Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bitter Past is an Easy Cup to Swallow!

My friend and one of my favorite writers, USA Today bestselling author Caroline Fardig, has done it again! Please join me in congratulating Caroline on the publication of the first book in her new Ellie Matthews series, Bitter Past!!

Three years ago, criminalist Ellie Matthews was blindsided when a grisly homicide case suddenly became personal. She abandoned the danger and stress of crime scene investigation for a professorship at a posh private college and never looked back.

Now, Ellie’s pleasant world is shattered when she finds the dead body of a female student. The campus is in chaos, reporters are circling like vultures, and Ellie is trying her best to distance herself from the situation. Not an easy task when her closest colleague becomes the prime suspect.

After the college community is rocked by another suspicious death, Ellie’s mentor, Sheriff Jayne Walsh, convinces her to consult on the case. Partnered with quick-witted Detective Nick Baxter, Ellie reluctantly bottles up her personal demons and dives back into the world she left behind, racing to make sense of the evidence before the killer strikes again.


I was lucky enough to get to read an advanced copy, and the story had me hooked! Unlike her earlier series, Fardig plays the mystery straight here. And Ellie is tough! She can hold her own, whether the battle is verbal or physical. A tough childhood and complicated personal life make Ellie no one’s fool.

And the research Fardig has done to write the book is obvious. Although she weaves the forensic information into the plot seamlessly, by the end of Bitter Past, I felt like I’d taken an introductory course in forensic science myself.

Kudos to Caroline!

Buy links:
Amazon

Barnes and Noble


About the Author:
CAROLINE FARDIG is the USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR of the Java Jive Mysteries series and the Lizzie Hart Mysteries series. Fardig's BAD MEDICINE was named one of the "Best Books of 2015" by Suspense Magazine. She worked as a schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bring Back that Lovin’ Feeling Blog Hop!..... Some books are like fine wine…

Glad to be the last stop on this hop!

When Deb suggested a “bring back that lovin’ feeling” blog hop to follow up on her “you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling” series, her timing was uncanny—and not just because as a resident of a town with a median age of 70, I hear that song on the radio all the time. Struggling through the umpteenth draft of my fourth novel, I’d begun looking at books from my childhood to see if I could recapture the feelings that led me to sleep with books as if they were in my collection of stuffed animals. I’d already been wondering whether I’d find them as charming as an adult as I did as a child.

As a pre-teen, I had an affinity for 1950s YA, written by authors such as Beverly Cleary and Rosamund du Jardin. My mother introduced me to these books, and while Cleary is best known for her children’s series about Ramona and her sister Beatrice, she also wrote about older girls. Fifteen had been my favorite; a friend suggested I also take a look at The Luckiest Girl. Du Jardin wrote about twins. At the same time, I was eager to revisit my favorite 1950s heroine – Henrietta “Snowy” Snow, protagonist of Ruth Doan MacDougall’s book The Cheerleader. The latter was actually published in 1973, although it takes place in 1955-1957.

What a difference a life makes. Reading the books made me realize that Cleary and du Jardin were writing fiction for middle graders dreaming about their teenage life. Their heroines were so squeaky clean, they’d date a boy for months and never even kiss him. (This may have been due more to publisher rules at the time about what was appropriate for teenagers than the choice of the writers, however.) MacDougall, on the other hand, may have been writing for adult women who wanted a clear-eyed look back at their teenage years.

Unlike the other books, which I’d merely enjoyed, I was obsessed with The Cheerleader for years. In middle school, I studied it as if it would give me clues as to the type of high-school experience I could aspire to. By the time I made it to high school, I knew that my experience would be nothing like Snowy’s. Still, she was the girl I wished I could be. A hard worker, naturally smart, who pulled all As. A cheerleader who took her school-support duties seriously. And the girlfriend of a boy she crushed on anonymously for a year. As an under-achiever without an athletic bone in my body, the one thing we had in common was the name of the boy we crushed on. But Snowy dated him for a year while my crush only saw me as a friend. In the end, Snowy leaves him behind, eager for a future where she goes forward rather than back.

Revisiting Snowy as an almost-fifty-year-old was a delight. There was so much I didn’t see, but must have grasped on some basic level. Here’s one line that drew me: So she’d sit on the riverbank and watch for a seagull, and the longing for something, she didn’t know what, was as intense as pain.

