Recapping the 2017 Phoenix Comicon

I’ve read about Cons. I’ve talked to people about their experiences at a Con. I’d never been to a Comicon. Boy, oh boy. Phoenix Comicon did not disappoint.

Grammatical Art has been making appearances at various Cons on the west coast for several years now, but this was my first time attending. As a librarian, I’d attended many large-scale conventions, so I was at least familiar with a crowded convention center, panels, vendor halls, and hustle and bustle. I do have to admit, nothing compares to the costumes at a Con, though!

This year’s Phoenix Comicon wasn’t without it’s drama (I’m looking at you bag full of guns and 2 hour security lines), but it was well worth wading through all of the initial upheaval to get in and explore. The vendor hall was full of everything from books and comic books, to superhero garb, to steampunk jewelry, to awesome grammar- and science-inspired gear and prints. Wink wink. I was so excited by all the awesome costumes and our busy booth that I didn’t even have time to think about all of the celebrities doing signings and photos in the same building!

Natalie & Jess at the Grammatical Art booth!

The absolute best part had to be meeting everyone who stopped by the Grammatical Art booth. Grammar enthusiasts, science lovers, and those with an artist’s eye all stopped by to share a laugh, an eye roll, or to debate the finer points of the Oxford comma (as if there’s even a debate!). It was a joy and pleasure to meet all of you! Natalie does beautiful work, and I loved having an opportunity to appreciate it with you.

Here’s to the next Con!

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

Summer is coming. Most people start thinking about swimwear and their beach bodies, but I’m over here like, What awesome books am I going to read this summer? To me, a summer book is a specific type of book. I imagine myself sprawled out on a beach towel, or lying on the couch at night while a lazy, hot breeze works its way through the house, or frantically trying to read a few pages while my kid is tearing something somewhere apart. I like a book that’s easy. Something that moves along at a clip, nothing that requires too much thinking. Some escapism, maybe.

Enter this fun little piece of pulp fiction: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris. Now, I want to be up front with you. This book is not winning the Man Booker Prize. It’s not even the best writing. But, boy oh boy, did it sickly drag me in and keep me reading.

The description for the novel teases that this is a story about the perfect couple that isn’t quite as oh-so-perfect as they seem. True enough. Jack is a handsome lawyer, and his wife, Grace, is pretty and put together. Blah blah blah. You’ve read that beginning a thousand times. But Behind Closed Doors really takes you down a deep, dark spiral.

The book bounces back and forth between the past and the present until the two eventually meet at the end. It’s hard to tell you much about the plot line without giving away some major spoilers, so I’ll say this. The women in this book are pretty awesome. Grace’s sister, Millie, has a bit of a starring role in the women’s successes, and I appreciated that the character with Down Syndrome wasn’t portrayed as incapable or less than. Grace and Jack’s neighbor, Esther, is a sharp wit, too, whose place in the last chapter really surprised me. Even Grace herself (who may drive you nuts sometimes) gets it together and finds her strength.

What I liked about this book is that it read very quickly. There’s a lot of dialogue and action. It’s pulpy; it’s digestible; you’re both horrified and desperate to keep reading at the same time. The deepness and darkness wasn’t the obvious that I had expected. At a certain point, I was able to predict what was happening, but it didn’t bother me. The book is fun and breezy. The perfect read for toes in the sand and wind in the hair.

P.S. The audiobook is great, too! Excellent reader. Good for a summer road trip, perhaps?

Happy Reading!

A Time and a Place for Everything, Even Incorrect Grammar

I used to think Siri on my iPhone was sort of lame. I would occasionally ask her about the weather or to set a timer for me, but she didn’t really change my life. I was young; I slept through the night; I didn’t have a kid.

But now, I have a kid, which means I have only 2 hands and a thousand things to be holding, wiping, sorting, carrying, managing, collecting, and hugging. Siri has become invaluable to me. I text people while I’m buckling my son in his car seat! I ask her to look up how many tablespoons are in a cup while I’m rinsing a can of beans and holding my toddler. I talk to Siri all day long, and with some slight misunderstandings, she’s generally very helpful.

As if using Siri isn’t already the ultimate lazy/multitasking tool, I’ve found myself getting even lazier. I don’t really always double check the texts I ask her to send for their grammar and spelling. When I’m not using Siri, but I am using voice-to-text, I check those even less often. At least Siri will read my text back to me and can edit it without my having to lift a finger. Bottom line: the punctuation is always atrocious.

I’ve started to wonder if all this Siri, Google, voice-to-text stuff is going to permanently affect what is acceptable grammar and punctuation in our written society. Personally, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading texts that come to me from people using those features–lots of autocorrect, incorrect punctuation. It makes it a little harder to understand, but it’s not a full on communication breakdown by any means.

