non-fiction writing Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Revising, Style and Time

Tighter writing is better writing by making reading and comprehending easier. That writing, though, takes time and alters the style of a piece. In revising other people’s writing, crisp writing costs.


There are various underlying causes as to why our state’s elder care facilities function poorly. For-profit residences are especially noted for their rigid business competition, which may lead some to take shortcuts in their service. These may involve disregarding industry guidelines, cost-cutting on equipment, hiring untrained staff, and reducing staff levels altogether. A 2018 study actually found that 280 facilities in Illinois have low staff levels.


Our state’s elder care facilities function poorly for many reasons. For-profit residences face rigid business competition, leading some to shortcut service. Residences may disregard industry guidelines, spend little on equipment, hire untrained staff, and reduce staff. A 2018 study found 280 Illinois facilities have low staffing.

The second paragraph is better but it could be improved with more time. As Montaigne or someone like him once said, “If I had more time I would write you a shorter letter.” Exactly.

This revision took five minutes to seven minutes to complete. A twenty paragraph work might require an hour or more. Given deadline pressure, revising the entire document might not be possible. To save time, excellent revisions could be applied to only a few paragraphs. That, however, would introduce two different writing styles into the piece, wordy and non-wordy.

A compromise must be reached. To get this revising assignment out the door, minor changes are made throughout the writing, not the best possible choices, but better than the original. My challenge with my own writing, particularly with my book, is to stop chasing perfection by endlessly editing. Deadlines can’t be met that way. I must instead adopt a workman-like style and let that be good enough. That makes perfect sense. And it bothers me.

Update: Thinking it over, for many writers it is challenging enough to produce content, never mind writing it with style or brevity. Just producing a story or a 750 word article may be all that a deadline allows, leaving finishing to editors. At some point, though, we must all improve. We must all work at getting better at what we do, be that writing, revising, editing, or all three. We can’t be the writers we were years ago. Something must have been learned and applied in that time.

books non-fiction writing Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others

The Unknown Orwell

Although Orwell is best known for 1984 and Animal Farm, his greatest writing may have been his first novel, Down and Out in Paris and London. (external link) It is rarely reviewed or mentioned yet it is a powerful, hammering work. I never go more than a few days without thinking about Orwell. He presents vivid and alarming writing impossible to match. I am a professional writer but nothing I write will ever come close to Orwell’s first effort. Just a few hundred words from that book:

This put an end to my plans of looking for work. I had now got to live at the rate of about six francs a day, and from the start it was too difficult to leave much thought for anything else. It was now that my experiences of poverty began — for six francs a day, if not actual poverty, is on the fringe of it. Six francs is a shilling, and you can live on a shilling a day in Paris if you know how. But it is a complicated business.

It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty. You have thought so much about poverty — it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it, is all so utterly and prosaically different. You thought it would be quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated. You thought it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring. It is the peculiar lowness of poverty that you discover first; the shifts that it puts you to, the complicated meanness, the crust-wiping.

You discover, for instance, the secrecy attaching to poverty. At a sudden stroke you have been reduced to an income of six francs a day. But of course you dare not admit it — you have got to pretend that you are living quite as usual. From the start it tangles you in a net of lies, and even with the lies you can hardly manage it. You stop sending clothes to the laundry, and the laundress catches you in the street and asks you why; you mumble something, and she, thinking you are sending the clothes elsewhere, is your enemy for life. The tobacconist keeps asking why you have cut down your smoking. There are letters you want to answer, and cannot, because stamps are too expensive.

And then there are your meals — meals are the worst difficulty of all. Every day at meal-times you go out, ostensibly to a restaurant, and loaf an hour in the Luxembourg Gardens, watching the pigeons. Afterwards you smuggle your food home in your pockets. Your food is bread and margarine, or bread and wine, and even the nature of the food is governed by lies. You have to buy rye bread instead of household bread, because the rye loaves, though dearer, are round and can be smuggled in your pockets. This wastes you a franc a day. Sometimes, to keep up appearances, you have to spend sixty centimes on a drink, and go correspondingly short of food. Your linen gets filthy, and you run out of soap and razor-blades. Your hair wants cutting, and you try to cut it yourself, with such fearful results that you have to go to the barber after all, and spend the equivalent of a day’s food. All day you are telling lies, and expensive lies.

