My most recent book came out in 2012: 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time. It’s the fourth and last book in my 101 Words series, and I saved all the hard words for last. This book covers many of the usage problems for which there aren’t hard-and-fast solutions. Are you feeling “all right” or “alright”? (“All right” is the traditionally correct answer, but “alright” is gaining some ground.) Does “biweekly” mean twice a week or every two weeks? (It can mean both, which is why it’s better to use a different word.) Do you run a gauntlet or a gantlet? (Traditionally, you ran a gantlet and threw down a gauntlet, but today, most sources say it’s OK to use “gauntlet” for both.)
My previous books lay out what most people think of as the standard rules, but in this book I had to take a stand on controversial issues. Each topic discusses what makes it troublesome and ends with a short “What Should You Do” section, which readers have said they like.
What’s next for you?
I just started a full-time job as a the chair of media entrepreneurship at the University of Nevada, so along with doing all the things I still do for Grammar Girl, that job is taking most of my time these days. In the spring, I’m teaching social journalism, which will put my social media experience to good use, and I’m developing courses that encourage students be more entrepreneurial.
I do aspire to write fiction, and I belong to two fiction writing groups—one that meets every two weeks and one that meets more sporadically.
Who are your writing role models?
A few years ago, I won a seat at a writing conference called the Superstars Writing Seminar that was run by Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, and David Farland. I learned a lot from them, and the organization maintains an active Facebook group for alumni, which gets bigger after every new seminar, and I’ve found that group to be especially helpful and inspirational. I have also been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast for years, which is hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells. They have significantly shaped how I think about writing and storytelling.
How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your writing life?
It’s hard to find balance since I essentially have two full-time jobs. I don’t work on my fiction every day; in fact, sometimes months go by when I don’t work on it. But I always try to keep at least a kernel of my mind focused on fiction writing. I do that by listening to podcasts, reading blog posts, following fiction writers on Twitter, and critiquing other people’s work in my writing groups. In short, I hang out with fiction writers in person and online. Then, when I have more time, I work in big chunks. For example, I plan to do a lot of writing over winter break.
What are your other passions outside of writing?
I love to ski. I’m not very good at it—I’m an easy-blue skier—but I love being on the slopes. It’s one of the few things I do that completely focuses my mind. It scares me just enough that I believe I’ll die if I don’t pay attention.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Sorry, can’t think of anything.
Mignon Fogarty is better known online as Grammar Girl. Her website was named one of Writer’s Digest’s best websites for writers in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and her podcast won best education podcast in the Podcast Awards in 2012 and 2013. She has about 250,000 Twitter followers and 500,000 Facebook fans. Her first book, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, was a New York Times bestseller, and she has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Today Show as a language expert.