Punctuation and Paragraphing: Who Knew They Could Be So Powerful?

I recently published a new edition of Fierce Resistance.

Yes, folks, there is a shiny, brand new version out there in both paperback and Kindle versions, spruced up and polished and reworked and technologically updated!  (Even in six years, phones and social media have changed so much that I needed to make some alterations to bring Beth up to date.)

Have I mentioned before that I am a tinkering perfectionist?  Every time I re-read my work, I always seem to find something I’m not happy with: a sentence won’t ‘sing’ the way I want it to, or doesn’t flow in quite the way I’d hoped.  When I edited Fierce Resistance with my eyes and ears on ‘critical overdrive’, I realised that, often, all I was doing was simply re-jigging the paragraphs and punctuation … and that this had a surprisingly dramatic impact on how it read.

Sometimes, ending a paragraph just a sentence earlier (or starting the next paragraph a sentence earlier, depending on how you want to look at it!) was all that it took to make the words tell the story in the way I wanted them to.

I also noticed that, if I followed the rule of using commas to separate a main clause from a subordinate clause, some of the passages I disliked because they felt ‘clunky’, suddenly had the flow and meaning I always wanted them to have.

That may sound like a terrible admission: an author, finally working out that punctuation rules are there for a reason and that they work?

The truth is, I was never taught about the finer points of punctuation at school It wasn’t considered an important part of the curriculum back then – and neither was grammar!  As a school kid, I learnt how to build sentences by reading books and working it out for myself – but, if you look in most books, you will see that a lot of authors punctuate however the heck they like (which they are perfectly entitled to do) – so I was never going to learn all of the ‘official’ rules by reading!  I only learnt the rules properly when I became a teacher.

And this has led me to muse about the teaching of SPAG (Spelling, punctuation and Grammar) in schools today.

Whilst I was deprived of basic rules and left to learn them for myself, primary school children these days are remorselessly drilled in the rules of grammar and punctuation.  They are expected to regurgitate phrases like ‘fronted adverbials’ and ‘modal verbs’ and ‘cohesion’, and demonstrate an omniscient knowledge of things that most adults don’t have a clue about … … AND I REALLY AM NOT SURE ABOUT THIS AT ALL.                                                It feels unnecessarily severe …. and, from discussions I’ve had with stressed 10 and 11 year-olds, it’s really taking all the joy of writing away from them.

But my discovery that punctuating clauses by the rule book made Fierce Resistance come across so much better, led me to revise my feelings about teaching SPAG a little.  Surely we want to give children and young people the tools they need to express themselves powerfully?  Enable them to communicate robustly as individual members of the human race?  But how do we do this without overloading them with rules and jargon and rules … and more jargon and more rules?

The answer is, I believe, not to force-feed children the ‘musts’ and ‘must-nots’ of grammar until they are as stressed and miserable as foie-gras ducks.  The clue is in the previous paragraph: it is all about teaching kids that grammar and punctuation are powerful tools which they can wield in order to give themselves a stronger voice.  SPAG knowledge is a superpower: the ability to make ourselves understood – and to make our stories and letters and playscripts and poems and reports as engaging, entertaining, informative, funny (and the BEST) they can be.

THAT is what punctuation and grammar are for.  If you use them in a considered way, it gives you a big, loud voice to help you make your way in the world.

So that’s where I’m going to end this: Punctuation and grammar are important, but nobody deserves to have the rules rammed down their throats until they hate them.  The rules of grammar and punctuation should be tools to help us express ourselves in a way that makes people listen … and be part of how we equip ourselves to handle life’s adventures.

The shiny new edition of Fierce Resistance is available on Amazon

Rhythm and Funny: The Perfect Combination

It was inevitable, being the daughter of a drummer, that I would be attracted to words and writing with a strong, distinctive rhythm.  Consequently, I gravitated towards poetry and rhyming books from a very early age.

And it just so happened that the rhymes I liked the best were funny, too.

I adored the rhythmic, bonkers quirkiness of Dr Seuss; I lapped up the affectionate wit of A.A. Milne … and I loved the wry life-observations of Pam Ayres so much that I even dressed up as her and recited one of her poems for my girl guide ‘Entertainer’ badge!

