Author. Editor. Poet. Mom. Also a total grammar geek and word nerd.

Photo of a large family in a park setting.
Photo credit: Lisa Miller of Studio di Luce

Hello! I’m very grateful to Quy Ma at About Me Stories for inviting me to submit my bio to his terrific publication. As my subhead states above, I’m an author, editor, poet, and mom, and I’m also a total grammar geek and word nerd. I grew up in upstate New York in Syracuse; attended Syracuse University; and have lived in Hartford (CT), Nashville, Dallas, and Denver. My three kids have grown up primarily in Denver, so that’s where my immediate family calls home. My siblings (pictured above sans one brother; I’m the second sister from the right), live all over…


And why fully understanding participial phrases and how to use them can help you write more professionally

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In my last Writing Well post, I explored participles that express “an action or a state of being (as a verb does)” while modifying “a noun or pronoun (as an adjective does).” In the example “Laughing, the boy tried to catch the jumping frog,” the participle “laughing” modifies “the boy,” and the participle “jumping” modifies “frog.”

But, you might argue, both “laughing” and “jumping” aren’t always used to modify something as in these examples: “He enjoys laughing” and “She enjoys jumping.” As I noted in my Writing Well post on “ing” words, there are three types of words that share…


Though common, such participles aren’t commonly called out

Black and white photo of a barefoot boy in overalls and a straw hat reaching for a jumping frog.
Photo by Elli Gerra on

Maybe it’s the intimidating word “participle” that creates a block in my mind related to this particular grammatical term. No clues arise when I see the word “participle” or “participles.” Luckily, and as with most grammatical terms, certain participles can be pretty simple to understand once you take a good look at them.

Definitions of the term “participle” are not always simple to understand, though, as different types of participles exist. With regard to participles that act like adjectives, I prefer the explanation provided by the dependable Purdue Owl website. I then simplify that even further to: A participle can…

And why you should really try to get some anyway

Wooden jetty leading out to lake with boat in distance at sunrise.
Image by Sabri Ismail from

I find it fascinating that the U.K. version of “breathing room” — which in the U.S. means room and time to think things over — is “breathing space.” According to the impressively titled Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the term refers to “a period of rest in order to increase strength or give you more time to think about what to do next.” In the U.S., …

And why exerting creative effort for no monetary return can be so gratifying

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Similar to so many, my husband and I come from families of workers. Farmers and factory workers dot our family trees alongside many other union members as well as members of the military, small business owners, office workers, and more who plied (and currently ply) their trades day in and day out. Some started working for pay very young as though the drive to generate income was ingrained in their DNA, which I believe for many in our families it was.

I started babysitting for our next-door neighbor when I was eleven and took on a paper route the next…

From the point of view of a protected childhood

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My first glimpses of death in childhood were gleaned while watching the shows my brothers watched when I should have been in bed. I’d remain as quiet as possible in a corner of the living room so no one would notice me. Columbo, each episode of which preceded lovable Peter Falk’s detective work with a scene of the crime being committed, was one of my favorites — despite the nightmarish shadows glimpsed in my dark room later as I tried to fall asleep. As an adult, movies and shows those who know me might never suspect I’d watch like No…


And the exceptions to the rule related to the use of “a” or “an”

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Many words are taken for granted by native English speakers and writers, but none more than the humble articles “the,” “a,” and “an.” I realized how much of a word nerd I am when I started reading about even these three simple words and found myself entering a potential rabbit hole of details and historical insights on how and why they’re defined and used the way they are. I’d never really given them much thought, but they’re actually pretty interesting. For this post, though, I’ll stick to the basics.

The basics of “the”

It’s easy to understand why “the” is called our sole “definite”…


And when to include commas with these nifty words or phrases

Two sisters in knee-length dresses in a lilac field holding colorful bouquets of flowers outstretched in front of themselves, hiding their faces.
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

The term “appositive” is yet another grammatical term that can sound intimidating but makes a lot of sense when you understand it. A guest post on my favorite online resource on all things grammar, Grammar Girl, quotes the American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style, which defines “appositive” as “a noun or a noun phrase that is placed next to another noun or noun phrase to help identify it.” I appreciate this definition because it keeps things simple — and when you look at examples of appositives, you’ll probably agree they’re pretty simple, too.

But I also appreciate the…

And how a random event put me back on the road to the writing life I love

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A friend recently mentioned how much she enjoys reading the work of author Louise Erdrich, and my mind returned immediately to a small bookstore in Nashville that no longer exists. In the early ’90s, Nashville was home for my husband and me and our newborn son. I’d taken a Saturday to wander through Centennial Park and the shops nearby, including the bookstore, which also sold music CDs and records. A poster promoting the band Wilson Phillips was hung outside the store on its sun-warmed corner facing east.

Inside, I meandered through shelves of poetry and fiction, not looking for anything…


And how to punctuate them correctly

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Similar to many grammatical terms, the term “conditional sentences” doesn’t always ring a bell with writers — and a discussion of conditional sentences can get complicated. For the purpose of this post, though, I’m going to keep things pretty simple. If you’ve read any of my other Writing Well posts, you’ll know this is my preferred approach.

Simply put, a conditional sentence tells what happens on the condition something else happens. “If he passes the test, he will be accepted.” “They will arrive in town after they have crossed the bridge.” These are both conditional sentences.

The construction of conditional sentences

In my post “How…

Karen DeGroot Carter

Bylines in Publishers Weekly, the Writing Cooperative, others. One Sister’s Song (novel). Not Nearly Everything You Need to Know About Writing (ebook).

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