Block out writing advice sometimes


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“Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.” ~Lev Grossman

Borrowed from

Borrowed from

Last night, I saw these gifs on tumblr from a video by Alice Oseman; this young British woman is the newly published author of Solitaire and she has a tumblr blog about writing and other fun things on the Internet. (Realized today that we both like the YouTuber Phil Lester.) In this video, she gives you comforting tips on how to get published. The seven steps she lays out are over-simplified, but amusing and probably helpful anyway. I’ve read about the publishing universe for the past eight years or so I didn’t learn anything new, except for maybe the first strep. I would recommend it; there’s a link at the bottom of this blog post.

Oseman says, “The good news is that writing literally has no rules whatsoever. So please, do not take the advice of writing blogs that tell you things like: Adverbs are banned, never use adjectives, prologues are always awful. It’s all lies. Just write whatever book you want to write. If you want to write a book about sparkly werewolf vampire boyfriends in a magical school… Just write it! Because we don’t know, it might be fabulous. We don’t know, you haven’t written it yet. Go write it, right now!”

Well, that statement kind of under-minds my blog’s very existence. Nonetheless, there’s truth to it. Whatever story you got to tell, you have to write it. If not to get it published, but for yourself, for your well-being. Yes, writing is healthy. Look it up.

Another thing that I liked hearing was that the rule about prologues, because I have heard from several people that prologues are pointless. Like an unnecessary preview. Funny enough, I thought about what those people said and concluded, “Nah, fuck it! I am gonna write a prologue. It’s needed.” And I wrote an awesome, funny prologue. I hope other people think it is, too.

My point is that writing advice is helpful, but sometimes you have to block it out. Especially if it makes you feel insecure. Like Oseman says, “Believe in yourself.”

Millennials Aren’t Lazy


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Borrowed from

Borrowed from

The general assumption about my generation is that we are “lazy people with unrealistic expectations who want a lot of things out of life without having to work for it.”

It’s true that some of us look at our phone too often, or have grown this inexplicable adoration for cat videos, or avoid participating in politics. The Internet has replaced taking drugs – for some – and hipsters have become the new hippies. I won’t deny any of this, except for one thing: My generation is no more lazy than the men and women who came before.

You know why most of us move back home with our parents after college? Do you understand how difficult it is to stand on your own two feet when the odds are stacked against you? Here in the States, if you want to lease a car and you’re under the age of 25, they jack up the cost. Same thing for car insurance, because anyone between the age of 18 and 24 is considered a risk. You can hardly call it fair, considering that there are plenty of people older than me who drive a lot more recklessly.

When you decide to leave the nest, you have to consider the following costs:

  • Rent, plus security deposit and most places will ask you to pay the first and last month’s worth of rent.
  • Possibly renter’s insurance, which isn’t terribly expensive compared to any other insurance, but an additional cost nonetheless.
  • Possibly an application fee when you try to get the apartment in the first place.
  • On top of that, you have bills for water, gas, electricity, cable/Internet, maybe parking and pet rent.
  • Gas, monthly lease payment, car insurance and if you’re unlucky or don’t take care of your vehicle, repair costs.
  • Depending on where you live, you may have to pay the city to pick up your garbage. I have heard of some neighborhoods where people are so poor, they burn their trash when it isn’t picked up.
  • Health insurance.
  • Money for food, water, clothes, and household essentials (soap, toilet paper, etc.).
  • If you have children, that’s even more money going towards diapers, food, school supplies, and so forth.

Now I’m one of the lucky ones who finished college without a mountain of student loans clawing on my back, but imagine what that does to someone who’s trying to get a job in their field. Imagine them having to accept a minimum wage job or two when it doesn’t work out immediately. Imagine the interest going up as they struggle to make ends meet.

I have friends who are doing fine taking care of themselves, but not without having to split the costs between themselves. For example, a friend of mine shares an apartment with three other women, drives her dad’s old van and works like a dog at a restaurant as a manager. Another friend of mine had to quit school for a while when her financial aid didn’t come through. She had to move back with her mom and start working two jobs. At one point it was three when she had a temporary position at Planned Parenthood. It wasn’t until last year she could afford a (crappy) place on her own. Only recently did she return to her studies and she’s getting a better place but she has to share it with three or four other people.

I’m not trying to make excuses. My point is, things are more expensive than when our parents were our age. Getting a decent job has become a competition. Having a bachelor’s degree doesn’t seem to mean anything to employers anymore; they want someone with a master’s, five years experience and superpowers. It doesn’t help that we’re trying to spread our wings during a time when the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. It doesn’t help that the government is spending more money on the military than public education.

My point is… we’re doing our best and every day, we try to make the most out of things. We want more than $8.15 an hour, and we work hard to get there.

