Lost In Translation

How many ways can you say the same thing? Bible translations provide a clue. BibleStudyTools.com (external link) is a wonderful resource that lets you compare your favorite passage among two dozen or so Bible translations. Look at all the different word choices below.

Their website does not have the Jerusalem Bible, however, which is unfortunate. To me, it reads best. The Jerusalem Bible was published in 1966, the product of an immense effort by scholars to produce a thoroughly modern translation for Catholics. But it benefited everyone, especially those that read the Bible as literature.

A later version was produced in 1985 which is online at Catholic.org.(external link) I find it doesn’t sing as well. You can pick up a used copy of the 1966 edition for only a few dollars at places like https://www.abebooks.com/ (external link).

James 3:16-3:17:

Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done, whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it.

The Jerusalem Bible, First Edition

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

New International Version (NIV)

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.


Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil. But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.

Good News Translation

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.

Revised Standard Version

For where jealousy and faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy.

American Standard Version

For where is envy and strife, there is unsteadfastness and all depraved work [and all shrewd work]. But wisdom that is from above, first it is chaste, afterward peaceable, mild, able to be counseled [persuadable, that is, easy to treat, and to be treated], consenting to good things, full of mercy and of good fruits, deeming without feigning.

Wycliffe — the first English translation of scripture


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Will Robots Take Your Job?

WillRobotsTakeMyJob.com (external link) contradicts what I’ve read previously. Most articles suggest that writing is subject to automation, however, this site says otherwise.

But, depressingly, the site also informs us that there are only 44,690 people employed as writers in the United States. Out of a population of 321 million. Writers are defined as those “that originate and prepare written material, such as scripts, stories, advertisement, and other material.”

By this definition I must assume they mean full time, self-supporting writers because they say their average wage is $61,240 a year. Really? Who makes that money?

The only way I can understand that income is if these writers are employed by the government, Forbes 500 companies, or by major union newspapers. All the writers I know are struggling, most do not make a living with their writing.

By the way, watch out technical writers. Technical writers are excluded in the above category. For technical writers, they say there is a danger of robots taking over.


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Our Latest Assignment

Our poetry and fiction class assignment this week is to tell “a story without any of the usual narrative devices of linear plot or character development.” In other words, as I understand it, to use sentence fragments, from which the reader will make their own connections to form the work into a coherent whole. Hmm.

I usually write a story from beginning to end. I’m lost here where the story doesn’t have to proceed in the usual chronological order. The poem we are modeling seems to be a “slice of life” profile in which you observe, without pulling in narrative or dialog.

We’re to emulate the poem, “Whole House Gone to Hell” by Cynthia Huntington. Some stanzas:

The mother who will not come down from her bed.
Television flickering across channels at odd hours:
the late movie, the news show at dawn, the all-night

mystery station.  Milk gone sour in the refrigerator,
the daughter stumbling out of the backseat of a car,
hair in her eyes, her skirt wrinkled up at her hips.

The son sneaking out of the house to close a deal.
No one talks on the phone without shutting the door.
The rooms smell of smoke, yellow rot of nicotine.

I know what I want to write about, l have material clearly in mind, but I can’t seem to format things correctly. Deadline is in three days and the length is a single page, single page. I go about other work, awaiting inspiration. Hmm.

More about the course here (internal link)

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Continuing Work at Catalogs.com

In between other writing assignments and classes, I continue to write articles for Catalogs.com. This is a content generation site, what some might call a content mill. I call it another revenue stream and a way to keep writing. Any site that will give you a byline is worthwhile.  Click on this link to go to the page shown below (external link).


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A Plea to Magazine Publishers

I’d like commercial magazine publishers who don’t respond to e-mails to pull any submission guidelines from their websites. There’s no reason for that information to be there when the publisher has no intention of responding. Also, for those magazines that do solicit queries in good faith, let us do away with the page long query letter in favor of a one paragraph pitch. This would save both of us time.

