9/11 – Wildest Word(s) of 2001

"World Trade Center" Flickr photo by Ralph Hockens

“World Trade Center” Flickr photo by Ralph Hockens

As another anniversary of 9/11 comes and goes, and wars relating to those events rage on,  I thought it would be interesting to look back at how the events of 2001 changed the words we use.

Nine-eleven is the slang we use to put this tragedy in perspective. Geoffrey Nunberg, a Stanford University linguist, says, “There’s a need to package things, to label them, to get a handle on them.” The American Dialect Society made 9/11 its word of the year in 2001.

Some other words that were in the running that year were: cuddle puddle (a pile of ecstasy users on the floor), Ground Zero (where the attacks in New York City happened), Let’s Roll (the phrase allegedly used by Todd Beamer to rally against the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93), Evil Doers (former President George W. Bush’s phrase for those who perpetuated the attacks) and Post September 11 (to mean the way the world had changed after the attacks).

According to Arthur Spiegelman of the Los Angeles Newsdesk at Reuters, YourDictionary.com came up with a list of the top 10 words for 2001. They were:

  1. Ground Zero – the now sanctified ground at the epicenter of the World Trade Center disaster
  2. Former President George Bush’s middle initial “W” – pronounced Dubya and often used in a derogatory way
  3. Jihad – the Arabic word for “struggle” but which is used today as “Holy War”
  4. God, Allah or Yahweh – listed with the note that the name had been in more headlines and on the lips of more politicians than any time in recent memory
  5. Anthrax – the dangerous spores carrying infectious disease sent to politicians in an envelope and said to be “weaponized”
  6. Euro – Europe’s new currency at the time
  7. Wizard – this was added because of J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter craze
  8. The suffix -stan – as in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in a parody cover by the New Yorker of New Yorkistan showing areas labeled Irant and Irate, Taxistan and Fuhgeddabuditstan
  9. Oprahization – the tendency of public and private citizens to discuss their personal problems or feelings in public forums, especially talk shows like Oprah’s long-running television show
  10. Foot-and-mouth – referring to the disease (and not what Dubya often found himself doing)

It was a terrible day and I remember it well. I wanted to take a moment to think about the way it changed our lives and our language.

Source: http://www.yaelf.com/911.shtml

E.L. Doctorow – Writing Quote Wednesday

Writing quote and photo by Paul Jenny

Writing quote and photo by Paul Jenny

For today’s writing quote I chose another actor/writer and fellow New Yorker, E.L. Doctorow. According to Wikipedia, Doctorow acted in college productions as an undergraduate at Kenyon College in Ohio. He did one year of graduate work at Columbia in English Drama before being drafted into the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army.

Doctorow married fellow Columbia drama school student Helen Esther Setzer while in Germany. He wrote his first novel, Welcome to Hard Times, as a response to his job as a screenplay reader. He had read so many Westerns while working on that job that he decided to write a parody of them, but by the time he finished the novel it had become a serious contribution to the genre.

His most recent novel, Andrew’s Brain,published in 2014 is about a “freakishly depressive cognitive scientist klutz”. You can read a review of that work by Terrence Rafferty HERE. 

You can also buy the novel on Amazon.com.

Watch Doctorow talk about Andrew’s Brain on YouTube.


According to Cory Doctorow, most recently the author of the YA novel Homeland, is often asked if he’s related to E.L. I found a quote on Answers.com where he’s attributed as saying, “Writers always ask if I’m related to award-winning novelist E.L. Doctorow. The answer is ‘probably.’ Family legend has it that my paternal grandfather’s uncle is E.L.’s grandfather. My folks met E.L. in 1998 and tried this theory out on him, and he said that it sounded about right, but didn’t seem very excited by it. ”


DON’T FORGET, I’m still looking for short-stories and essays about writing to read on the Stories are the Wildest Things Podcast. Please send me your short-stories and essays to pauljennynyc@gmail.com

Madeleine L’Engle – Writing Quote Wednesday


Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo by Scott Cresswell

Madeleine L’Engle was one of those authors that made me want to be a writer as a kid. Reading A Wrinkle in TIme opened up a whole new world to me and I devoured it eagerly one summer when daily rain kept us from playing outside.