Writing Advice: The Metamorphosis of Delinquencies


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Murder & Crime Done Right – Chapter 3.

We combed through a lot of theories in criminology class, two of them being Differential Association theory by Edwin Sutherland and Social Control theory by Travis Hirschi. The first one talks about how criminal behavior is learned and the second one attempts answering the question, “Why are some people law-abiding, and why do others break the law?” It focuses solely on young people and talks about causes for delinquency based on self-reported data.

Edwin_Sutherland Let’s begin with Sutherland’s theory on Differential Association.*

* Criminal behavior is learned: Negatively, this means that criminal behavior is not inherited, as such; also, the person who is not already trained in crime does not invent criminal behavior, just as a person does not make mechanical inventions unless he has had training in mechanics.

* Criminal behavior is learned in interaction with other people in a process of communication: This communication is verbal in many respects but included also the “communication of gestures.” In a nutshell, this means that someone shows a young person how to commit a certain act, for example, how to break into a car or snatch a woman’s purse.

* The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups. A small (the primary group) consists of family, close friends, guardians, relatives and so forth. Sociologists have labeled some of these primary groups as “nuclear family,” gangs, peers, roommates and colleagues. This means that the impersonal agencies of communication, such as movies and newspapers play a relatively unimportant part in the genesis of criminal behavior.

* When criminal behavior is learned, the learning includes (a) techniques of committing the crime, which are sometimes very complicated, sometimes very simple; and (b) the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations and attitudes: Our professor said nearly everyone has a conscience so when a person does something they know is forbidden or frowned upon, they have to justify it somehow. The sociologist Gresham Sykes coined the term techniques of neutralizations, which is when a criminal creates justifications and rationalizations for his or her actions, and/or make up excuses to lessen the severity of their actions. The more someone justifies criminal behavior, the more it becomes a habit and the easier it gets to feel less or no remorse from it.

* The specific direction of motives and drives is learned from definitions of the legal codes as favorable and unfavorable: In some societies, an individual is surrounded by persons who invariably define the legal codes as rules to be observed, while in others he is surrounded by those whose definitions are favorable to the violation of the legal codes. In our American society, these definitions are almost always mixed, with the consequence that we have culture conflict in relations to the legal codes.

"Daredevil" (1.11) - 'The Path of the Rightous.'

“Daredevil” (1.11) – ‘The Path of the Rightous.’

* A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violation of law over definitions unfavorable to violation of law. This is the principle of differential association. When a persons become criminal, they do so because of contacts with criminal patterns and also because of isolation from anti-criminal patterns. (IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER.)

* Differential associations may vary in frequency, duration, priority and intensity. “Frequency” and “duration” as modalities of association are obvious and need no explanation. “Priority” is assumed to be important in the sense that lawful behavior developed in early childhood may persist throughout life. “Intensity” has to do with such things as the prestige of the source of a criminal or anti-criminal pattern. (The latter refers to idolizing/adoring a role-model who participates in criminal behavior.)

* The process of learning criminal behavior by association with criminal and anti-criminal patterns involves all of the mechanisms that are involved in any other learning. Thus, the learning of criminal behavior is not restricted to the process of imitation.

* While criminal behavior is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values, since noncriminal behavior is an expression of the same needs and values. Thieves general steal in order to secure money, but likewise honest laborers work in order to secure money.

**The explanation for Sutherland’s theory was largely copied from a worksheet and at some places paraphrased as well as expanded with my notes. Presumably Professor Adinkrah wrote the worksheet himself.

Travis_Hirschi_General_Theory_of_Crime_+_Social_Bond_TheoryInteresting, right? Let’s continue with Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory that talks about “conquering delinquency.” (This information comes from my notes taken during class.)

In 1969, this sociologist gathered data from various young men and women, and came up with this conceptual idea called BOND. He stated in his theory that children without strong social, positive ties have the tendency to grow up to become sociopaths, psychopaths and/or criminals. For a person to have a greater opportunity to become a law-abiding citizen, they need the following four things (most of them, I believe):

* Attachment, commitment, involvement and belief.

Attachment refers to having strong social ties to a “conventional other,” which can be parents, teachers, peer, et cetera. If these bonds influence the person in a positive manner – and that encourages lawful behavior (remember Sutherland) – then the possibility for criminal behavior diminishes.

Commitment to conventionally pursued goals, which can be for school, jobs, some passion, anything that will keep their mind off juvenile and/or criminal activities.

Involvement in conventional activities: recreational activities, hobbies, sports, academic/cultural/community centered clubs, and volunteering will keep young people occupied. These activities may also entice better behavior. Professor Adinkrah told us the expression, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.”