And, if you really want to be helpful, consider using what the literary magazine world uses: Submittable.  I used it at least ten times to submit my creative nonfiction piece to publishers. Their website tells the prospective writer when their work is under consideration and then if it has been accepted or not. You can charge a small fee to recover the cost of the program. Using a site like that would smooth out the submission process for both writer and publisher.



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Third Person Narration, Present Tense

Tycho’s Lament. With Apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

He approached the plastic food bowl warily, as if it were an unexploded bomb. His nose twitched, seeking out acceptable airborne molecules. There weren’t any. Placed on an inverted bowl, the food bowl balanced several inches off the floor. This saved him from crouching on his arthritic knees, a considerate provision by his owner that he never acknowledged.

To the right of the wet food stood his dry food bowl. This dry food was a source of wonderment for all who knew Tycho. Surely a cat with no teeth could not eat dry food. Yet eat he did. Rapaciously. And at odd and unpredictable intervals. He was as freely acceptable to dry food as he was fussy with wet. Perhaps dry cat food was crack cocaine for kitties: salty and caloric as potato chips for people.

Finding his wet food wanting, Tycho began a solo chorus, an endless and unstoppable cacophony of merciless meowing. Certainly, this would bring a parade of proper offerings, a variety to satisfy his hunger. Or not.

Tycho appraised the man coolly. Although a good benefactor, at least in the past, the man now seemed incapable of providing the right food, at least for Tycho’s ever maturing, refined tastes. And as an antidote for his boredom. Tycho was very bored.

As he got older, Tycho learned an invaluable lesson: an endless selection of food was available, as long as he rejected one cat food can after another. His owner would simply keep opening cans until Tycho’s caterwauling stopped. As he didn’t want to discourage the man completely, Tycho deigned to eat some of the food, at least a little bit here and there. But his pile of undigested leavings, looking like vomit, left no doubt as to Tycho’s disappointment.

Implicit in Tycho’s brain was the thought that nutritional nirvana awaited at the store, only the man hadn’t found it yet. A terrible failing. It seemed paramount, therefore, to keep sending him back for more cans. Food flowed in: flaked, filleted, and grilled. Fish and Shrimp, Tuna and Shrimp, Tuna and Salmon. White Meat Chicken and Tuna Recipe with Wild Rice & Spinach. (In broth). Even offerings from Newman’s Own and Rachel Ray.

Although the man seemed depressed with Tycho’s refusals, Tycho was still confident, especially in his powerful voice. With his encouragement, with a yowl that could prompt 911 calls, Tycho would get the man to do better. Tycho believed in a gastronomical future; it eluded him now but not forever. Tomorrow, in a new grocery bag, a new hope. Until one fine morning —

I submitted this as my second assignment in the Fiction and Poetry course I am taking (internal link) Among a few other requirements, we were to write in the third person. Where the narrator knows every subjects’ thoughts. As a writer of commercial nonfiction this is new to me. What do you think? In a few days I’ll post the critiques I got, which should tell how close I came to the assignment’s goals.

Update: Here are the critiques. These responses are very similar to what would get from an editor or a press. (If you got any feedback at all) Some outlets will like your piece, others not. It’s really a matter of persisting in finding that person or publication that agrees with you. The notes are all overly kind and I am thankful for my classmate’s comments; I could not advance as a writer without them.

Hey Thomas,

The piece flowed really nicely and I like that you made the subject an old cat. And you did what you set out to do – you made a piece that looked at the subject from within and from without. We got a real sense of what was in Tycho’s head without hearing a single word uttered from him (how could we – he can’t speak). I also felt a little bad for the owner as he would never be able to satisfy that cat and we the reader knew it but we could sense the owner’s frustration and persistence to please this persnickity feline.

Hi Thomas,

This was hilarious. Especially as a cat owner. But a few things that jumped out at me:

Preamble: be more specific. POV, Tense, sentence structure, narrator tone etc. This is really really helpful to structure and direct your assignment.

