Musings from ME

Introducing Musings from ME, my monthly-ish newsletter. Below you will find a mix of my latest published work; favorite personal essays from years past; book recommendations; good news about writer friends; and random thoughts on matters related to writing and reading.

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Know Anyone Who Would Like a
Grammar Book for Christmas?


I’m serious. My friend, Diana, recently bought 2 copies of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style because she knew I would like it as much as she does. She was right. I love it. Here’s a link to a NYT story about the author, Benjamin Dreyer: Meet the Guardian of Grammar Who Wants to Help You Be a Better Writer. He’s a knowledgeable stickler without being obnoxious or pedantic. And he’s very funny. If you have a have a friend or family member who gets crazy over the misuse of its vs. it’s or is obsessed with the Oxford comma, this book would be the perfect present.

What I Learned from My Client:
Association of Zoos and Aquariums

My next story will appear in the January issue of AZA’s Connect magazine, but I don’t want to wait to share what I learned from interviewing Jim Breheny, executive director of the Bronx Zoo. As an animal and zoo lover, I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about their TV show, The Zoo. It shows viewers what goes on behind the scenes from day to day, i.e., acclimating hand-raised tiger cubs to their new zoo environment; creating the right conditions for an elephant shrew to mate; and administering cryotherapy to Dave the kangaroo, who has arthritis. John and I tuned in and got hooked immediately. Seeing the care and passion that the staff members bring to their work is inspiring. Look for The Zoo on Animal Planet or Amazon Prime. It’s a refreshing break from holiday craziness and impeachment news, and it’s great family viewing.

There’s a Little Room on My (Freelance) Plate


If you know anyone who needs the Write to the Point touch, please send them my way. You know what I do and how I do it, but the website spells it out it for people who don’t know what they’re missing. www.maryellencollins.com

Friends or Fruitcake

The secret is in the spray bottle filled with wine.  You could apply the wine to the fruitcake with a pastry brush, but Mom spritzed with a rinsed out Windex bottle.  Who am I to mess with tradition?
 
Although I love Christmas, I’m trying to decrease my preparation stress and create a more peaceful, satisfying experience by shortening my To Do list. I decided to start by eliminating holiday cards. I’m tired of searching for “perfect cards,” writing personal notes, and mailing 70 only to receive 20 in return. It’s not fun anymore, so they’re off the list … although … am I sure I want to cut off contact with people we haven’t seen for decades? Do I want to be a holiday card curmudgeon? Maybe better to rethink…

I was still wrestling with the card quandary when I discovered that I’m now the only one in my family who still loves Mom’s dark and spicy, wine-soaked fruitcake (which bears no resemblance to those insipid, tan things you find in the grocery store). No one in the family has one stashed in the freezer and no one plans to bake one, which means I can no longer expect to get my annual McGinty fruitcake in the mail!  John loves it too, and it has been our traditional Christmas Eve snack for years. So it was up to me. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to tackle an easy, but unfamiliar 17-ingredient recipe for the first time and send 70+ cards and complete all of my non-negotiable holiday tasks like cookie-baking, present-wrapping, and decorating. 

Then I went to breakfast with my friend, Susan, where I described my dilemma. Instead of helping me agonize over pros and cons, she said, “Make the fruitcake. Do the tradition and forget the cards.” It’s not like I needed permission, but it worked.

And so – to all recipients of this newsletter who are also on my holiday card list, the fruitcake won. Nonetheless, I do wish you a peaceful, happy holiday season and a wonderful 2020!