Beliefs: According to Hirschi’s research, young people with a set of high moral principles and/or who were religious were less likely to become delinquents. They were taught honesty, kindness, fairness and other attributes that contradicted a criminal lifestyle. Even those who were patriotic – who wanted to serve the military/government – would not participate in criminal behavior. This also ties in with committing to long-term goals.


I hope you find this helpful if you’re writing about a young character (or several) that doesn’t like to follow the rules, or something along those lines. Happy writing!

“Astronomy” by (classmate) Zachary Riddle


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A classmate of mine recently got his poem “Astronomy” published in the national literary journal The Blue Route, which is pretty awesome. His name is Zachary Riddle and you can read more about him at the bottom of this blog entry.

I decided to talk about “Astronomy,” because why the Hell not. Most poems I’ve talked about in Poetry Tuesday so far have been written by people who are dead by now. It’s time I changed gears a little.

Astronomy – Zachary Riddle

I am stoneskinned in the wake of you—infested, nightmared,
a scarecrow in a barren field, sunsore and crucified, nails pierced

through hayweed veins. At dawn, tasked with creation,
I leave the city lightless

and blindly run my fingers across the bridge of your nose,
slowly skim the thin of your upper lip, the small of your thumb,

the whole of your lower back. I sew myself into your treeborn
body, make seams between our myths and merge—

one fractured cosmos with another. You trace the fire
between fjord and shipdeck and tell me:

The sun rises and sets within two hours in Antarctica.
Under swollen red stars, I explain that I’ve lived

below Orion’s Belt my entire life, that I’ve only
seen the Southern sky in photographs.


The Blue Route, Issue 14.

The Blue Route, Issue 14.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t know how to analyze Riddle’s poem; this is one of those times when I don’t fully “understand” it but I like it, because it has beautiful diction, smooth lines and such abstract imagery. The voice here makes me feel as though the speaker is an otherworldly being answering the question, “So how was your day?” Since it’s called ‘Astronomy,’ my guess is that the speaker is somehow the cosmos itself… it’s not literally a scarecrow in a barren field, but an object of mystery and fear for us human beings.

Maybe I’m saying that just because recently I began watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s The Cosmos and thinking of that episode when he talked about the scientists who were scorned (crucified, nails pierced) for studying the sky and making claims such as the Earth is not the center of the universe and there are more galaxies like our own in existence. I especially get that from tasked with creation, because life itself started out in space – the Big Bang, the expansion of the universe, rocks colliding with each other – but this line also talks about the beginning of the day, the sun rising.

My favorite sentence is: I sew myself into your treeborn/ body, make seams between our myths and merge–/ one fractured cosmos with another. I might be all alone in this interpretation, but it makes me think of the phrase, “God is in everything,” and the idea that even though everything in the cosmos looks so chaotic on the outside, everything and everyone is still connected. There is a system behind every movement, behind evolution, behind birth and so forth. That’s probably the agnostic in me talking.

Either way, it’s an amazing poem and I love reading it. Perhaps it’s more important to say how it makes us feel rather than trying to come up with explanation for what it means.

Link to Riddle’s poem.

Link to Blue Route’s wordpress site.

PDF format of The Blue Route, issue 14.

Writing Advice and Staring out of Windows


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Lately it feels as though I’ve been staring out of windows a lot. It’s not like there’s a busy sidewalk outside with pedestrians to look at, though. One looks out to the backyard where the most interesting things are the birds and squirrels. Same goes for the other window, which turns towards the neighbor’s house and a partial view of the road leading to the busy traffic. Maybe it seems to happen a lot since I’m at my desk whenever my mind begins to wander…

Borrowed from tumblr site "samisoffthewall."

Borrowed from tumblr site “samisoffthewall.”

The suburbs isn’t the ideal place for a writer like me to reside. I’m not making excuses for my slow progress – writing a detailed and improved (new) outline for my novel – I’m just saying I wouldn’t mind being somewhere else to do my work. I probably should make it a habit to drive over to the local library or a coffee shop, because trying to finish stuff like this at my house is a mean task. There’s always someone shouting after me and asking me to do some household task “since I am not doing anything.”

Another observation I have made is that staring out of a window is much better than gluing my eyes to a laptop screen. Easier to gather my thoughts. It has rained a lot, too, in the past two, three weeks so I have had that comfort at least.

I can also say with confidence that the revision for my novel is going excellently, even though my life feels so chaotic and busy nowadays. I got myself two jobs last week. Two jobs! That is a new ball game for me; we’ll see how I manage that.

Anyway, the title of this blog post does say, “Writing tips,” so here they are: These are a myriad of helpful writing advice I’ve found on tumblr. (Click the links for the full article.)