When I see a copy now in a bookstore I get the warm fuzzies recalling the rainy summer days I spent reading this book. She and her husband, Hugh Franklin, were actors like me and I’ve always aspired to live as rich and full a life in creative work as they did.

I chose this quote this week because it reminded me of what Samuel Butler talks about in his essay How to Make the Best of Life. In the first episode of the Stories are the Wildest Things Podcast, you can hear this essay about how our lives as writers might be more engaging and “real” when we live on in our writing. It’s a fascinating read from the Victorian era by an iconoclastic satirist. I hope you’ll click through and take a listen.

I’m also seeking submissions of short stories in any genre and short essays about writing for the next episode. I talk about all the details on the Stories are the Wildest Things Podcast. Please submit your stories and essays by email to pauljennynyc@gmail.com and put Podcast Story and your story’s title in the subject heading.

I’ve received some great stories already and I’m looking forward to reading all of them.

Have a great writing week!


Listen to Madeleine L’Engle talk about writing, A Wrinkle in Time and her process on YouTube.com.

You can visit Scot Cresswell’s Flickr photo here. (CC license)

Stories are the Wildest Things Podcast – Now Seeking Story Submissions!


Samuel Butler – self-portrait in oil

As readers of the Stories are the Wildest Things blog, you know that one of the reasons I started this blog is to help you tell your stories in the most powerful, creative and wide-reaching way that you can.

To that end, I’m starting the Stories are the Wildest Things Podcast, hosted on Soundcloud.com, featuring fiction and non-fiction stories from around the world.

I have a lot of readers from many parts of the world and I want to share as many of your stories as I can. I’ll also discuss writing tips and techniques, do interviews with writers and other creative people, and fill you in on news about what’s happening in the world of writing including: contests, book releases, cool apps, classes and more!

For the next episode I’m looking for short stories in any genre or short essays about writing.

Submission Guidelines

Please submit your best writing up to 5000 words (double-spaced with author name, story title and page numbers in header) to pauljennynyc@gmail.com

Use the subject heading Podcast Story and your title in your email. (e.g. Podcast Story – The Little Engine That Could)

Please submit only one story or essay at a time (in English only for now) and give me some time to respond.

If I choose your story, I’ll read it on the podcast and offer links to your website or blog and any other info that you’d like to include. If you’d like to be interviewed about a book or project you are working on, we can discuss that as well. Right now, there’s no reading fee and no pay (that could change with sponsors and number of submissions), but the podcast will be professional and something you can be proud of sharing with others. Click HERE to listen to the first episode featuring an essay by Samuel Butler entitled How to Make the Most of Life.

Thank you! I’m really looking forward to reading your submissions. 


Stories are the Wildest Things Podcast – Ep. 001

David Foster Wallace – Writing Quote Wednesday


Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo by Livid Fiction originally taken by Steve Rose

What does it mean to be authentic?

According to Wikipedia, it is “the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.” 

I was in a relationship for a long time where I couldn’t be my authentic self for many reasons (which I won’t go into here). I felt that, to have a successful relationship, I needed to hide my true self. Whenever I’d venture into an area in my creative life that made me happy and felt true and right for me, the other person would put it down, or make it seem bad and wrong.

I made the excuse to myself that I needed to be inauthentic in order to make the other person happy.

This was a major mistake because, in the end, both of us ended up being much more unhappy than if we were true to our own spirit and character from the beginning. The relationship ended. My creativity and psyche suffered for a long time; I didn’t express myself as powerfully and as authentically as I knew I could.

I know for myself, when I acknowledge what’s authentic for me and pursue that (not always achieving it, but at least pursuing it), my writing and other creative work is clearer, stronger and reaches a wider audience.

When I try to write what I think other people want to read, it’s not as strong as when I listen to my authentic self and try to write from my vision, my way of “fracturing reality,” as David Foster Wallace said.

I think the journey to authenticity is lifelong and changes as you grow and change as a person. It’s one of the many reasons I continue to pursue a creative life. Every day I get to decide how authentic of a life I’m going to lead.

Do you remember a time when you weren’t true to your authentic self and how it affected you?

Leave a comment to tell us about it.