And then I wonder, honestly, who cares? Before you gasp and clutch your pearls, hear me out. I love grammar. I work for grammar. I believe that proper grammar and punctuation are very, very important. But part of what I love about language is that it is constantly evolving. We’re constantly inventing things that need names, creating new words out of conversations. We’re an ever-evolving species and our language reflects that. So, I’m not going to sweat the small stuff in a text message. It’s a matter of conversation and convenience. I wouldn’t by lazy about it in the workplace, and certainly not in a space like this blog. It’s the same way that I don’t mind a swear word or forty among friends, but wouldn’t do it while I’m giving a press conference live on TV. You see where I’m going with this? There’s a time and place for everything. Even though my heart will always fully belong to proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling.

Thank a Teacher

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week! In honor of all of you who shape and mold young minds, I started thinking back on all of the teachers and mentors I’ve had in my life. Everyone has stories that immediately come to mind when they think about their education, which just goes to show how powerful teachers are.

It all starts in preschool, right? That was the year of accidents. My teachers wiped up my busted nose after I tripped on my own two feet crossing uneven pavement on a field trip. They comforted us when Kelly slipped off the monkey bars and broke her arm. As it is for many kids, preschool was my first introduction into formal education, and they helped orient me to the world of learning that was still to come.

I loved my kindergarten teacher so much that I once called her, “Mom” and then died of embarrassment. Enough said.

I had a fifth grade teacher who taught us about the stock market. We even broke up into teams and “played,” buying and selling shares based on the actual daily market fluctuations. My fifth grade understanding of the stock market is still my current level of actual trading knowledge.

In high school I had a slew of incredible teachers–my US History teacher was just about the best teacher I’ve had period. His class was so incredibly difficult, and he never let up. All of his students rose to his challenges. He made us tough, dedicated learners.

In college, I think I’d simply list every professor I had. Every single writing and English professor I took a class with carved a new mind out of my original one. I’m forever different because of the teachers and people they are.

I never saw any of these people up close, really. It wasn’t until I married a teacher that I saw behind the scenes just how dedicated, generous, and passionate these people are about their work, schools, students. My husband is, of course, my favorite teacher of all, and seeing him with his students, knowing what he does at home to support their lives and education, gives me a deeper appreciation for the work of the teachers who shaped my life.

“Thank you” seems inadequate to say to all of these people who take on such important work and give so much, but here it is. A thank you from Grammatical Art to all educators. “What we learn becomes part of who we are.” –Kathy R. Jeffords

Reflecting a Positive Self-Image

As a mom, I think a lot about what my kid is going to be like when he grows up. Right now, he’s pint-sized, not just because he’s a toddler, but because he’s short and skinny, on the bottom of all of the growth charts. So I wonder, Will he be the shortest kid in his class his whole life? Will he get picked on for being little? Will he be judged based on his size for the rest of his life? These are silly things to worry about, but hey, there’s something wrong with this mom if she’s not worrying.

What’s more, I think a lot about the type of human I want my son to be as he grows. Looks are only superficial, and there isn’t much I can do for him except make sure I don’t give him a horrible hair cut. I really want him to be bold, empathetic, generous, hilarious, and motivated.

Every time I go shopping for clothes for this little guy, I’m bombarded with “shirts with sayings.” I swore I’d never put him in something that says, “Ladies’ Man” or “Future Heartbreaker,” and I haven’t. The truth is, it’s even worse for parents of girls. The emphasis on appearance and the over-sexualization starts pretty young these days. That’s why I’m in love with our collection of gold foil tees. They’re emblazoned with the best kind of words to describe the type of person I want my little human to be: strong, kind, powerful, funny, smart, and brave. They also, incidentally, describe the woman I strive to be (thank goodness they’re available in adult sizes, too!). Imagine the effect it has on a child’s self-image to see the word “strong” or “brave” reflected back on them in the mirror. Imagine the effect it would have on you.

strong chart

Constellation Collection Official Launch

Just in time for NASA’s launch of their entire media library (publicly accessible and copyright free!), we’re announcing the launch of our brand new Constellation Collection! These shirts and prints are debuting at just the right time. Spring is here, and it’s prime star gazing weather. The gorgeous designs feature Andromeda, Crux, Orion, Sirius, Ursa Major, and Ursa Minor.

The prints would look beautiful in an office, baby or child’s room, the living room, heck, even the kitchen! They’re available in various sizes as small as 5×7 inches and as large as 30×40 inches.

orion

The shirts are available in men’s/unisex, women’s, and v-neck styles, sizes XS-4XL. (*Please note that the women’s sizes run very small!)

andromeda v neck

And don’t forget that we also have our Northern & Southern Hemisphere Constellation Map as prints and on shirts and totes, too!

northern tote

Anyone have a favorite constellation? Come on, we know you do.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

GOTCHA! Thought this was going to be a holiday post, eh? Nope. The most wonderful time of the year is, in fact, when Grammatical Art puts up new merchandise! That’s right. Natalie has been hard at work adding brand new designs in addition to expanding some of her print designs for shirts, v-necks, and tote bags.

