s books never fail to impress and inspire. Years ago I was given a copy of her book Bird by Bird, and being in the midst of my addiction to more costly highs, didn’t pick it up again for many more years. Not until I finished writing my own book did I dust it off and begin to read. Now bird by bird I’m pecking away and have been on a Lamott book binge. In true addict-fashion I want more. I want to devour her words and at the same time I don’t want them to end. I just traveled along on the journey she shares in Traveling Mercies.  Hi, my name is Sarah and I am a book addict.

Book addiction is a lesser of many evils that I have, or could, indulge in though it shares many of the same characteristics. No longer are…

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Posted in Literature | 2 Comments

It Happened Here

Most writers today who publish eventually have to come to terms with plagiarism and the low-down rip-off artists who practice it. It’s everywhere now, to be sure, and no place is it more common and flagrant than online.

The motives for this theft of the products of someone else’s mind and imagination are many. Someone wanting to sound smarter than he/she is by passing off well-wrought prose as one’s own, the urgent need of a harried sub-par journalist writing under deadline, and finally, some jerk who does it just for the heck of it because it’s so easy and the chances of being caught and punished are slim.

Yet to me, none of these  malefactors even approaches the really odious types who steal another’s written work,  presenting it as if it were their own and then sell it to this gullible individual (usually a clueless student) for use as a term paper or some other faux academic exercise as a specimen of his/her own intellectual achievement.

The online “paper mills”  that supply the lame-brained of academia are everywhere and do a lively trade selling “papers” of every kind (term papers, theses, dissertations, white papers), in every style and length.  Some of them are original, some are scribbled out hastily with minimal research, some are dashed off by the minions of the paper mills “customized” to fulfill a particular order to satisfy a particular assignment, while others are ripped wholesale from the internet and marketed on the thieves’ own websites as brilliant “one of a kind” works guaranteed to blow the socks off any instructor or professor.

The fact is plagiarism is illegal, it is stealing, and punishable in all countries that are members of the International Copyright Convention.  The law itself, and its many provisions is a subject too grand for this little burp in the wind post.  Another time, maybe.

But, the (additional!) fact is, recently I too was an unwitting victim of these nitwits. Yeah. Remember all those posts on Flannery O’Connor I wrote a few years ago? Posted here? On her letters as well? Well, low and behold, they are now also stuffed into several “papers” on a certain website and being marketed/sold as original work (they sure were, mine) guaranteed to get an A.

The irony is Google caught this.  But I caught it when Google coughed it up when I did a search on O’Connor. It’s like a cat chasing its tail. On and on. Crazy! And there is not much I can do but MAKE A FRIGGIN INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT OF THIS! Which I WILL DO once I’ve regained my composure.


Posted in journalism, Literature, Plagiarism, publishing | 11 Comments

“I’m Nobody/Who are You?” Emily Dickinson: Major New Book & Exhibit

Posted in American Literature, Emily Dickinson Poetry, Literature, poetry | 1 Comment
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