12 Questions to ask yourself about your Magic System


  1. How is it learned and executed?
  2. How is it accessed?
  3. Does it have a will of its own?
  4. Is it restricted in space and time?
  5. What does available magic do?
  6. How does it relate to the character, plot and theme of the book? …


Top Ten Things that are not Impressive for Action Characters [Example]

  1. Sticking the landing . All this does is jack up joints. Collapse and roll. Hit the ground with the largest surface area possible.
  2. Headshots . You sound like bragging gamers.
  3. “One shot, one kill.” Same as above. Aim for center mass and unload until they stop moving.
  4. Disabling shots . Depending on the time period, you’re either consigning them to a lifetime of nerve damage and pain or a slow death from infection. Also, injured people can still fight back. […]


How to Write a Scene in 11 Steps

1. What needs to happen in this scene?

2. What’s the worst that would happen if this scene were omitted?

3. Who needs to be in the scene?

4. Where could the scene take place?

5. What’s the most surprising thing that could happen in the scene?


How to ensure that something happens in a scene [Example]

1. Pick a goal for the primary character in the scene.

2. Before you start writing, brainstorm ways in which your character tries to achieve that goal. Will they win or fail?

3. How do the other characters in the scene feel? Do they reveal their feelings? Do they know the primary character’s goal? How do they help or hinder him/her? […]


In the near future, I will post some writing tips of my own. Happy writing!

Tardes, noches by Jerónimo G. Balanta.

Tardes, noches by Jerónimo G. Balanta.

‘The Portrait’ by Stanley Kunitz


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My apologies for being two days late with Poetry Tuesday this week. Here is the poem I want to talk about this time: “The Portrait” by Stanley Kunitz. I was actually going to talk about another poem – “Hope” by Lisel Mueller – however, just now when I opened my book at a random spot, I saw this one and remembered what Professor Fanning told us in poetry class once. He said he and Kunitz were in fact good friends. Fanning was even appointed the executor for the Kunitz’s affairs when he passed away in 2006.

If my memory serves me right, Fanning told us how he discovered all these unpublished poems in the house and old letters . He then read us “The Portrait” to show us how sometimes it can take years, decades (!), before a poet finds the right words. In this poem, Kunitz talks about the pain of never getting to meet his father. When he brought the photograph to his mother, he was only a child and it wasn’t until he was an old when he knew how to talk about that experience.

Personally I find the burning cheek to be an excellent example of good metaphor. It brings home the awful reality that Kunitz wasn’t allowed to ever talk or ask about his father. I don’t know whether he found other means to find out more about him later in life, but it’s sad nonetheless that the slap in his face discouraged him to mention anything of the sort to his mother again. It’s as though he was punished for his curiosity.


The Portrait – Stanley Kunitz

My mother never forgave my father

for killing himself,

especially at such an awkward time

and in a public park,

that spring

when I was waiting to be born.

She locked his name

in her deepest cabinet

and would not let him out,

though I could hear him thumping.

When I came down from the attic

with the pastel portrait in my hand

of a long-lipped stranger

with a brave moustache

and deep brown level eyes,

she ripped it into shred

without a single word

and slapped me hard.

In my sixty-fourth year

I can feel my cheek

still burning.


Stanley Kunitz (

Stanley Kunitz (

Perks for Writing: (American) Judicial Concepts


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Part 2 of “Murder & Crime Done Right.” Information learned from criminology class with Doctor Mensah Adinkrah.

The following concepts might come handy if you’re writing mystery, horror or any kind of story really that will evolve around law and crime. Some of these terms may apply only to the legal system in the United States; I am not sure whether they use the same name for the judicial actions in other countries.

“Daredevil, 1.03 – ‘Rabbit in a Snowstorm'” (Netflix). Image borrowed from

– A –

acquittal – Judgment that a criminal defendant hasn’t been proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

affidavit – A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the part making it, before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths.

affirmed – The practice of the appellate courts, the decree or order.

allegation – Something that some says happened.

answer – The formal written statement by a defendant responding to a civil complaint and setting forth the ground for defense.

appeal – A request made after a trial, asking another court (usually the court of appeals) to decide whether the trial was conducted properly. To make such a request is “to appeal” or “to take an appeal.” One who appeals is called the appellant.

appellate – About appeals; an appellate court has the power to review the judgment of another lower court or tribunal.

arraignment – A proceeding in which an individual who’s accused of committing a crime is brought into court, told of the charges, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.