That sums up the experience of being a teenager better than any sentence I’ve ever read.

I also realized how much MacDougall’s voice had influenced my own writing at the time. Sometimes I wrote short, fictionalized pieces about the life I wished I were living rather than the life I was currently stuck in. I came across these writings not too long ago, and was surprised to find myself writing in a voice I didn’t recognize. It was hers.

The overarching irony in the book, something I couldn’t see as a teenager, was that no matter how hard-working and diligent Snowy was, her 1950s female existence meant her choices were so limited, she didn’t even see the barriers to her future, blaming a lack of imagination because she didn’t want to be a teacher, nurse, or secretary. (Eventually she decided to be a poet.) Relationships and marriage were so important to these teenage girls because they literally did not have a future without a man.

The only aspect that bothered me about the writing was that MacDougall was somewhat guilty of the crime we now call “head-hopping.” Although the book is written from Snowy’s point of view, the author occasionally goes into other characters’ heads to reveal how they see Snowy. As a reader, I found this enlightening, but the writer in me wondered about rule-breaking and the difference between head-hopping and the omniscient point of view.

Finally, the best part of this journey about looking back for Snowy was the discovery that, twenty years after The Cheerleader was published, MacDougall came out with a sequel, Snowy. And eleven years after that, Henrietta Snow was published, taking Snowy’s journey from a teenager to a woman in her 60s. Apparently I was not the only reader obsessed with this character, and enough of them hounded MacDougall enough that she came out with two more books. Perhaps we’ll see a final one this decade. Reading these books, reuniting with Snowy after so long, and getting to know her as a grown-up, was a privilege I hadn’t anticipated and one I appreciated every minute I read those books. But—and not wanting to give away too much unless I’ve inspired you to check out the collection yourself—the feeling I got at the end of The Cheerleader—of Snowy heading full-on into the future, of college and life without her small-town boyfriend with small-town goals—was misplaced. In the end, though, Snowy was a product of her generation, and the future she did earn was perhaps the best one available to her.

Thanks so much to Deb for suggesting this topic! I hope you all check out the Cheerleader books… here they are on Amazon!



Monday, July 24, 2017

Why Writers Should Attend Writers Conferences

Nearly two weeks later, several thousand dollars lighter, several pounds heavier, I’m back from the Southampton Writers Conference. I had planned this to be a one-time thing, a treat to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday, but it was so wonderful I might have to do it again.

Many writers’ conferences are centered around meeting and pitching to agents, which is understandable. As soon as the germ of an idea hits, many writers split their time between writing their new piece and worrying that some other writer is working on the same thing. It becomes a race to finish the draft and get it out to agents as soon as possible, before Stephen King has a chance to finish his.

It’s easy to say, but… don’t do this.

Instead, attend writers’ conferences where the emphasis is on craft. They will make you a better writer. And better stories will attract the attention it takes to get sold in the traditional marketplace.

These conferences center around workshops, where an instructor—often a well-known author—works with 10-15 writers, focusing on 15-25 pages of their work. These instructors often read from their latest works in the evening. Other conference activities include special presentations from folks in the publishing industry (yes, including agents), a play written by conference attendees past or present, receptions, etc.

Here’s what you’ll get out of attending one:

1. The chance to have your writing treated respectfully by people in the industry. There is no more satisfying kick in the pants than having a well-known writer pore over your words and offer in-depth commentary. If you’re in a rut or just between drafts, this feedback alone can get you writing again.

2. The people you meet. Not only do writers conferences offer the chance to form lasting friendships with folks in the same boat you are, suddenly you have many more beta readers or critique partners ready to read your finished manuscript. It’s a good kind of pressure to get you to finish your project.

3. Writing prompts and exercises. If you’ve been concentrating solely on your work in progress, conferences offer assignments that will get you out of your writing comfort zone. Below I’ve pasted a short story I wrote for an exercise in Meg Wolitzer’s class. It’s not my usual voice—I generally write in first person—but I’m proud of the result.

4. Craft lectures and classes. Many conferences offer learning opportunities in addition to the workshops, bringing in bestselling authors to talk about their processes and answer questions.

5. The break. Just the act of taking time off from work and home responsibilities to focus on your writing life will help you take your work more seriously.