The piece is very entertaining and I can relate on SO MANY levels.

Your story so much reminds me of “Henri-the white/black youtube cat.” Have you see it? IF not, check it out. He was so depressed, ALL THE TIME. Your narrator certainly put a very humorous spin on the mundane and unsatisfying state of being a house cat.

I think what makes your story choice difficult for me, especially when thinking about the assignment, is that your character is feline, and so any emotional state is imagined and more than that, projected by you. Which I think is different from imagining a human character, with human emotions and real life challenges. We don’t “actually know” if cats think about nutritional nirvana and instill hope in the next grocery store. Because that assumes they understand the concept of time… As much as I believe my cat has thoughts like these, we have to admit that it is our own projection onto them.

I would love to see your humor be applied in a narrator that is talking about a human and actual human emotion, which I think would make for a far more complex storytelling and greater ranges of effects on the reader!


I love that you’ve chosen a cat as your protagonist! And chosen one that is aware  manipulation of his owner will get him the food he wants. I always suspected this of cats…  The narrator’s bemused tone is great, particularly in the first paragraph (“unexploded bomb”), the second (“dry food was a source of wonderment to those who knew Tycho”), and the fifth (“undigested leavings left no doubt as to Tycho’s disappointment”). I would have liked such a narrator’s comment about how or why Tycho was so bored; that section seemed a bit thin, in comparison. Because the narrator is so observant and wry, you’ve piqued my interest in what happens next. I hope you’ll continue this. Oh, a couple minor things: In the 2nd paragraph I think you meant “freely accepting of dry food as he was fussy with wet.”


I always get nervous when writers take an assignment about a human and substitute an animal, because there’s a danger of too much cuteness or jokiness or hiding behind the animal to avoid having to feel too much emotion. But you have not fallen into this trap at all, because Tycho is such a fully formed character. Sure he’s a cat, but he’s complex, contradictory and full of yearning just like us humans. What’s more, your piece is a perfect example of why we all need a narrator to tell our story (even if we’re writing in first person and the character is telling his/her own story): this narrator can articulate all the things Tycho cannot. This narrator finds delight where Tycho cannot. Maybe most importantly, the narrator has a relationship with Tycho – knows him well, can fill in his history as needed, and is tapped into his emotions.

You also did a great job of fulfilling the Yates – this narrator kept his focus on the world around Tycho and on getting the story told instead of going straight into Tycho’s head and staying in that close, dark place. I hope everyone can start to understand this distinction I’m making: the narrator’s job is to tell a story, not to transcribe the character’s thoughts (there are exceptions, of course; see Virginia Woolf’s beautiful novel The Waves, for instance). It’s fun for us readers to get to see the character in action, to watch a scene as it unfolds, to hear what the character says (even if it’s a yowl that could elicit 911 calls). This narrator also has the wisdom to leave it to us readers to fill in all that’s left unstated.

Your narrator’s dry wit and incongruously fancy turns of phrase made me chuckle throughout. And you have some lovely Yates-like punchlines, such as “that he never acknowledged,” and the heartrending “Tycho was very bored.” Somehow my favorite line was a tossed-off parenthetical: (In broth) – such a nicely observed little detail that highlighted the absurdity of Tycho’s dance with his unnamed owner.

Next time — humans, please!

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Poets&Writers is to the literary writing community what Writers Market is to the commercial writing community. The two sites overlap in their mission here and there but the comparison mostly holds.

Our mission? To foster the professional development of poets and writers, to promote communication throughout the literary community, and to help create an environment in which literature can be appreciated by the widest possible public.

https://www.pw.org/about-us/about_poets_amp_writers (external link)

If you’re not finding an outlet for your writing in the commercial world, check out Poets&Writers. Their database claims 1,200 literary magazines. And it’s free to access. A tremendous resource.

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