You discover the extreme precariousness of your six francs a day. Mean disasters happen and rob you of food. You have spent your last eighty centimes on half a litre of milk, and are boiling it over the spirit lamp. While it boils a bug runs down your forearm; you give the bug a flick with your nail, and it falls, plop! straight into the milk. There is nothing for it but to throw the milk away and go foodless.

You go to the baker’s to buy a pound of bread, and you wait while the girl cuts a pound for another customer. She is clumsy, and cuts more than a pound. ‘Pardon, monsieur,’ she says, ‘I suppose you don’t mind paying two sous extra?’ Bread is a franc a pound, and you have exactly a franc. When you think that you too might be asked to pay two sous extra, and would have to confess that you could not, you bolt in panic. It is hours before you dare venture into a baker’s shop again.

You go to the greengrocer’s to spend a franc on a kilogram of potatoes. But one of the pieces that make up the franc is a Belgian piece, and the shopman refuses it. You slink out of the shop, and can never go there again. You have strayed into a respectable quarter, and you see a prosperous friend coming. To avoid him you dodge into the nearest cafe. Once in the cafe you must buy something, so you spend your last fifty centimes on a glass of black coffee with a dead fly in it. Onc could multiply these disasters by the hundred. They are part of the process of being hard up.

You discover what it is like to be hungry. With bread and margarine in your belly, you go out and look into the shop windows. Everywhere there is food insulting you in huge, wasteful piles; whole dead pigs, baskets of hot loaves, great yellow blocks of butter, strings of sausages, mountains of potatoes, vast Gruyere cheeses like grindstones. A snivelling self-pity comes over you at the sight of so much food. You plan to grab a loaf and run, swallowing it before they catch you; and you refrain, from pure funk.

You discover the boredom which is inseparable from poverty; the times when you have nothing to do and, being underfed, can interest yourself in nothing. For half a day at a time you lie on your bed, feeling like the jeune squelette in Baudelaire’s poem. Only food could rouse you. You discover that a man who has gone even a week on bread and margarine is not a man any longer, only a belly with a few accessory organs.

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I got these little and now treasured pieces from a fellow rockhound and miner in Mariposa County. I was writing an article on Mariposite at the time and the two of us fell into a deep discussion of gold at his rock shop.

I later sent him a gold example of mine and he in turn sent me this from his collection. He found these at the Diltz Mine in Mariposa County, collecting them by permission in 1995. If you look closely you’ll see what might be called a chevron pattern; gold exists in many forms.

The pieces are so small, and consequently so hard to photograph, that I commissioned Ethan Beckwell of Timewell, Illinois, to produce this image. Total width is a scant  1.5 mm. Ethan routinely photographs grains of sand and you can see his work on Facebook. Instagram: 1of1snowflakes

Click on this link for a larger picture or click on the image below.


At Least I Got to Go

I’ve been thinking of my dead friend, time spent, and Cinderella.

There are many versions of the Cinderella story, some dating back hundreds of years. The version I recall had her doing a good deed for a beggar, although she lived in poverty herself, beset by evil sisters who kept her in rags to work at miserable chores. The stranger turned out to be a fairy, rather something more, a fairy godmother.

In this telling, the fairy godmother arranged for Cinderella to go to a glamorous ball. She gave Cinderella a fine dress and a horse-drawn coach with footmen to take her to the affair. The ball ensues but at midnight Cinderella returns to squalor. She is eventually rewarded for her good deeds but not before she despairingly asks questions of her fairy godmother.

Cinderella asks why the ball has to end, the music to stop, the laughter no more. Why does the coach disappear, the horses vanish, the merriment end? “Everything ends” her fairy godmother replies. “But at least you got to go to the ball.”

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Field Trip in California’s Mojave Desert Coming Up!

I’ve been to this rock shop several times and gone out on one of their field trips. Highly recommended to do both. If you can’t catch this trip, check out their schedule for future events. Only fifty people permitted on this trip. Have fun!

