Learning to stand up for yourself one word at a time

Recently, I learned that a letter I wrote is worth more than $1000.00.

Unless they’re getting paid directly for a story, writers often don’t know the direct impact of their writing. They write and send it off into the void. They may publish a story in a newspaper or magazine and never hear back from a single reader. They receive constant rejection letters from publishers and agents. In the case of letters to companies or entities — congresspeople or government officials — they often don’t hear anything back, or worse, they receive a form letter something along the lines of…


Calling out the traitors among us

Forty-three United States Senators are complicit in the deaths of seven United States citizens. They are criminals and traitors to our country.

As a result of a mob violently attacking the United States Capitol on January 6 to stop the certification of the electoral college votes, five people died. Two more officers died by suicide in the following days attributed to the insurrection. More than 140 people were injured, most of them police officers.

The seven people who died are:

Brian Sicknick, 42, US Capitol Police Officer Ashlii Babbitt, 35, US Air Force Veteran Benjamin Phillips, 50, Computer Programmer Kevin…


The 1971 Sylmar Quake shattered my peace of mind

In 1971 at 6:00 in the morning, a 6.5 earthquake rumbled through the north end of the San Fernando Valley, upturning our lives forever. It was the first modern earthquake in a place where the anticipated Big One is talked about with great regularity.

I remember the event because I was 7 years old. And it was my grandmother’s birthday, February 9. She lived in Ohio. February 9th would forever after be known as Earthquake Day.

Compared to more recent earthquakes, particularly the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in the San Francisco Bay area and the 1994 Northridge quake, a far…


Writing ‘beyond’ what you know will lead to new knowledge and fresh ideas

Most beginning creative writing course instructions begin with some version of the famous phrase “write what you know.” This pithy phrase keeps the 20-something-year-old skateboarders-turned-avante-garde-poets from adopting the narration of 80-something-year-old blue-haired civil war widows.

I mean, there are good reasons for a 20-something-year-old skateboarder-poets NOT to write as 80-something-year-old blue-haired civil war widows. What can the one possible know about the other?

Authenticity of voice and subject matter leads to believable writing.

I think “write what you know” is mostly to keep disaffected creative writing instructors from reading the kind of drivel that they themselves don’t have the nerve…


I found one glorious day of peace in nearly 6 decades, on television.

One summer Sunday morning in the San Fernando Valley, I awoke to peace.

It was 1975. I got up, rubbed the sleep from my eyes, grabbed the milk and cereal, bowl and spoon, and sat on the old rust-colored carpet near enough to the television to turn the dial, my morning ritual. My siblings were older and had moved away. It was just me. As was their custom, my parents slept in. Normally early risers who also stayed up late into the night, they luxuriated in weekend sleep.

On this particular morning, I turned the dial and found a deeply…


Customer service becomes customer screwage, coast to coast.

The girlfriend and I moved across country twice during the pandemic. Without jobs and an expiring lease, we had few options.

We didn’t anticipate being in this situation: she, a recent Ivy League grad with an advanced degree in public health, and I, a writer with a 33-year career in academia and 25 years teaching college English. Yet, here we were.

On July 31, we packed our belongings into a U-Haul U-Box and left it in New Haven, Connecticut heading for California with a packed Toyota Corolla and our 1 1/2 year old Dachshund named Herman.

We divided the days…


From the perspective of a native Californian

Happy the man whose wish and care a few paternal acres bound, content to breathe his native air in his own ground.

— Alexander Pope

More than 4 million acres in California have burned in 2020, and more than 1 million acres have burned in Oregon. We in the West are choking on smoke and falling ash, our native air. Nobody is happy about this.

Most Californians have a relationship with fire. I have lived in every continental time zone in America, but I am a Californian at heart, San Fernando Valley born and raised.

I left Connecticut in August…


Big corporations have distorted science to sell you lies

Tobacco, sugar, stress, climate change, plastics. It’s hard to conceive of a modern life in which we don’t interact with at least one of these items on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the intersection of our life with these 5 objects is predicated on deep-rooted lies.

Money may be the root of all evil. But lies are the strength of those roots. These lies continue to hold strong in the face of their evolving narrative, as public relations arms of giant corporations spin a web of deceit and misdirection like a spider spins a web. …


Proven strategies from a college writing teacher who’s helped thousands of students improve

I taught college writing for 25 years, adding up to hundreds of classes and thousands of students, in every time zone in the continental United States. I’ve seen many good students struggle and developing students drop out because of lack of preparation for college English. Granted, writing is hard work, and you will have to put in the time and effort to improve. But writing is a skill that anybody can learn. The key to approaching English 101 is clearing your mind of preconceptions and practicing common-sense strategies.

The Myth of English 101

Often the most dreaded class in college, English 101 is infamous for…


The “I” in your story isn’t you at all, even if you think it is.

On October 31, 2018, I settled in on a leather couch in a legendary cigar bar and started writing a memoir. My progress went so well that I estimated it would take 6 months to complete. Of course, writing doesn’t proceed at a steady pace, and writing projects have a way of ballooning. Nearly two years later, I’m hundreds of pages in and about three-quarters of the way through. But I’m still writing. And I’m still writing.

For this project, I’ve read dozens of books about the art of writing memoir. I’ve read just as many memoirs. Though memoir is…

Lee G. Hornbrook

Writer, Editor. Vegan, Sailor, Non-conformist. Former college writing teacher. **I Write. Mostly Words. Every Day.** https://awordplease.blog

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