At the same time, on the TV, a comedian called Ronnie Barker was writing and performing silly sketches, as part of a double act known as The Two Ronnies.  The way Mr Barker played with words to make them funny had me spellbound.  I’m not sure, as a little ’un, that I understood all of his jokes – but he put silly words together and made them sound completely delicious.  And, ever-present behind the yummy words, was a driving rhythm: pushing the jokes towards the punchlines and stirring the listener to feel joy and a sense of fun.

So: rhythm and comedy.  Inextricably bound together like fibres in the same strand of wool. They threaded their way into my young consciousness and got under my skin.

And, now, I cannot separate the two.  When I write, the rhythm behind the words constantly tempts me to write something silly or diverting.  When I write comedy, there has to be a compelling rhythm or I don’t feel it’s good enough.

Writing funny stuff, with its thrilling combination of rhythm and daftness, is what makes me really happy.  It’s the ultimate in wordplay: mucking about with language until the words sound so tasty together that they – might … hopefully – make someone (other than myself …!) laugh.

Recently, one of my little projects involving fooling around with words was brought to life by Good Girlz ‘n’ Boyz – a fabulous group of actors who read through my script whilst the ‘record’ button was on. You can listen to it here (or navigate yourself to the Videos page) … or head over to YouTube for a listen.  It’s about a bunch of five-year-olds finding their way through the mad world we currently live in.  They’re all partly based on the five-year-old me.

Which takes me back to a much smaller, five-year-old Fiona, who absorbed funny words and rhythm simultaneously, stored them all up … and now spouts them out onto the page in the hope that some of them might raise a smile.

My latest Words and Music show is also about why ‘funny’ is important.  You can find it on the VIDEOS page, or go direct to YOUTUBE.

A Tomboy, A Time Lord … and a Missed Opportunity

My first girl hero was Enid Blyton’s George Kirrin.  She of the Famous Five.  With her cropped hair and feisty, stubborn attitude, she refused to be constrained by what the world expected girls to be like.  She was ‘as good as any boy’.  I loved her and wanted to be her.

As previously discussed on this page, girl heroes are important.  This is because they inspire girls and boys to understand that, yes, girls can do stuff – any stuff – and do it well.  And George certainly inspired me.  She is the heart and soul behind the courageous girls I have written into my books.

So to hear that there was going to be a female Doctor in Doctor Who was an exciting prospect.  A Girl Time Lord, saving the universe!  A She-Doctor, defying time and traversing space – and energising a new generation of young girls and becoming their first girl hero!

Here is a fantastic description of the Doctor from an episode way back in series three (it’s episode 9: ‘The Family of Blood’). I’ve changed the pronouns to the feminine.

‘I’ve seen her.  She’s like fire, and ice and rage.  She’s like the night and the storm and the heart of the sun.  She’s ancient and forever.  She burns at the centre of time, and she can see the turn of the universe.’

Wow.  Doesn’t that sound fabulous?  All that … in a female character!  Again: WOW.

Now, I know that the majority view is that the Thirteenth Doctor is amazing – but as a lifelong Doctor Who fan, and an advocate for the rights and aspirations of girls around the world, I have to say that I’m terribly disappointed with how the latest version of the Doctor has turned out.

What I see is a naïve and green Time Lord (who needs no less than THREE people to ‘help’ her for goodness’ sake), running about with her mouth open, starting FAR too many sentences with ‘I don’t …’ and ‘I can’t …’, pointing her sonic screwdriver at EVERYTHING, because she doesn’t seem to be able work out what anything is, what it does or why it’s there (or fix anything) without it.  A stereotypical girl-in-a-flap who can’t do much by herself, basically.  And the help she gets is 75% male (if you want to be contentious and include the sonic screwdriver and its symbolic resemblance to a traditionally male body part …)

Where is the maverick confidence of Time Lords past?  Where is the haunted look in her eye, telling us of centuries of battles, victories, loss, turbulence and difficult decisions?  All the male incarnations had a magnificent, burdened gravitas … so why has the female version not got this?

Now, I’ve no doubt that the mere existence of a female Doctor has already done WONDERS in inspiring girls to ‘get out there’ and be the best they can … but, to me, the current incarnation of my favourite Time Lord has been watered down into something rather unsubstantial.

