Author Archives: karenrsanderson

Main Street Celebration – Minot, North Dakota

historic main street from central ave

My Main Street, Minot, North Dakota

All this week, I celebrate Main Street. Features on the blog will highlight businesses along Main Street, Minot, and will include –

Main Street Books

Taube Museum

10 North Main

Margie’s Art Glass


About Minot

Founded: 1886, during the construction of the Great Northern Railway. Minot is also called “Magic City,” commemorating its extraordinary growth in a short time.

The town was named after Henry D. Minot, a railroad investor.

The city was incorporated on June 28, 1887.

Minot is the fourth largest city in the state. 2010 census put us at 40K+ people. In 2012, the Minot Area Development Corporation estimated between 46,000 and 47,000 permanent residents within city limits.

I am proud to say that my son (active duty – Air Force) and my daughter-in-law (Air National Guard) both serve at the Minot Air Force Base.



Well, y’all have heard me complain about the winters, and don’t get me started on the flood of 2011. But record temps have gone over the 100 mark in the summer. Record lows (I think we saw them last winter) reach into the -50s with a brutal wind chill.

According to Agriculture in the Classroom  –

“North Dakota weather can be extreme! The state’s highest temperature reading – 121 degrees – and all-time low reading – 60 below zero – were recorded less than six months apart in the same year, 1936!”


Spring wheat, durum, barley, sunflowers, flaxseed, canola, sugar beets, potatoes, oats, and others. If you ever eat spaghetti, chances are you are eating North Dakota durum.

On four legs

Recent estimates maintain that there are nearly two million head of cattle, over 160,000 pigs, and almost 90,000 sheep in North Dakota. So, thank a farmer.

State flora, fauna

Our State Bird: Western Meadowlark

The Peace Tower at the International Peace Garden

The Peace Tower at the International Peace Garden

Our State Tree: American Elm

Our State Flower: Wild Prairie Rose


Peace Garden State.

Click the link to see more about our beautiful International Peace Garden.

Geographical Center of North America

Rugby, North Dakota, is the geographical center of North America! Bet you didn’t know that. For more info., see Rugby, North Dakota.


North Dakota’s motto, “Strength from the Soil,” appears on the state’s coat of arms and governor’s flag.


Opening photo courtesy Old Photos.


Does your town have special events planned for the 4th of July?

Do you know your state’s motto, tree, flower, and bird?


Filed under Special Events



Being grateful

Last year I read a blog or article (I could kick myself for not writing down where I read this), that we should keep a Grateful List – little notes, written on a whim, kept in a dish, cup, or on a list.

I grabbed an Angry Birds cup and designated it my Grateful Cup.

My cup runneth over!

In just six months, I have so many Grateful Notes, I had to clean out the cup.

Dont’ forget the small stuff

We are all grateful for family, a roof over our heads, a good job, a nice car. But my Grateful Notes are small things – the small things that add up to a huge amount of grateful!

I’d like to share some of my Grateful Notes with you.

So…I’m grateful for

A beautiful sunrise

I can pay my bills

New kitchen and bath towels

I have everything I need to live a comfortable life

Juicy orange

Tai food

The neighbor pushing me out of the snow, out of the parking lot

A three-day weekend

Wayne asked me to go ice skating

I can still ice skate

A warm weekend – it’s in the 30s!

New underwear

Vodka cocktailDSC02189

I can make nacho chips from tortillas

I had my office swept

A washer/dryer in my apartment

Five days off in a row

The neighbor put out the garbage

It’s not -50 today

Grandson Shawn (5 y.o.) who has guts. When I tell him, “I’m not going to argue with you,” and he says, “Why not?”

I met another artist today

It’s sunny, even though it’s 30 degrees

I found the perfect shower curtain


My son continues his service to his country

A Phillies game on FSN

The crock-pot Tina gave me

Grandson Wayne (7 y.o.) covering me with a blanket while I’m napping

What are you grateful for?


Filed under Personal Articles

Quick Editorial Tips VII – For Poetry!



I have edited and proofread some poetry, both for clients and as a favor for friends. Poetry is tough to critique honestly!You don’t want to crush the muse, you don’t want to offend (as poetry is so personal), but you do want the writer to reach a little, experiment with words and sounds, show true emotion.

I have a poetry collection coming together – hopefully I will publish this year with the help of editor Shawn MacKenzie Shawn MacKenzie and my book designer Elizabeth H. Cottrell.

I’d like to share some of my critique notes on poetry I have edited and proofread. Perhaps a few of you can refer to these notes when you beta read my poetry collection! Or perhaps you have decided to write or edit your own poetry.