– B –

bail – The security given for the release of a criminal defendant or witness from legal custody (usually in the form of money) to secure his/her appearance on the day and time appointed.

bankruptcy – Refers to statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses that cannot pay their debt and seek the assistance of the court in getting a fresh start; under the protection of the bankruptcy court, debtors may discharge their debts, perhaps by paying a portion of each debt; bankruptcy judges preside over these proceedings.

bench trial – Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts.

brief – A written statement submitted by the lawyer for each side in a case that explains to the judges why they should decide the case or a particular part of a case in favor of that lawyer’s client.

– C –

chambers – A judge’s office.

capital offense – A crime punishable by death.

case law – The law as laid down in cases that have been decided in the decisions of the courts.

charge – The law that the police believe the defendant has broken.

charge to the jury – The judge’s instructions to the jury concerning the law that applies to the facts of the case on trial.

chief judge – The judge who has primary responsibility for the administration of a court but also decides cases; chief judges are determined by seniority.

circumstantial evidence – All evidence except eyewitness testimony.

clerk of court – An officer appointed by the court to work with the chief judge in overseeing the court’s administration, especially to assist in managing the flow of eases through the court and to maintain court records.

common law – The legal system that originated in England and is now in use in the United States; a law that is based on judicial decisions rather than legislative action. For instance, if the case in question has no precedent, the judge’s decision may form a new precedent/law that will assist future cases.

complaint – A written statement by the plaintiff stating the wrongs allegedly committed by the defendant.

continuance – Put off trial until another time.

contract – An agreement between two or more persons that creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular things.

conviction – A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

counsel – Legal advice; a term used to refer to lawyers in a case.

counterclaim – A claim that a defendant makes against a plaintiff.

court – A government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes; judges sometimes use “court” to refer to themselves.

court reporter – A person who makes a word-for-word record of what is said in court and produces a transcript of the proceedings upon request.

cross examine – Questioning of a witness by the attorney for the other side.

– D –

damages – Money paid by defendants to successful plaintiffs in civil cases to compensate the plaintiffs for their injuries.

default judgment – A judgment rendered because of the defendant’s failure to answer or appear.

defendant – In a civil suit, the person complained against; in a criminal case, the person accuses of the crime.

defense table – The table where the defense lawyer sits with the defendant in the courtroom.

deposition – An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths; such statements are often to examine potential witnesses, to obtain discovery, or to be used later in trial.

docket – A log containing brief entries of court proceedings.

– E –

en banc (“in the bench”/”full bench”) – It refers to court sessions with the entire membership of a court participating rather than the usual quorum; U.S. courts of appeals usually sit in panels of three judges, but may expand to a larger number in certain cases; they are then to be sitting en banc

evidence – Information presented in testimony or in documents that’s used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other.

– F –

federal question – Jurisdiction given to federal courts in cases involving the interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution, acts of Congress, and treaties.

felony – A crime carrying a penalty of more than a year in prison.

file – To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court to enter into the files or records of a case.

– G –

grand jury – A body of citizens who listen to evidence of criminal allegations, which are presented by the government and determines whether there’s probable cause to believe the offense was committed; as it is used in federal criminal cases, “the government” refers to the lawyer of the U.S. attorney’s office who are prosecuting the case.

– H –

hearsay – Statements by a witness who didn’t see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else; not admissible as evidence in court.

– I –

impeachment – (1) The process of calling something into question, as in “impeaching the testimony of a witness”// (2) The constitutional process whereby the House of Representatives may “impeach” (accuse of misconduct) high offices of the federal government for trial in the Senate.

indictment – The formal charge issued by a grand jury stating that there’s enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to justify having a trial; it’s used primarily for felonies.

in forma pauperis – In the manner of a pauper; permission given to a person to sue without payment of court fees on claim of indigence or poverty.

information – A formal accusation by a government attorney that the defendant committed a misdemeanor.

injunction – An order of the court prohibiting (or compelling) the performance of a specific act to prevent irreparable damage or injury.

instruction – A judge’s explanation to the jury before it begins deliberations of the questions it must answer and the law governing the case.

interrogatories – Written questions asked by one party of an opposing party, who must answer them in writing under oath; a discovery device in a lawsuit.

interview – Meeting with police or prosecutor.

issue – (1) The disputed point in disagreement between parties in lawsuit. // (2) To send out officially, as in to issue an order.

– J –

judge – A government official with authority to decide lawsuit brought before courts; other judicial officers in the U.S. courts system are Supreme Court justice.

jurisdiction – (1) The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case; concurrent jurisdiction exists when two courts have simultaneous responsibilities for the same case. // (2) The geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases.

juror – A person who’s on the jury.

jury – Persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire information and declare a verdict on matters of fact.

jurisprudence – The study of law and structure of legal system.