And that makes me cross, because being wishy-washy is part of the damning stereotype of ‘girliness’ that us gals have been fighting so hard to consign to the dustbin.

I’ve got a funny feeling George Kirrin would be furious.

Girl Heroes: They’re not just important – they’re Absolutely Necessary. And here’s why …

When I first built this website, I knew I would need some motivational, sassy photos of girls ‘doing their thing’. But I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, or where to start looking.

Enter the miracle that is the internet search engine: the result of tireless research, correlation and cataloguing by umpteen technicians, that allows you to type in random specifics such as ‘small yellow dog in a red flower pot’ and receive – within seconds – a myriad of photos of sandy-coloured canines posing in crimson-painted pots. It’s clever, magical and brilliant.

So I searched for ‘women and girls in danger’.  And the results shocked me.

Most of the pictures were of girls screaming.  Accompanied by face-clutching, eye-popping and eyebrow-raising.  Where were the girl heroes, climbing and swimming and running and fighting?

So I tried ‘brave women and girls’ instead.  Maybe if I put the word ‘brave’ in, it would get rid of those petrified faces.  These results shocked me even more.  There were women wearing tight shorts and bikini tops, or ‘saucy’ military costumes, brandishing over-sized weapons and pouting at the camera.

On a rather cross whim, I decided to change my search and type in ‘men in danger’.  A mighty feast of heroic images met my eyes: men climbing things, men on horseback, men swinging from ropes, men wrestling wild animals, men fleeing avalanches and men surfing great waves.

I tried ‘brave men’, too.  Can you guess what happened?  A mighty feast of heroic images met my eyes: men climbing things, men on horseback, men swinging from ropes, men wrestling wild animals, men fleeing avalanches and surfing great waves.

Now, if you browse this website or watch my videos you will see that I did find a great site with some fabulous images.  And I’ve noticed, that if I do the same searches on the internet today, the pictures that appear are much more inspiring and far less stereotypical.  But it frustrated me back then that the ‘go to’ images of women and girls in danger were ones where they were predominantly frightened … and that the ‘brave’ pictures were sexualised, fantasy figures.  Where were all the real-life girls showing their natural pluck and spirit?

I think there is a lack of realistic girl heroes in books and films.  Many brave girls are written into fantasy other-worlds, which are far-removed from our common experiences.  It’s as if there is no place in the real world for girls to come out on top; no room for them to triumph.  A female supehero is a marvellous thing – but being immortal and able to freeze the enemy to death with your own, hi-tech snot, has limited inspiration value compared to a regular gal who braves her fear of heights to save her friends using nothing but a shoe and a broken hair clip.

And that is why I want to write about real girls finding their feet in the face of danger.  If girls and boys don’t read about ordinary girls succeeding, then they won’t write about them in their stories – and they won’t believe that girls have the power and resources to overcome difficulty beyond the page, either.

The stereotypes have to go.  Then the real girls can find their feet and release their inner hero.

The Adventure Has Begun!

Technical challenges have been overcome, creative decisions made … my humble brain has got itself into the right gear …

My Words and Music Show has landed on YouTube!

In Episode One, I interview violinist and composer Sue Aston about Cornwall, creative courage and cake.  Oh, and there’s music, adventure … and you get to see me in a party hat!

It doesn’t seem that long ago that my friend Melissa and I used a toy telephone, strung between our two bedroom windows (we lived next door to each other) and used it to communicate without having to leave our homes (well, we did until the batteries ran out!)

We thought that this was pretty cool and miraculous, but now I can talk face to face to a friend who is 260 miles away in Cornwall – and have it automatically converted into a split-screen video interview!  This stuff only happened on Sci-Fi films when I was a child!  Technology has developed at terrifying pace.

So … two levels of courage and adventurousness have gone into this first show.  Firstly, I had to battle with my own technophobia, in order to make my show the best it could be.  And then Sue spoke powerfully about the creative challenges that all us writers, musicians and other arty types experience on a daily basis: the isolation, those nagging thoughts which say, ‘Will anyone like this? … Will anyone hear it or read it? … Is it any good?’  She had some great advice, too – and I will leave the last words with her:

‘I think you have to really enjoy being creative, and just do it for it’s own sake.  And if people enjoy it, that’s wonderful.  The trick is to keep going.  Don’t give up!’


