The Watcher at the Gate: Friend or Foe?

quiz pic

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Happy Fall, Readers! Life has been busy here with the back to school activities and an increased teaching load. I finally found a small window this week to write.

Every semester, my Freshmen Composition students read “The Watcher at the Gate” by Gail Godwin. Her words address an issue that many students face: How can writers over come the negative voice in their head and just write? Has this ever happened to you? You might be half way through the first draft of an assignment and begin to doubt yourself: “That sounds awful!” or “Why even bother writing this? I’m just going to fail!” We tend to be our harshest critic. I think this criticism keeps students from writing quality essays, so we begin each semester reading about other “Watchers,” and students write a response. Recently, a student named “Ella” wrote a memorable tribute to her “Watcher.” I hope you enjoy her work as much as I did!

I know her as the Inner Editor. Since 2011, I’ve been an avid member of the NaNoWriMo community, and through them I first personified my inner editor. I think her name is Penelope, but more often I call her the Goddess of Well-Starched Female Lawyers.

She has a snappiness about her, an efficiency which demands to be obeyed. Sleek blonde hair pulled into a bun, rectangular glasses over stern eyes, a neat grey suit, and heels just low enough to be practical, but high enough to click like gunshots on a courthouse floor.

Like a lawyer studying for loopholes, she has an eye for detail, and catches every slip I make. She reminds of my so-called rights, instructing me not to say or write until she’s there to advise me. Sometimes, I’m grateful for it. She’s kept me from saying a great many stupid things, and certainly she’s good at what she does.
But at least once a year, I beg her pardon, and close the door to her prison cell. And I write. At least 1,667 words per day. And as the days of November tick by, I weave a story without her assistance. Yes, it’s messy. It could even be called word vomit. But first drafts are supposed to be.

When December comes, I let Penelope out of her cell. She’s exhausted – emotionally drained from the onslaught of messy grammar. But we share a cup of tea, and then she goes to work. And by the time Christmas arrives, she’s back in full force, snapping commands into my ear.

To be honest? I wouldn’t have it any other way.


You’re Never Too Old…

quiz pic

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

I recently read about the National Science Foundation’s basic science quiz and was motivated to create a Language Arts equivalent. Special thanks to the grammar guru for your input and my research subjects (hubby and the kids). It’s just ten questions–give it a try and let me know how you did.

1. A noun names a person, place, thing, or idea.  True or False?

2. Vitamin supplements (improves, improve) daily health. Which verb is correct?

3. Which sentence is correct, A or B?

A. I couldn’t care less.

B. I could care less.

4. An adjective describes verbs.  True or False?

5. Which sentence is correct, A or B?

A. Between you and I, the judge was too harsh.

B. Between you and me, the judge was too harsh.

6. The verb is always found somewhere after the subject of the sentence.  True or False?

7. Which sentence is correct, A or B?

A. Every one of the girls remembered her homework.

B. Every one of the girls remembered their homework.

8. Driving into the pounding blizzard on a dark night and wishing the weather would offer a break for travelers.  Is this a fragment or a run-on?

9. I asked my Aunt to join me for lunch. Is this sentence correctly capitalized?

10. The president of the Student Council began the weekly session without taking attendance.  What is the subject, “president” or “Student Council”?


1. True
2. improve
3. A (A unique explanation to this answer can be found here.)
4. False
5. B (Between is a preposition. Prepositions use the objective form of pronouns.)
6. False (Here’s an example of a sentence where the verb comes before the subject: There were many loyal fans at the hockey game.)
7. A (Every one is a singular pronoun; therefore, the pronoun her (also singular) would be the correct choice.)
8. Fragment
9. No (Only capitalize aunt if her name is included: Aunt Jackie or if referring to that person by name: I’m going to the store with Mark and Dad.)
10. president (Student Council is part of a prepositional phrase, so it can be excluded as the subject.)