– L –

lawsuit – A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty, resulting in harm (fiscally, mentally, emotionally or physically) to the plaintiff.

law clerk (or staff attorney) – Assists judges with research and drafting of opinions.

librarian – Meets the informational needs of the judges and lawyers.

litigation – A case, controversy or lawsuit; participants (plaintiffs and defendants) in lawsuits are called litigants.

– M –

magistrate judges – Judicial officers who assist U.S. district judges in getting cases ready for trial, who may decide some criminal and civil trials when both parties agree to have the case heard by a magistrate judge instead of a judge.

misdemeanor – Usually a petty offense, a less serious crime than a felony, punishable by less than a year of confinement.

mistrial – An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error; when a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again from the selection of the jury.

– N –

nolo contendere – No contest has the same effect as a plea of guilty, as far as the criminal sentence is concern, but it may not be considered as an admission of guilt for any other purpose,

– O –

oath – A promise to tell the truth.

objection – A reason that an attorney interrupts a witness to talk to the judge.

opinion – A judge’s written explanation of a decision of the court or of a majority of judges; a dissenting opinion disagrees with the majority opinion because of the reasoning and/or the principles of law of which the decision is based; a concurring opinion agrees with the decision of the court but offers further comment.

oral argument – An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their position before the court and also to answer the judges’ question.

– P –

panel – (1) In appellate cases, a group of judges (usually three) assigned to decide the case. // (2) In the jury selection process, the group of potential jurors.

parties – Plaintiffs and defendants (petitioners and respondents) to lawsuits, also known as appellants and appelles in appeals and their lawyers.

petit jury (or trial jury) – A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented by both sides at trial and determine the facts in dispute; federal criminal juries consist of 12 persons and federal civil juries of six persons.

plaintiff – The person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit.

plea – In criminal case, the defendant’s statement pleading “guilty” or “not guilty” in answer to the charges, a declaration made in open court.

pleadings – Written statements of the parties in a civil case of their positions; in the federal courts, the principal pleadings are the complain and the answer.

procedure – The rules for the conduct of a lawsuit; there are rules of civil, criminal, evidence, bankruptcy and appellate procedure.

preliminary hearing – A hearing where the judge decides whether there’s enough evidence to make the defendant have a trial.

pretrial conference – A meeting of the judge and lawyers to discuss which matters should be presented to the jury, to review evidence and witnesses to set a timetable, and to discuss the settlement of the case.

probation – A sentencing alternative to imprisonment in which the court releases convicted defendants under supervision as long as certain conditions are observed.

probation officers (pretrial services officers) – Screen applicants for pretrial release and monitor convicted offenders released under court supervision.

pro se – A Latin term meaning “on one’s own behalf”; in courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers.

– R –

record – A written account of all the acts and proceedings in a lawsuit.

remand – When an appellate court sends a case back to a lower court for further proceedings.

reporter – Makes a record of court proceedings and prepares a transcript, and also publishes the court’s opinions or decisions (in the courts of appeals).

reverse – When an appellate court sets aside the decision of a lower court because of an error; a reversal is often followed by a remand.

– S –

sentence – The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime.

service of process – The service of writs or summonses to the appropriate party.

settlement – Parties to a lawsuit resolve their difference without having a trial; settlements often involve the payment of compensation by one party in satisfaction of the other party’s claims.

sequester – To separate; sometimes juries are separated from outside influences during deliberations.

sidebar – A conference between judge and lawyers held out of earshot of the jury and spectators.

statement – A description that a witness gives to the police and that the police write down.

statute – A law passed by a legislature.

statute of limitations – A law that sets the time within which parties must take actions to enforce their rights.

subpoena – A command to a witness to appear and give testimony.

subpoena duces tecum – A command to witness to produce documents.

summary judgment – A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial; it’s used when there’s no dispute as to the facts of the case, and one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

– T –

temporary restraining order – prohibits a person from an action that’s likely to cause irreparable harm; this differs from an injunction in that it may be granted immediately, without notice to the opposing party and without a hearing; it’s intended to last only until a hearing can be held.

testify – Answer questions in court.

testimony – Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or before grand juries.

tort – A civil wrong/breach of duty to another person, as outlined by law; a very common tort is negligent operation of a motor vehicle that results in property damage and personal injury in an automobile accident.

transcript – A written, word-for-word, record of what was said, either in a proceeding such as a trial or during some other conversation, as in a transcript of a hearing or oral deposition.

trial – A hearing that takes place when the defendant pleads “not guilty” and witnesses are required to come to court to give evidence.

– U –

uphold – The decision of an appellate court not to reverse a lower court decision.

U.S. Attorney (federal prosecutor) – A lawyer appointed by the President in each judicial district to prosecute and defend cases for the federal government.

U.S. Marshall (or bailiff) – Enforces the rules of behavior in courtrooms.

