Happy New Year

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

~  Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Origin of the Word ‘Freelance’

A conversation with a friend last night prompted me to write this post. While talking about writing and freelancing, she jokingly asked me if freelancing meant “lancing freely”. When I said yes, she thought I was joking, too, when in fact I wasn’t. Do you know the origin of the word “freelance”?

The word first appeared in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe in 1819:

I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them—I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.

As you can see the word was originally two words – free and lance. Sir Walter Scott coined the words to mean mercenary soldiers; that is, free men who used their skills with lances for any person who hired them. Hence, the words free and lance. The people who hired the free lances were generally noblemen or feudal lords who needed extra hands to fight for land or property.

Ever since the term appeared in the novel, free lances began to be used for mercenary soldiers. Gradually the two words became one word – freelance – and was used only as a noun. It wasn’t till the early twentieth century that the word became a verb as well. How the word came to mean a person who sells his work or services is not clear, but it wasn’t seen in this sense till about 60-70 years ago.

Do you know how the word freelance changed its meaning? Please share your thoughts here with us.

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New Year Quotes

Hello, Friends.  Hope the festive season is keeping you healthy and happy. Here things have been extremely busy. I’ve hardly had time to post anything. But I promise to make up for all the lost time as soon as the new year begins … uh, is that a new year resolution? Well, sort of.

Talking of new year, here are some interesting quotes on the new year:

*  Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.  ~ Benjamin Franklin

*  New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday.  ~ Charles Lamb

*  Never tell your resolution beforehand, or it’s twice as onerous a duty.  ~ John Selden

*  Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.           ~  Alfred, Lord Tennyson

*  New Year’s Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.  ~ Mark Twain

*  For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make beginning.                   ~ T.S. Eliot

*  Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.  ~ Oscar Wilde

*  One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this:  To rise above the little things.  ~ John Burroughs

*  May all your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.  ~ Joey Adams

*  A happy New Year! Grant that I
May bring no tear to any eye
When this New Year in time shall end
Let it be said I’ve played the friend,
Have lived and loved and labored here,
And made of it a happy year.                                ~ Edgar Guest

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Happy Holidays

A simple wish for joy.

A heartfelt wish for love.

A lasting wish for peace.

A special wish for you.

Season’s greetings and best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous new year, 2010.

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Writer Anecdotes

In our series of writer anecdotes, today we have different writers instead of just one. Enjoy!

T. S. Eliot (1888 –1965)

Publisher Robert Giroux once asked Eliot whether he agreed with the widely held belief that most editors are failed writers. Eliot pondered for a moment, then said, “Yes, I suppose some editors are failed writers —but so are most writers.”

Isaac Asimov (1920–1992)

Once an editor rejected a story of Isaac Asimov and called it “meretricious.” The word is from the Latin meretrix, meaning “prostitute,” so that the implication was that Asimov was prostituting his talent and was writing a bad story that would get by on his name alone because he was too lazy to write a good one. (Later the story was sold elsewhere and received considerable acclaim.)

Swallowing his annoyance, Asimov said mildly, “What was that word you used?”

Obviously proud at knowing a word he felt Asimov didn’t know, the editor enunciated carefully, “Meretricious!”

Whereupon Asimov replied, “And a Happy New Year to you.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1888–1953)

Hawthorne’s son, Julian, was also a writer and father and son were frequently mistaken for each other. “Oh, Mr. Hawthorne, I’ve just read The Scarlet Letter, and I think it’s a real masterpiece,” gushed a lady to whom Julian Hawthorne had just been introduced. “Oh, that,” said Julian, shrugging modestly, “that was written when I was only four years old.”

Robert Frost (1874–1963)

After a dinner party Robert Frost and the other guests went out onto the veranda to watch the sunset. “Oh, Mr. Frost, isn’t it a lovely sunset?” exclaimed a young woman.

“I never discuss business after dinner,” Frost replied.

Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)

A newspaper to which Kipling subscribed published by mistake an announcement of his death. Kipling wrote at once to the editor: “I’ve just read that I am dead. Don’t forget to delete me from your list of subscribers.”

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What is a White Paper?

One of my students recently asked me exactly what a white paper was since he had seen it used in different ways. He was right – it is used in different ways. There’s the American way and there’s the British way.

In American English, a white paper is an authoritative report, or a guide, that addresses issues and problems, and the different ways of solving them. It is generally used by businesses as a marketing or sales tool. For example, a white paper of a business that deals in technical products is a document that promotes the products by giving their details, their benefits, and if there are problems, ways of solving them.  This information may be given separately, or all together. That is – there may be white papers giving technical details of the products (like how the products work), or white papers stating the benefits of the products, or those which are troubleshooting guides, or they may be combinations of two or more of these. The purpose of these white papers is to inform and educate prospective buyers about the products.

In British English, a white paper is a parliamentary paper stating government policy on a certain issue or issues. The topic is usually a current issue which the government talks about in detail in the white paper – what the issue or concern is, the government’s policy on the issue, how it proposes to deal with it, and whether a law will be passed or not.

In Britain and the Commonwealth countries, the term “white paper” has been used for several decades. The term originated when a shorter version of a “blue book” (a detailed government policy report bound in blue covers) was introduced for wider use. This shorter version was bound in the same white paper as the ones on which the text was written – hence the name “white paper”.  But the use of the term in America and elsewhere is only as recent as the early 1990’s. It was adopted by the IT industry to describe technical documents (as defined above).

A relatively new term is a “video white paper’. This is the same thing as a “white paper” (as in the American sense) with the only difference that it is presented in video format. The information of the white paper is presented not only verbally, but also involves the use of graphics, graphs, and animations.

Do you know of any other definition of “white paper”? How would you describe it?

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Looking for Writing Inspiration?

“Where do you get inspiration from?” This is a question almost all writers get asked some time or the other. And why not? Inspiration is an integral part of writing. All writers – no matter how good – need some kind of inspiration to keep them going. They may need it some of the time, or all of the times. “Some of the time” because quite often ideas come on their own or unexpectedly from the most unlikely places, and “all of the times” because sometimes no matter how hard they try, they just cannot think of anything. The mind goes completely blank.

So, what does one do when the mind goes blank? Where do writers get inspiration from? Well, different writers have different sources. If you’re wondering, or are looking for sources of inspiration yourself, here are some of the most common that writers go for:

1. Reading. Reading anything – books, magazines, newspapers, even milk cartons and cereal boxes. There’s so much variety in reading material that it almost always gives you food for thought, which in turn gives you ideas – sometimes new, sometimes the same with a different angle. As you continue to read, one idea leads to another and you’re full of ideas.

2. Talking. Talking to people – family, friends, colleagues, anyone – leads to ideas. Sometimes ideas pop up on their own during a conversation, at other times you can ask them to give you ideas. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get out of this, you’ll even wonder – why didn’t I think of that? Remember the saying ‘two heads are better than one’?

3. Surfing the web. Go to any site, follow random links – links that you don’t usually go to. Going over something completely different gives you completely new ideas. Go to various blogs and forums and see what people are discussing. Pick up the latest trends and give them new twists.

4. Going out. Go out, anywhere that you don’t usually go to – museums, shopping malls, parks, or just take a walk down the road. Look around and observe the new environment, the people walking by, the sounds, sights, everything. You’ll be amazed at how many ideas you can come up with.

5. Letting your mind wander. Sometimes having too much on your mind prevents new ideas from coming in. So let yourself go. Listen to some soft music, go for long leisurely drives alone, or to a quiet corner in a park – anywhere where you can let your mind wander in peace. Just stop thinking of the routine things and go for the random and unusual, and see how many new ideas you can come up with.

Like Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Where do you get your writing inspiration from? Anything different from the ones above? We’d love to hear from you.

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