6. Introduction to MFA possibilities. Many of your fellow attendees will be MFAs or will be taking classes toward one. And some of the conferences are affiliated with MFA programs. If you’re considering that degree, a conference is a good first look. Many MFA classes follow the same workshop format.

If I’ve convinced you, Google “writers conferences 2017” to find one that suits your needs. Note the application process and deadlines—most of them limit attendees and require a writing sample to be accepted, so it’s not something you can usually sign up for last minute.

The next conference on my agenda is the annual Writers in Paradise conference held every January just a few miles from me. (I swear I didn’t know about it when I named my blog!) Their application process opens August 1, so if you’re interested, get those pages in quickly! http://www.writersinparadise.com/

Here’s my piece from Meg Wolitzer’s workshop. The challenge was to let the action and details tell the story.

# # #

When Jennifer went into the laundry room that morning, Pepper struggled to her feet, her legs slipping almost comically on the slick tile floor. Jennifer squatted onto the floor and gently lifted the dog by pushing up her stomach until her legs straightened. The black lab licked her wrist eagerly, ignoring the empty food dish near the washing machine.

She already had a vet appointment scheduled for later in the week, but while the kids were eating breakfast, she moved it up to that afternoon. After she hung up the phone, she opened the refrigerator for her usual bowl of Cheerios, but somehow both milk cartons were empty.

In the drop-off line at Tuckerman Middle School, she told them, almost casually, “I’m taking Pepper in today. Do you want to go with me?”

Her words hung in the air, seemingly pregnant with meaning, until she turned and saw them engrossed in their phones.

“I have tennis after school,” Nick said. “Matt’s mom is driving us.”

“I have drama club,” Wendy said. “You don’t want us to skip, do you?” She sounded almost indignant.

“No,” Jennifer said. “I wouldn’t want you to skip.”

When she got home, Pepper had made a mess in the kitchen, and perhaps feeling guilty, had tried to eat the evidence, thus making things worse. Jennifer helped the dog into the yard, where she squirted her off with a hose that the landscaper had left lying across the mulch around the bushes. He wasn’t scheduled to return for a few more days, but the grass was already too long.

Pepper fell. Jennifer hoisted the dog back up, getting warm wet dog mess all over her jeans and tee-shirt. Her clothes were nearly as old as the dog – thirteen – and she decided to throw them away after her shower. Unlike other women in the county, she didn’t shop for sport and she didn’t consider her clothes as a competition. Maybe if she’d been a size six instead of a sixteen, she would have enjoyed dressing. But the local boutiques never stocked clothes for her, anyway.

She spent the rest of the morning and afternoon on the computer, proofreading college essays written by other people’s children. Once she’d edited impressive opinion pieces submitted by leaders in government and industry; now she read draft after draft about how building houses in Louisiana changed the trajectory of a life once only devoted to soccer, lacrosse, and chess club. The dog lay under her feet, occasionally lifting her head to lick Jennifer’s bare foot. Jennifer rubbed her fur with her toes.

By the time two-thirty rolled around, Pepper was again unable to get up. Jennifer propped open the door to the garage, hit the garage door opener, climbed into the cab, and moved the mini-van to the driveway. After opening the back door, she squatted next to the dog, put her arms underneath the girl’s stomach, and lifted with her knees. Pepper weighed nearly fifty pounds, but Jennifer was able to waddle back to the mini-van and hoist the dog into the trunk.

The vet was a holistic type, who had told Jennifer to cook for Pepper – ground turkey and vegetables—and who poked her with acupuncture needles once a week while the kids were at their various practices. Today, as Jennifer struggled to open the door with Pepper in her arms, the receptionist gave her a strange look and immediately nodded her into an open room. It was bigger and more comfortable than the other rooms she’d seen, with several couches and tables that sported boxes of tissues.

Jennifer lay Pepper on the fluffy blanket on the floor and scooted next to the dog. Pepper curled her head in Jennifer’s lap.

Dr. Cason came in immediately. She sat cross-legged beside Jennifer and put her hand on her leg. “I heard you carried her in today.”

Jennifer nodded, suddenly unable to speak. The vet took Jennifer’s hand in both of hers.

“It’s time. It’s been time. She’s been holding on for you. She needs you to let her go. Can you do that? Can you let her go?”

When Jennifer nodded again, the vet stood up. “I’ll give you a few minutes together. Then we’ll start the protocol. She’ll be asleep first. It will be fast and absolutely painless.”