Field Trip March 23d

Mining Supplies and Rock Shop and Hesperia Recreation and Park District are sponsoring field trips for $10.00 per person paid in advance, in our store.  If you wish to pay through our website it will be $11.00 per person.  Go to, choose field trips and buy the field trip you wish to attend by clicking the “add to cart” button. Paying at the sight is $20.00 per person. Everyone paying in advance will receive an email explaining where the gathering site is, what time to meet, what we will be finding, what to bring, approximate times, etc. You are welcome to join up with others at the site who may have 4-wheel drive. We will be accepting only 50 people for this trip.

Saturday, March 23rd, North Cady Mountains – 4-wheel trip

Hi all, we will be meeting right off the Basin Rd exit on I-15.  We are meeting at 8:00am and will be leaving the staging area by 8:15am sharp!  This is a location that never fails to please.  Collecting areas exsist for fluorite, many colors of agate, Sagenite, nodules and so much more. At this site there are many options to choose from.  Collecting can be done in the parking area or we can hike to any of the many locations all with 1 mile or so of the parking area.  This is an advanced 4-wheel drive out to the site. All vehicles going must be high clearance 4-wheel or all-wheel drive. Deep sand and a few very rough hills are included in this drive.  There is a gas station one exit past Basin Rd, but it is not cheap!  Those who want to go and do not have 4-wheel drive may try to team up with people who do at our gathering site, but this is not a guarantee.

You will need to bring a rock hammer and a bucket to carry your finds in.  You may also want to bring extra tools such as a heavy hammer, chisels, protective eye wear, and a pickaxe, in case you want to try and pry loose some of the agate seams still locked in the hard matrix rock.  Make sure to have plenty of water, some snacks, sunscreen, and a full size spare tire (or two) for your vehicle.  Some of the sites require a bit of a hike to get to and the ground can have a lot of loose rocks so please where some good shoes!  Hope to see you all there!!!

For further information please call: Mining Supplies and Rock Shop 760.508.1080 or William A Johnson Trip Leader Cell: 760-267-1333.


Lois Papner
Mining Supplies and Rock Shop

760 244-9642


Photography rocks and lapidary

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Non-collecting area but a nice place to spend a few hours near Las Vegas. Went looking for an old mine but had to turn around when the road changed into a Jeep trail. Managed to make it back. Many interesting volcanic features.

This is looking North.

Rock stacking. It’s a thing.


A Good Man Gone

Another good friend has died a stinking, low, miserable death. I believe in God and that another world exists, only sometimes glimpsed. But I have difficulty understand suffering. Even a man as steeped in faith as the Reverend Billy Graham found himself unable to explain it after 9/11. At a sermon at the National Cathedral a week after that day, he said this:

“I have been asked hundreds of times why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I do not know the answer. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and that He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering.”

A  Presbyterian minister I once knew explained suffering this way, and I can only poorly put his remarks. Accepting this requires a Christian view, closely adhered. I know many can’t follow. But this is it in brief.

We live in a broken world. It has been that way since The Fall, when Man rejected God at the Garden of Eden. We have been cast out and are now living in a fallen world. Brother turns against brother, children get terrible diseases, drug addicts die alone in filthy alleys. Even the physical world is broken. Hurricanes rage, earthquakes kill thousands, fires burn the land. We live in a world emotionally, spiritually, and physically broken and we all suffer as it falls apart on us.

That minister also told me something hopeful. It addresses the Christian assertion that no one can get to Heaven except by way of the Cross. That an acceptance of Jesus Christ as one’s personal savior is the only path to God and salvation. Billy Graham maintained this necessity throughout his ministry. And yet my minister, perhaps more conservative than Graham, presented another possibility.

He was often asked why good people who did not believe in Christ should be denied the afterlife. I asked what he told them. He smiled warmly and said that just as God’s love is immeasurable, so, too, is His grace. I’ll never forget that, as he failed to recite the principal tenet of Christianity. This despite all the formal education and training he had received on his path to becoming ordained.

We suffer. But eventually grace relieves and redeems. As the old spiritual puts it,

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home

It’s all a damned mystery. But death has always been the ultimate and final mystery.

I am thinking of my friend.

Ken and Bandit. I pray they are together again. With His Grace, they are.


Fallbrook, California

A volunteer named Mary shows off newly installed display cases at the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Museum in Fallbrook, California. The displays are so bright they overwhelmed my camera. Of course, that brightness makes the minerals and their descriptions very easy to see. The museum contains noteworthy displays of San Diego gems and minerals as well as a fine gift shop. More in my book!