– V –

venues – Geographical location in which a case is tried.

verdict – Decision of a petit jury or a judge.

victim advocate – Work with prosecutors and assist the victims of a crime.

voir dire – The process by which judges and lawyers select a petit jury from among those eligible to serve, by questioning them to determine knowledge of the facts of the case and a willingness to decide the case only on the evidence presented in court; “voir dire” is a phrase meaning “to speak the truth.”

– W –

warrant – A written order directing the arrest of a party; a search warrant orders that a specific location be searched for items, which if found, can be used in court as evidence.

witness – A person called upon by either side in a lawsuit to give testimony before the court or jury.

writ – A formal written command, issued from the court, requiring the performance of a specific act.

writ of certiorari – An order issued by the Supreme Court directing the lower court to transmit records for a case for which it will hear on appeal.

Wise words by a Viking


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One of my favorite books we read for Ari Berk’s mythology class was Poems of the Elder Edda (translated by Patricia Terry), which held tales about Odin and the other characters of Norse mythology, dwarves, gods, wolves, witches and giants alike. There’s a section in the book called “Sayings of the High One”; it mostly holds short, poetic phrases that offer the reader advice. Many of them have to do with hospitality, survival and courting.

For this week’s Poertry Tuesday, I thought it would be amusing to talk about a few of these words of Viking wisdom.

elder edda


A man must go         to many places,

         travel widely in the world,

before he is wise enough         to see the workings

         of other men’s minds.

I believe this phrase talks about gaining knowledge and understanding from experience. This works especially well when you leave home, because when you return from travel, you will have a new perspective on your life, the people in it and whatever else affects the world around you. While you were away, you (hopefully) met new people, heard their stories, learned new things and saw places that used to be so far away. With travel, experience and knowledge, a human being has the potential of becoming truly wise.



A stupid man        stays awake all night

       pondering his problems;

he’s worn out         when morning comes

        and whatever was, still is.

This appears pretty straight forward: There is no point in worrying about tomorrow. Let it wait till the next day, because once you’ve rested, you have more energy to figure out a solution for your troubles. You can then do something about them, too.



Don’t stay forever          when you visit friends,

        know when it’s time to leave;

love turns to loathing        if you sit too long

        on someone else’s bench.

Many think of savages whenever someone mentions vikings, but they were more than robbers/pirates. They were warriors and traders who put so much weight on manners and respect among friends and allies. I realize how strange that may sound, considering that they slaughtered monks during the plunders. They had to trade with someone, though, once the job was done. Since they traveled quite a bit, I can imagine that they came to a consensus about hospitality etiquette.



Always as a young man          I traveled alone,

         and I would lose my way;

I felt I was rich         if I made a friend–

        no man by himself is happy.

I’m not sure what to say about this phrase, because it’s unclear whether the speaker is saying it’s bad to travel alone. Perhaps they are saying that even if you get lost somewhere, you can always make a new friend who can help you. The message here could be that no one can do everything on their own, and it’s perfectly alright to rely on others.

Sonnet IV by Edna St. Vincent Millay


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As my time at college was coming to a close, I read the work by various poets and found myself (a little bit every day) either scribbling something for a poem or thinking of the words I’d use for one. I haven’t written a whole lot of poetry since spring last year, probably because I’ve been so caught up with my novel, and I’ve had a blast getting back into it. I got a new one I’m going to send to my ol’ poetry professor and see what he thinks. Recently I also signed up for the open mic night at Kaya Coffee House, where I read ten of my poems. First poetry reading ever. It was a little nerve-wrecking before I walked up there, but it wasn’t too bad at all. Some of the audience knew about the snapping rule, which was neat. I hope they have this kind of open-mic poetry-reading stuff going in the metro-Detroit area, because I want to do it again.

Me at Kaya on Wednesday, April 29, 2015.

Me at Kaya on Wednesday, April 29, 2015.

One of the poets I was “getting to know” during my last month at Central was Edna St. Vincent Millay. First of all, what a bad-ass name, and second, her poetry is awesome. I checked out The Harp-Weaver & other poems from the library and today I want to share one poem that stood out to me (I found it inspiring).

I know I am but summer to your heart,

And not the full four seasons of the year;

And you must welcome from another part

Such noble moods as are not mine, my dear.

No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell

Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;

And I have loved you all too long and well

To carry still the high sweet breast of Spring.

Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes,

I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums,

That you may hail anew the bird and rose

When I come back to you, as summer comes.

Else will you seek, at some not distant time,

Even your summer in another time.