Jennifer stroked the dog in her lap. Her first baby. She and David had gotten her from the pound, a stray whose distended nipples revealed she’d recently given birth. Perhaps the owner had kept the puppies but kicked out its mama. The dog had rewarded them with intense devotion. When Jennifer’s own babies were born, Pepper had groomed them as if she’d given birth to them herself.

“Are you ready?” Dr. Cason placed an IV in Pepper’s leg as Jennifer leaned over the dog, the tears flowing freely down her face. Pepper tilted her head and licked the water off Jennifer’s cheeks. When her cheeks were dry, Pepper laid her head down and closed her eyes.

“Such a good girl,” Jennifer murmured. “Such a good, good girl.” The dog was motionless on the carpet.

The vet placed her stethoscope on the dog’s chest. “It’s over,” she whispered. “She only needed a little nudge.”

Afterward, Jennifer filled out the paperwork to have Pepper cremated. There would be paw prints made; fur saved. The package would come in the mail in the next several weeks.

Wendy and Nick were still not home when Jennifer returned. She walked upstairs, shut her bedroom door, and laid down on the bed. A few hours later, she woke when David turned on the light. Stripping off his work clothes, he asked, “Where’s the dog?”

Jennifer sat up. “I had to. The vet said it was time.”

“Good. I’m glad you took care of that.” He disappeared into his walk-in closet, returning a few minutes later in his tennis clothes. “I’ve got doubles. I’ll be ready for dinner around seven.”

He slipped out the door, his tennis shoes squeaking as he hurried down the stairs and into the garage.

Jennifer got up and walked to the top of the stairs. From this vantage point, she could survey the entire house – their bedrooms upstairs; the kitchen, living room, family room and office below. There was nobody there but her.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Everyone Buy Brew or Die! (or at least enter the Raffle)

I’m very excited to announce that my friend Caroline Fardig is releasing the fourth book in her Java Jive mystery series today!!!!


BREW OR DIE! (I know a lot of people who live their lives by this axiom.)
Nashville’s perkiest private eye—coffeehouse manager Juliet Langley—goes undercover in the party-planning industry to solve a suspicious death in this thrilling cozy mystery!

Inspired by her past sleuthing successes, Juliet Langley has officially joined the ranks of Nashville’s licensed private investigators. Her best friend, Pete Bennett, doesn’t worry that her detective work might interfere with her full-time job running his coffeehouse, Java Jive. He just wishes she would spend her free time rejoining the local music scene instead of tailing cheating spouses. But when one of Java Jive’s baristas, Shane, asks Juliet to look into the suspicious death of his fiancée, Pete encourages her to plow full steam ahead.

Since his fiancée died on the job, Shane suspects that her party-planning colleagues are up to something criminal—and will do anything to keep it quiet. After Juliet recruits Pete to go undercover with her at a wedding showcase, she discovers that white lace and black satin have a way of hiding big, fat secrets.

If that weren’t enough to fill her plate, her latest P.I. job has her crossing paths with her ex, Detective Ryder Hamilton. They’re barely on speaking terms, but to solve the case, they might have to cooperate. No matter where Juliet goes, she’s brewing up trouble.


Buy link for BREW OR DIE

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About the Author:
CAROLINE FARDIG is the USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR of the Java Jive Mysteries series and the Lizzie Hart Mysteries series. Fardig's BAD MEDICINE was named one of the "Best Books of 2015" by Suspense Magazine. She worked as a schoolteacher, church organist, insurance agent, funeral parlor associate, and stay-at-home mom before she realized that she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Born and raised in a small town in Indiana, Fardig still lives in that same town with an understanding husband, two sweet kids, two energetic dogs, and one malevolent cat.


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Monday, April 17, 2017

Goodbye "Girl"… Another writer turns in her pen for motherhood

Sunday night, we said goodbye to Girls, the program that has been as controversial as its star, Lena Dunham, since her character Hannah Horvath said those famous words, “I think I might be the voice of my generation. Or a voice of a generation.”

I loved Girls, and I’ve written about it before. In 2014, I appreciated Hannah’s body acceptance. When the show first came out, I applauded its accurate look at the job prospects for millennials.