What’s brand new? Awesome tea towels and tote bags (designs are available on both) like these:

orange-720x964watermelon tote

And designs that are now available on shirts and totes:

electrical navysplice v neck grayscience beaker tote

These are just a very small sampling of the 20+ new designs and styles. And yes, they are available just in time for the holidays (the second most wonderful time of the year)! We also have even more rolling out in the coming days and weeks.

Make sure to check back here for our upcoming Black Friday deals! This year’s are amazing.

 

Totes Magotes

I’m a bit of a bag lady. By my front door as I type this, there is a hook that has about 15 bags hanging from it. And these are just my reusable bags that I take to the grocery store. I have fancy bags (like my gorgeous Kate Spade beauties), diaper bags (yes, plural), backpacks, duffel bags, suitcases, messenger bags, computer bags, and loads of purses and clutches. I can’t get enough. And though I do give away a bagful (see what I did there?) to Goodwill every spring, I still feel like each bag serves its purpose.

And yet, while I dance around and make it rain with all of my bags, there are still some I do NOT own.

Like one with my name on it:

personalized tote5

Or one with a swear word (!):

fck-tote

Or the most coveted of all, one just for my library books:

library tote4

What kind of a librarian doesn’t have a tote bag in her collection that features the word “library” and is intended for carrying books? One who’s about to get out her credit card and purchase one stat, that’s who.

So, I encourage you to take a long, hard look at your collection of tote bags and purses and fill in what’s missing with one of these (or one of our other) awesome bags.

And since this is a grammar blog, let’s talk about totes magotes. Not “totes my goats” as some may confuse it, “totes magotes” is attributed to the 2009 bromance I Love You, Man, although there is some debate about whether or not it’s been around for much longer. I’m sure you all know what it means, but basically it’s a phrase that emphasizes the word “totally.” You may also hear “totally magotally.” But you probably won’t hear it anymore because no one has said “totes magotes” except for me since 2010.

Go forth and collect your tote bags!

Grammar for All

It has become a (sad) game to find bad grammar out in the world. Items found can be as innocuous as a sign on a bathroom door to a piece of art that you are meant to hang in your kitchen that says, “Mom’s are the best chefs.”

Nope.

Of course, it’s all over social media, blogs, websites, The Interwebs. But that doesn’t stop me from smiling a little when I see something like this:

tricker treating

Ah yes, the timeless tradition of “tricker treating.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about grammar and how the ways we use it reflect back on us. In one of my Facebook groups, someone posted a question about hiring a photographer who had used poor grammar in a message exchange. My first reaction was I absolutely would not hire someone who has poor grammar. When I was planning my wedding, I dismissed vendors who had websites or advertisements riddled with grammatical errors.

But this post gave me pause. Grammar is complex. Some schools teach it thoroughly, intensely. Some don’t. Some people have a mind for all of the rules (many of which confuse and evade me). Some don’t. The mode of communication matters. Is it bad grammar on a website or is it bad grammar in a casual text message?

What fascinates me is that everyone has a relationship with grammar, whether they want to or not. We all write, even if it’s only in text messages and on social media. Some people don’t have a clue that what they’re written is at all grammatically incorrect. And does it really matter if it is so long as it’s understood? If I moved to Spain and attempted to speak in Spanish and misspoke here or there or with my thick American accent, would anyone criticize me so long as I could be understood? Probably not. Grammar is a language that belongs to all of us. Maybe common grammatical errors are sort of like written slang. It’s an evolution.

And while some grammatical errors make me shudder (the abuse of the apostrophe chief among them), I totally know what tricker treat is. I might be committing grammatical suicide, but is it a big deal if it’s spelled that way on Facebook?

Tell Them from the Start

I’m writing this with the presidential debates in the background. I won’t get political here, but I will say that as a woman who as a girl didn’t even know that a woman could run for president, it’s pretty darn cool to see a woman on that stage.

I have two sisters. Growing up, it was always a girls’ club. We loved all of the same toys, music, movies, games, you name it. Even though we’re so similar and grew up in the same household, I’m different. I’m the sister with no science gene. None. Zip. Nada. I muddled through science classes in high school, and in college I took geology for my graduation requirement, y’all. Geology. (It’s worth noting that my boss took just about every advanced science class offered at our alma mater, and I took geology.)

My sisters are scientists. Claire just finished her PhD and is a post doc for a lab at Children’s National Hospital in DC. Kate double-majored in Biology and Creative Writing. I’m constantly in awe of these women in science. And though I don’t know what they deal with as women who work in a male-dominated field, I know it’s not always easy. I know people make assumptions about their roles in the lab or their level of knowledge. I know that they’re working subtly, quietly every day to change the roles of women in science.

So, even though I’m not a scientist or even remotely science-minded, I want more women to find a home in STEM fields. I want girls to become science literate and science confident, even if they don’t want to be scientists.

Science: girls do it better. Tell them from the start.

toddler-sciencegirls-hot-pink