If you aren’t being as authentic in your life now as you’d like to, what’s stopping you?

Maybe by telling your story, you’ll find an authentic way of breaking through whatever is holding you back. I know I have.

Now it’s your turn.


Watch David Foster Wallace talk about ambition from PBS Digital Studios on YouTube.com

Livid Fiction on Flickr.com. (CC License)

Claire Cook – Writing Quote Wednesday


Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny from Flickr photo by Aaron Evans

According to her bio page on Amazon.com, Claire Cook was writing her first novel at 45 in her minivan and walking the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Must Love Dogs at 50. It’s the kind of story of re-invention and stick-to-itiveness that I love.

Cook is now the international bestselling author of 11 novels and a sought-after re-invention speaker. If you’re searching for a way to get a motivated and stay on track, I highly recommend her latest book, Never Too Late, Your Roadmap to Re-invention (without getting lost along the way). You can order it on Amazon.com by clicking this LINK. (4.9 out of 5 stars)

You can also find out more about Cook by visiting her official publisher’s page at SimonandSchuster.com HERE or on Twitter @ClaireCookwrite.

Let me know what you think of Cook’s work in the comments section! I always appreciate hearing from everyone.


Watch Claire Cook on the #BTLiveChat on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by Aaron Evans (CC License)

Steven Pressfield – Writing Quote Wednesday


Writing quote created by Paul Jenny from Flickr photo “Black Marble” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Don’t cheat us of your contribution! Leave a link in the comments section to your latest gift to the world and every being in it. Stories truly are the wildest things.

If you need a writing prompt to get you started, click through to my WRITING PROMPTS here.

You can find more of Steven Pressfield at his website: http://www.stevenpressfield.com/

Flickr photo by NASA (CC License)

Writing Prompt 07: The 10 Most Expensive Houses in the World


Flickr photo “Greystone Mansion” by Graham

Take a look at these sprawling mansions by clicking on this link to HowStuffWorks.com.

  • What motivates someone to build and live in these mega-homes?
  • What happens if you lose your money and have to move into a “regular” home or no home at all?
  • What if you are an impostor living as a guest in one of these homes?
  • What happens when you are found out?

Write a story exploring one of these ideas and post the link here.

Have an amazing writing day! Stories are the Wildest Things.

Eleanor Roosevelt – Writing Quote Wednesday


Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina

I live close to our longest-serving First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s modest house, Vall-Kill. She said of her beloved cottage, “Vall-Kill is where I used to find myself and grow.”

During all this growth, I wonder how often she was humiliated by telling the truth?

According to Wikipedia.com Eleanor Roosevelt held over 348 press conferences during her husband’s twelve-year presidency. She also published a monthly column in Woman’s Home Companion and once wrote such a strongly worded editorial in a newspaper that her husband, Franklin, had to publish a reply.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project states that she left volumes of writing and never used a ghost writer. According to the site, she wrote 27 books, more than 8,000 columns and 555 articles. She also gave more than 75 speeches a year.

When was the last time you told a truth in fiction that you couldn’t tell IRL? Leave me a comment and let me know.


Watch Frank Sinatra speaking to Eleanor Roosevelt on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina (CC License)

Nadine Gordimer – Writing Quote Wednesday

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny with Flickr photo “Sunset Joy” by Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny with Flickr photo “Kali Sweats it Out” by flowcomm

Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny with Flickr photo “Sunset Joy” by flowcomm


Click HERE for an excellent article about Nadine Gordimer’s life by Helen T. Vorongos of the New York Times. The Nobel Prize winner’s novels were banned, but made a huge impact as she explored “the hot, crowded cinder-block neighborhoods and tiny shebeens of the black townships to the poolside barbecues, hunting parties and sundowner cocktails of the white society.”

I’ve spent time, however briefly, in the midst of South African culture (mostly in black townships) and I can see why Ms. Gordimer has said, “The fact that my books were perceived as being so political was because I lived my life in this society that was so much changed by conflict, by political conflict, which of course in practical terms is human conflict.”


Listen to Nadine Gordimer read some of her short stories at the 92nd Street Y on YouTube.com

Flickr photo by flowcomm (CC License)