That realistic look is the main reason I was so disappointed with the show’s conclusion. As a writer myself, I found Hannah’s efforts at making a living through the written word illustrative and realistic. When the show debuted, Hannah was working at an unpaid internship. Later, she got a contract for an e-book that was then locked up after her editor died. She was successful as an advertorial writer for GQ, but so spooked by how that job channeled her creativity that she quit. After teaching high school English, this season she parlayed a "Modern Love" essay into some high-profile assignments. But rather than going after a staff writing position, somehow pregnant Hannah ended being offered a teaching position at an upstate New York college, complete with benefits. Here’s an article about how unrealistic that is. And it doesn’t even mention that Hannah, who dropped out of Iowa’s highly regarded MFA program, only holds a bachelor’s – one of the many reasons she’s unqualified for the position. But it does allow the series to wrap up nicely, implying that it’s not a career that turns a girl into a woman, it’s a baby.

It’s the same conclusion that Gilmore Girls’ Rory achieved at the end of the Netflix series revival. Although Hannah had often been compared to Sex and the City’s writer Carrie, that comparison never worked for me. Yes, both characters were New York writers, but SATC was always intended to be a fairy tale, and much was made over the value of Carrie’s apartment and shoe collection versus her probable salary at a staff writer at the New York Star. (Later Carrie published a book of her columns, which may have made her lifestyle slightly more realistic. Being bailed out by millionaire boyfriend Big also helped.) Rory, at least in the revival, was also trying to piece together a life in between writing assignments, before throwing in the towel to become the (unpaid) editor for the Stars Hollow paper.

The famous last words of the revival were “Mom, I’m pregnant,” thereby completing Rory’s de-evolution from a college graduate taking the job of a lifetime (seriously, covering candidate Obama’s presidential campaign is a direct path to the White House press corps and Rory’s dream of becoming the next Christiane Amanpour; what the hell happened to that?) to a self-absorbed, floundering millennial whose unintended pregnancy might force her to grow up as it apparently did Hannah.

I understand that the life of a writer isn’t nearly as compelling as other professions portrayed on TV and in movies, such as doctor or lawyer or fire fighter or lifeguard. But for those of us who are writers, seeing the profession realistically portrayed is heartening. When you’ve spent your childhood being applauded for your pithy turns of phrase, only to reach adulthood and find out that your creativity and self-direction are worth only a few freelance gigs on Fiverr, it’s shaming. It’s now impossible for a writer to support herself in today’s gig economy, with articles worth fifty dollars and copy editing maybe ten bucks. We’re the ones who are told to write for free because the exposure will be so helpful. Exposure doesn’t pay bills. I’m lucky my husband does. Seeing Hannah flounder, then succeed, sent a message to every writer that if we just keep writing, eventually the New York Times will publish that "Modern Love" essay. (And yes, we are all working on "Modern Love" essays. All of us.)

Hannah’s mother yelled at her for being a quitter, telling her the one thing she cannot quit is her son. But before last night’s episode, Hannah had never quit at being a writer. With her teaching job and single parenthood, is there any room left for Hannah to be the voice of her generation? Or, like Rory Gilmore, has the voice silenced herself because writing and “adulting” just no longer mix? And how many real-life Hannah Horvaths have made the same decision?

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Skin of a Writer

A few years ago, when I was editing a manuscript for the agent I worked for at the time, I came across a line that described the protagonist as “standing taller in her high heels.” I laughed and flagged the description with: “It’s not like she’s going to stand shorter in them!” Then I advised the writer to either cut the line or expand it (“Her heels made her an inch taller than her date.”)

My joke earned me a terse note from the agent: “Don’t ever make fun of the writer!!!” She went on to say that writers were very sensitive creatures and I must take special care with every suggestion I made, thus I break their tender little hearts.

I found this surprising for two reasons. One, had I written the line myself, I would have appreciated the editor’s joke and admonished myself for writing such an obvious description. And two, because ever since I started writing, I’d been told over and over again that writers needed thick skins.

I’d certainly spent years developing one. Otherwise, I’d never been able to survive the years of harsh notes (like the friend who told me over and over again how much she hated my protagonist), the hundreds of query rejections, and, even more painfully, the dozens of manuscript rejections I’d received after the initial query had garnered requests. It takes a thick skin to keep going when all the signs around you point to taking a different direction.