Attention-Seeking, Techno-Geeking … and a New Video Show!

When I was 11, I was given a radio cassette player for my birthday.

It was a very basic piece of technology compared to what we have today, but it meant I could save my favourite songs from the radio …. and, even better than that, record myself telling jokes and interviewing people.

As I got older, I would use it to perform duets with myself on the flute – and also to revise for my ‘O’ and ‘A’ level English.  (I recorded half the dialogue of a Shakespeare play, then played it back and read out the remaining lines to fill in the gaps. It helped the words to ‘stick’.)

I guess this means I like the sound of my own voice!   There’s no point in denying it – it’s no coincidence that every strand of my career … musician, teacher, writer … has been something that requires a captive audience!  There was nothing I liked better than putting on a ‘show’, even if it meant the only person to hear it was me.

Now, years later, I’m at it again.  I’ve just finished recording and editing a pilot of a video show, where I talk about words and music, interview people and hopefully have a bit of a laugh along the way.  The plan is to do some ‘real’ shows soon, with a different guest and theme every time. Then, I’ll put them on YouTube.

But, oh boy, technology has changed so much since I sat in my bedroom recording myself and generally messing about!  If you had told the 11 year old me that I would now be filming myself USING A TELEPHONE THAT WAS ALSO A COMPUTER, I would have told you not to talk silly.

When I was 11, nobody had a computer in their house, and telephones were permanently attached to the wall with a wire. I didn’t actually use a computer until I was 30 years old. Now I have my own movie editing suite on my desktop, which astounds me with what it can do. And – and this is a source of ongoing amazement – I have worked out how to use it all by myself. Not bad for a techno-wally that grew up in an era where pocket calculators were cutting edge and cool.

(Here I am interviewing a toy orang utan on the pilot.                                                         She was standing in for a real guest)

I’m proud that I’ve managed to adapt to the complexities and frustrations of the Age of Information.  Maybe this means I’m not the scaredy cat I sometimes think I am!  I used to be terrified of computers, but now I can make them do what I want (well, most of the time!) … and now I’m using them to put on a show, and do something I love.  Maybe I’m a bit more like Beth Hardy, Jac-Stryder Jones and Laurel Smith than I thought.  Actually, I CAN be brave and try new and scary things …

… And if I can face my silly fears, then so can you.

WORDS AND MUSIC WITH FIONA BEDDOW will appear on YouTube in due course.  Watch this space for details!




A New Year – A New Leaf

When I was little, I thought that the expression ‘turning over a new leaf’ meant something to do with the leaves that grow on trees.

In fact, when I hear the phrase today – even though I know better – I still imagine a single, freshly-fallen leaf being turned over in somebody’s hands.

The phrase, of course, actually refers to the leaf, or page of a book. The metaphor is pretty clear: if you turn a new page, you find yourself amongst new words, new concepts – or maybe a new chapter set in a completely new place or time. Or perhaps the new leaf is a blank page, which is waiting to be filled with new ideas and new possibilities.

At the moment, I am – literally – turning several new leaves every day. I’m editing Fierce Resistance, and transforming it into a spanking new edition.

Why on earth would I want to do that? Well, the truth is I’m a tinkerer and a perfectionist. When I re-read my writing I always think something could be better. I also want the endpapers of Fierce Resistance to tell people about my two subsequent books, The JASMINE Portfolio and Mouse.

And things in the world have changed since I wrote Fierce Resistance! When I penned the earliest chapters, which see Beth Hardy embarking on her daring adventure – all innocence and inexperience, and armed with none of the heroic skills she learns later on – many people were still using mobile phones which had to be flipped open before you used them (I know, right?). So I’ve had to pen Beth a nice new smartphone, so that she stays being the modern girl I want her to be.

I think tinkering is a good thing. Another name for it is self-improvement. As I work through the book, it fascinates me how re-jigging where a paragraph starts or ends, or removing or inserting a punctuation mark, or changing a couple of words here and there … can subtly calm the mood, or quicken the pace – or make everything clearer, more exciting or more poignant. Words (and the pauses between them) have the potential to be even more powerful, if we adjust them in just the right way.

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, but I do like to use the turning over of a new year to stop and reflect upon how I can be a better and braver person. A bit like turning that leaf over in my hands and considering its beauty, and its imperfections.