Perhaps I shouldn’t start Poetry Tuesday back up with such a sad poem… oh well. It seems suitable considering summer is upon us and that only a few days ago, I witnessed so many goodbyes between couples. Long hugs, kisses, and well-meant but empty promises. Most of them clearly don’t realize that summer breaks are huge chunks of time; a long-distance relationship is even harder if one or both of you are graduating. The bag of stress that brings may be one of the reasons behind summer romances; all you have is a burst of fireworks for a couple of months. Then you carry on with some good memories, returning to Singleton Ville.

Now “summer” here is rather a metaphor, of course. It stands for a short-lived love affair between two people. The speaker knows this: “And you must welcome from another part/ such noble moods as are not mine,” which means that she knows she won’t be the last woman in their life.

The most tear-jerking part (for me at least) is when she says that she’s going to dump her lover before they do that to her, because a broken heart would be too much.

Here’s how I made that conclusion:

* “I have loved you all too long and well/ to carry still the high sweet breast of spring

… meaning, ‘this affair has gone on for too long and if I let this continue, I will be too broken-hearted to allow myself fall in love again once we go separate ways.’

* ‘Wherefore I say: O love, as summer goes/ I must be gone, steal forth with silent drums.’

… meaning, ‘I’m saying goodbye and walking away with my head held high.’

The poem then goes on to say that she figures that her lover will move on with someone new after this. However, even though she appears to have come to terms with that, there’s a quiet despair in the tone. In truth, she wants this fling to be something more. Should they meet again, she asks her lover to consider to “seek […] even your summer in another time” so that it can last forever instead.

Now there’s one part I’m not sure about:

No gracious weight of golden fruits to sell

Have I, nor any wise and wintry thing;

It could mean that she has nothing left to offer her lover in a sensual sense. The passion is running out so instead of ‘golden fruits,’ she now craves a stable relationship, which may seem stale and old to her lover in comparison.

Let me know what you guys think.

Pluviophiles and “Rain Travel” by W.S. Merwin


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“rain travel” by W.S. mervin

I wake in the dark and remember
it is the morning when I must start
by myself on the journey
I lie listening to the black hour
before dawn and you are
still asleep beside me while
around us the trees full of night lean
hushed in their dream that bears
us asleep and awake then I hear
drops falling one by one into
the sightless leaves and I 
do not know when they began but
all at once there is no sound but rain
and the stream below us roaring
away into the rushing darkness

I like that the poem begins quietly: The speaker is waking up, thinking about the long day ahead of them – like many of do when we just want to stay in bed – and nothing besides the person’s breathing next to them makes a sound. It’s the kind of silence that sits on your chest, especially when you consider you might be one of the few living (day) creature who’s awake. The trees lean in like a security blanket, inviting the speaker to fall back asleep, which they do, then the music of the rain brings them back.

If you ask me, one of the best feelings in the world is to be woken up by rain. However, what makes that image powerful in this poem is the fact that the rain makes the speaker feel alive. Read this part again:

all at once there is no sound but rain
and the stream below us roaring
away into the rushing darkness

All that water falling down makes it sound and feel as though the rain has surrounded them. Now they feel smaller. They feel the strength of the rain. A strange sense of infinity grabs hold onto the speaker as they live fully in that moment, lying in bed, listening to the sound.


Those who was in the same poetry class as me last year are perhaps laughing at this, because it was obvious in some of my poems that I love rain. I love it! I love the smell of the air before, during and after the downpour. I love the myriad of sounds rain can create when the drops land: it trickles, drums, pounds, washes, drips, etc. I love watching the different shapes the water makes on windows, or when the wind pushes on, building waves of drops that dance through the air. Sometimes – when the humidity is right, I think – teeny tiny rain drops will hover, morphing into a mist, as though the clouds have come down to earth to stay for a moment. There have been some late evenings out with friends when that happened, and I couldn’t help but stare; that mist enhanced the light from the street lamps around us, the moisture clung to our clothes and the air felt fresher as I breathed in.

So you can guess how I feel when I find a poem about rain.

I got story for ya: In the summer of 2013, my family and I traveled down to North Carolina to see the Smoky Mountains and the nature parks in the area. One day we drove to this awesome mountain called Chimney Rock and it was pouring the entire day with only brief intervals. Part of the way up, you had to take the elevator, but there was a great deal of walking if you wanted to get higher. Which I did. Oh boy, I was in Heaven. What you see in the picture below is some crazy fog that has conjured from all the rain throughout the day.

Of course, my brothers and I wanted to get as high as possible so we left our parents behind at the viewpoint (elevation: 2280 feet) and kept climbing. By the time we reached the top – or least as far as tourists were allowed – we were 2480 feet in the air and surrounded by a mixture of fog and clouds.  It was so cool!

Chimney Rock (summer 2013). Elevation: 2280 feet.

Chimney Rock (summer 2013). Elevation: 2280 feet.



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