Yet I also think it’s possible for writers to have skins that are too thick. After all, it’s our deep empathy for our characters and the world around them – and us – that allows us to create stories to begin with. If our skins are too thick to feel what our characters feel, then they won’t feel. And neither will our readers. And our thick skins may make us oblivious to changes we need to make. We all know writers who greet notes by disagreeing with every point their readers make.

And our skins need a certain amount of thinness during the editing phase as well. While it’s painful to hear that our stories don’t work, we need to feel that pain. How else will we know when a note is worth following? Many writers I respect – and this is true for myself – know that a note is the right one when they feel it in their guts. Although Stephen King advises writers to show their work to three readers, and only take the note if all three mention the problem, most writers I know prefer more than three. And they know the note is right when they get that gut check. For me, the right note lands in my stomach like a plummeting broken heart. It’s not only the right note, but deep down inside I feel like I knew all along it was a change I needed to make. Other “right notes” land more lightly, like fluttering wings on my arms. These are changes that I did not know all along were necessary, but insights from the editor that open up new possibilities in scene work or more. For instance, in a draft of my fourth novel, the developmental editor I hired questioned the location of a first date scene. I realized this tied in with a nagging feeling about the climax, which took place at a new location. I changed the location of the first date and made it the location of the climax as well. All thanks to those fluttering wings, which I would not have felt had my skin been too thick.

When rewriting our own work, our skins need to be something Goldilocks would appreciate – not too thick, not too thin, but just right. Thick enough not to burst into tears at rejection, but thin enough to appreciate the changes that need to be made. And we must always have a sense of humor. If we can’t laugh at our own mistakes, someday they will make us cry.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Everybody does it… don’t they?

In proof that language evolves as people do, the Associated Press – the first and last word for newspaper, magazine, and other non-fiction editors on questions such as “when should numbers be spelled out” and “Do question marks go inside or outside the quotation mark?” – has thrown a wrench into the “they/their/they’re” wars. While purists will insist that “they” can only refer to plural nouns, AP has voted to make “they” and its siblings correct for singular usage as well.

To wit: (article quoting Gerri Berendzen)

The Associated Press Stylebook says it is “opening the door” to use of the singular they.

The new entry in the stylebook starts: They, them, their In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.

That’s compared to the AP Stylebook’s previous “their, there, they’re” entry, which read: “Their is a plural possessive pronoun and must agree in number with the antecedent. Wrong: Everyone raised their hands. Right: They raised their hands. See every one, everyone for the pronoun that takes singular verbs and pronouns.”


(Note that in the above example, AP pretty much admits this usage is faulty, as “everyone” is much more specific than “they.”)

Interestingly enough, AP seems to justify the change by citing the need for a genderless pronoun, rather than the need to be able say “Everyone loves their mother” without being arrested by the grammar police.

Grammar geeks like myself have used construction such as “his or hers” “he or she” “s/he” etc. to make sure we never use a singular noun with a plural pronoun. Even though we know, in our hearts, that “Nobody takes their time anymore” sounds so much better than “Nobody takes his or her time.”

While the time has definitely come for a genderless pronoun, is it right to ask “they” to do that work? Does its usage imply that a person who identifies as neither male nor female is actually more than one person?

Gerri Berendzen wrote that Froke said clarity is key when using they as a genderless pronoun. “We specify that you need to make clear in the context that the ‘they’ in question is just one person,” Froke said. “We don’t, among our own staff, want to open a floodgate. But we recognize a need for it, so we want to open it a bit. The whole issue is difficult. We worked very hard to come up with a solution that makes sense.”

Personally, I am thrilled that I now have the AP’s permission to use “they” when writing “Everyone and their mother agrees Trump is a Russian spy.” But I’m perturbed they weren’t open enough to see that true, singular, genderless pronouns like xe and ze are the true wave of the future, and solve an actual problem deeper than: “Everyone and their mother” just sounds better. When quoting a gender-fluid individual, give xe the respect of using the pronoun xe prefers.

As a novelist who edits fiction, though, this development doesn’t affect me as much as I’d like. The Chicago Manual Style dictates which numbers get spelled out, and unless it adopts this change, I will continue to write, “Everyone raised his/her hand” and “Xing, who was born male but does not identify as either gender, says his parents have been supportive of his transition.”

Come on, Chicago. Everyone and their mother wants this change!