I think writing has taught me that tiny alterations can make a massive difference … so, may your 2018 be full of amazing little changes, which in turn lead to a fantastic, rewarding, lifelong adventure.

Two Love Stories; Two Strong, Brave Girls

In the past few weeks I have been entranced by two theatre performances.

I re-lived a teenage pleasure when I saw the musical ‘Grease’ – and I had my grown-up heart pulled to pieces when I watched the ballet ‘Giselle’.

The love stories in both these shows follow a recurring theme found in literature:

Boy meets girl … boy and girl fall in love despite being very different … boy and girl are driven apart* … boy and girl are reunited.

*The thing that drives them apart is an age-old leitmotif, too. I don’t like to diss the boys … but I’m sad to say that the reason these couples split is because the boy lets the girl down really badly. (But more about that later.)

If you haven’t seen ‘Grease’ it goes like this. Danny (a confident, bad-boy greaser who is leader of his high school gang) and Sandy (a quiet, sweet girl-next door) meet in the school holidays and fall in love.

When they meet again, Danny’s desire to impress his mates gets the better of him. He denies knowing Sandy, and puts his ‘cool’ reputation ahead of his real feelings. Sandy is heartbroken.

But Sandy loves Danny, and finally makes a brave move. Dressed like a million dollars, she gives him an ultimatum: ‘You’d better shape up, ‘Cos I need a man – And my heart is set on you.’ … Sandy stands up for herself, knowing that she deserves to be treated with respect. ‘I’d better shape up,’ agrees Danny. It is only then that the two get back together.

The story of ‘Giselle’ has a more gothic twist. Giselle (who is poor) and Count Albrecht (who is very rich) are deeply in love. But Albrecht’s family have forced him into a relationship with a woman from his own social class, so he meets with Giselle in secret.

At his engagement party, Albrecht has the chance to declare his love for Giselle in public, but he chickens out and stands by his fiancée.

Just like Sandy, Giselle is desperately hurt. But Giselle is so overwhelmed by her misery that she dies of a broken heart.

She becomes a ghost, and her fellow phantoms urge her to kill Albrecht, but she forgives him instead. But, unlike Sandy, she doesn’t take Albrecht back. Giselle chooses to finds peace in death. Because there’s no getting round the sad truth that Albrecht didn’t have the guts to say ‘I love you’ when it mattered, and Giselle wanted better than that.

So: two strong girls, who knew when they were being treated badly, and who weren’t prepared to stand for it. I think this is a really important message to send out to girls of all ages (and to boys, too, of course). We all deserve to be treated with consideration and kindness.

Actually, can I make that “Three strong girls”?

When I planned this blog post, I realised that Beth Hardy’s love story in Fierce Resistance is very similar to those in ‘Grease’ and ‘Giselle’.

In the face of some poor treatment from a boy, Beth demonstrates the same resilience as the two girls I’ve written about here. Hopefully this isn’t too much of a spoiler, but I’m very proud I gave Beth the last word on her relationship with resistance cell member Ricky … When Beth’s 7-year-old brother Peter asks her, ‘Who was that on the phone?’ Beth replies, ‘Someone who’s less of a man than you are.’

It was very tempting to make the ending of the first love story I wrote a happy one. But as the romance unfolded, I felt that Beth’s integrity and self-respect were more important than that. And it fitted with the theme of ‘Resistance’. The idea of not tolerating unjust behaviour of any sort.

As a writer of books for young people, it’s very important to me that I give my characters the ability to stand their ground, and not allow themselves to be treated unfairly by anyone. All three of my heroic girls: Beth Hardy, Jac Stryder-Jones and Laurel Smith, have only loyal and decent friends.

And they are prepared to hold their heads high, and walk away from anyone who doesn’t treat them right.

To find out more about how three very different brave girls stand up for themselves and what they believe in, why not hop over to the Books page, and read the blurbs, for a mini-taste of their courage in the face of danger?


‘A Castle, a Mysterious Neighbour and a Secret Message …’

Have you ever visited somewhere and felt that you took a bit of it away with you when you left?

Eight years ago, I visited Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. And it captured my heart. The walls seemed to ooze history and stories – and I was sure I could detect the presence of those who had lived there many years before.

