Sin and Syntax, Sonic Booms, More Sin

I almost didn’t make it to my first Litquake event, “Sin & Syntax: On Language and Writing.” Lemme explain. This is a wild weekend in San Francisco. Castro Street Fair, Fleet Week, an airshow, an America’s Cup race…all these things competing with a lecture about grammar.

I set out early so I could take a quick peek at the air show before I got studious.
party tug boat

My plans were nearly derailed. I joined a river of people headed to the Embarcadero. Everyone was excited and friendly. The weather was perfect. A party tugboat passed by, everyone onboard hooting and waving. “Come pick me up!!” I wanted to yell. A couple guys asked me if I knew when and where the America’s Cup race would take place. I did and told them, all the while thinking, I could be there in 10 minutes. Why am I going to this talk?

I firmly believe in that quote that says something about 90% of success is showing up. What I didn’t realize is that I might show up and get distracted by a shiny object.

Reluctantly, I made my way back downtown and took a seat in a strange foyer with flickering florescent lights. I am happy to report that Constance Hale was at least as interesting as a few bi-planes twirling smoke, and I’m glad I went.

To quote from the Litquake guide:

Constance Hale spreads her irreverent ideas about writing in The New York Times Opinionator series and in her books, Sin and Syntax and Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch. She covers the writing life at

First off, she is a great speaker–personable, captivating, comfortable with her content, herself, and her audience. She is so dynamic that it is impossible to take a picture of her with her hands not blurring. She made me realize I’ve been wielding the English language like a blunt wooden sword, hacking my way to my goal through sheer determination. Which, frankly, works in some situations, but I aspire to do better.

Her defense of dynamic verbs was compelling, and she convinced me that most adverbs are crutches for weak verbs. I’m definitely going to get her book, Sin and Syntax.

After her talk, I wandered to high ground, hoping to see the Blue Angels, but thanks to Twitter, I found out they were delayed by an hour, so I made my way to Vesuvio’s for “Do you come here often?”–Writers at the bar.

Vesuvio’s is a famous bar once frequented by beat poets. It is small and cute, but I don’t make it over to North Beach very often so I haven’t been here in years. I hear, and can almost see, Ransom Stephens and Beth Lisick read excepts from their books (up there on the mezzanine).

I am shocked to learn that Beth Lisick has moved to Brooklyn! I know her as one of the women that does Porchlight, a series I love, and I had no idea she’d left town. Her website says she is “from the San Francisco Bay area” which I guess is technically still true. I’m happy that San Francisco is a creative breeding ground, but I’d also like it to be a place writers can stay when they grow up!

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