One resident in particular captured my imagination.  Lady Isabella de Fortibus was a great and powerful landowner. She organised ambitious improvements at Carisbrooke, not just designing her own spacious apartments, but adding a new kitchen and salting house, as well as a herb garden and vivarium (a place to keep fish alive once they were caught), to name but a few. What a woman! What creative and practical drive she must have had (and buckets of charisma to boot) to become so powerful in the male-dominated thirteenth century.  I reckon she was a truly formidable and determined character.

When I began drafting ideas for my third book, I contemplated making Isabella, and the legends which surround her, a significant part of the story. I even came up with ‘The Isabella Connection’ as a possible title!  But in the end, it was the place – the Isle of Wight – which became the primary inspiration. The blog heading above is taken from the end of chapter nine of Mouse. I loved Carisbrooke so much, it became the place where Laurel Smith first realises that the Isle of Wight is hiding some pretty intriguing secrets.

Me and Mouse in Lady Isabella’s apartment

I revisited Carisbrooke this year, and again I felt Isabella’s tough character radiating from the ancient bricks. On reflection, I think her spirit is everywhere in my books. (A resolute and courageous female. Sound familiar?!) So – to show my deep respect for this wonderful, feisty woman, I named the ‘Lady Isabella’ Pub in Mouse after her, and made it the setting for a critical scene where Laurel Smith plans a mission for Vectis, the mysterious Isle of Wight rebels.

If you’re finding yourself short of inspiration as the autumn gloom draws in, why not revisit a place that captivated you? Make a packed lunch and jump on a train … or just re-open your memory store!  Let that place, and the people who walked there, give you something new. You never know where you might end up.

Find out more about Carisbrooke Castle here.

Mouse is just a click away!  Just here!

More Orwellian Musings: The Art of Throwing Words Into the Dustbin

In my last post I talked about how George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four got under my skin and shaped me as an adventure writer.  Now I ponder Orwell’s rules for good quality writing.

Earlier this year, I read Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language.

It appealed to me because a) it wasn’t very long (always a bonus!) and b) it turned out to be less about politics and more about writing.

As I turned the pages, I found myself nodding in agreement with every point Orwell made.

He talks about the need for PRECISION (Yayy!  I spend AGES purging annoying flim-flam from my own writing) … DELETING PRETENTIOUS WORDS (Double yayy!)  … and REPLACING MEANINGLESS WORDS (I’m always saying to my students ‘ Don’t describe x as “amazing” … what does that actually mean?’)

And this is very good news for anyone who is worried that their writing isn’t ‘good enough’.

There’s no need to fear that your vocabulary isn’t impressive and flamboyant.  And no reason to stress because you can’t write anything ‘clever’.  Just follow Orwell’s six-point plan for writing and let your words speak for themselves:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.  (Yes, folks, say bye bye to ‘nerves of steel’ and ‘scared out of his wits’ and make up your own!)
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.  (This is the BEST ADVICE EVER!  Sometimes the word ‘big’ really is more powerful than ‘gargantuan’ or ‘oversized’.)
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out.  (In the words of Stephen King: ‘Kill your darlings.’  It’s actually very liberating!)
  4. Never use the passive when you can use the active.  (Who wants to hear that ‘The rugged cliff was scaled unflaggingly by our feisty heroine.’?  Just tell us she climbed it!)
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.  (Seriously, don’t say ‘paradigm’ when you can say ‘example’ – and NEVER say ‘expostulated’ when you can write ‘said.’!!!)

BUT ALL RULES ARE FOR BREAKING, OF COURSE.   And Orwell’s final rule is almost my favourite (Rule 2 beats it by a squeak) …

6. Break any of these rules rather than say anything outright barbarous.

And that’s it!  Love words (especially the little ones) and use them wisely, but not barbarously! Leave the uncivilised stuff to those soundbite-loving politicians and sensation-seeking media companies.

So have that dustbin ready.

And learn to relish flinging away those pesky ‘clever’ words which get in the way of what you want to say.

If you want to hear more about how I came to love the little words in life, why not whizz over to the ‘ABOUT’ page and watch my video interview with Sue Aston.  Find out which authors inspired me to ‘keep it simple’ and use everyday language to write powerfully.