Struggle for rhyme

Don’t struggle – it will be evident. Try to make the rhyme flow. Rhymes don’t necessarily have to be the same letters like in “ease” and “please.” Rhymes can come from similar vowel sounds. For instance – try “verse” with “search.” Or “son” with “become.”


Look at your collection – does it use a lot of the same old common words?

Reach for it! Pull out the thesaurus and open up your vocabulary. Don’t use familiar words over and over (people reading your collection will notice).



Tickle a funny bone

How many collections have you read where all the poetry is the same – sadness, depression, lost love, loneliness. It’s depressing to read, too.

Try a little humor! What makes you laugh? Try to tap into this laughter with a light-hearted piece or two.

Does this comma make me look fat?

A comma adds a pause and changes the cadence; it changes the way a reader reads the lines and the piece. Along those same lines…

…Try reading your own work out loud

I do this for clients and friends, and I also do it while reading a “finished” piece or my own. I often change things around a bit after I’ve heard it out loud.

Have a friend read it aloud to you. You can hear where the reader stumbles and pauses.

Change the sequence of words

Instead of “I lost my love,” try “the love I lost.”

Instead of “the worm squiggles and wriggles,” try “the squiggly-wriggly worm.”



Caps or no caps?

The use of caps at the beginning of a line or a sentence within a poem is a personal choice. Sometimes we don’t want to use any caps, nor do we want to use any punctuation. But consider it both ways.

Would the piece be enhanced with a few caps along the way?

Would it read better with some additional (or less) punctuation?

Left justified all?

Consider lay-out and indents. Are all your poems left justified?

Experiment! Put a few lines left justified then poke the fourth or fifth line into right justified or indented.

Haiku anyone?

Look at your poems. Do they all look like blood relatives? Are they all laid out the same way? Few lines and a break, few lines and a break…

Throw in some haiku or a long-paragraph prose piece. Study and employ alternative poetry forms.

What have others written?

Read others’ poetry. Search for your favorite poets online.

I’m inspired by Ogden Nash (what a hoot), Auden, Poe, Thoreau, Thomas.



Is there a theme?

Some of my poems have a theme, like the sea and waves or art and canvas.

Put a theme into a few of your pieces; use of similes and metaphors can make it more real to a reader.

Smell is the strongest sense

When someone talks about warm apple pie or the lilac scent drifting through the bedroom window…do you remember? Can you smell it?

Darn tootin’ you can!

Interject some smells into your poetry to get the reader more involved.

In your comment

Feel free to include links to your favorite poets, one of your own poems, or a poetry site you especially like.


I’ll start a poem, you add to it. Poem stanzas will be in ALL CAPS.

If you don’t want to add to the poem, no problem (try it, you might like it!). You can still comment!

Here goes…



All photos from


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Prose & Poetry, Publishing, Quick Editing Tips

The name my mother gave me

Hi. I'm Karen. This beautiful woman with me in my Mommy.

Hi. I’m Karen. This beautiful woman with me in my Mommy.

Karen who?

I am going back to my maiden name – Sanderson.


I will publish a collection of poetry (hopefully this year) with the name that Lois Jane Holmes Sanderson gave me – Karen R. Sanderson.

Karen Sanderson being silly...circa 1960-something.

Karen Sanderson being silly…circa 1960-something.

After the poetry, I plan on pubbing a book of historical/familial short stories, after that a collection of horror.


I realized I didn’t want my ex’s name on any of my work. Especially since he was no cheerleader or even tolerant of my dreams to write or publish or edit.

Six freaking months old...I'm on the typewriter already! And I have an audience!

Six freaking months old…I’m on the typewriter already! And I have an audience!

Same stuff, different name

The Word Shark blog will be the same, and the website will be the same. And FB, and LI, and Google+ plus, and Twitter, and email…

Except where you used to see Elliott, you will start to see Sanderson.

Moving forward

Over the next few weeks I’ll morph from Karen S. Elliott, The Word Shark, to Karen R. Sanderson, The Word Shark!



Filed under Blogging, Branding & Platform, E-books & E-publishing, Editing & Proofreading, Personal Articles, Social Networking, Special Events

Writing good fiction is like baseball

DSC01376Writing good fiction has been compared to many things: creating great food from a recipe, a long, arduous journey, a trip to the circus.

I once compared writing to Family Court – The writing life is like family court only family court was more fun.

My favorite comparison is Vaughn Roycroft’s What building my house taught me about writing. A must read for every writer!

The struggle

I was struggling with a short story a while ago, while watching a baseball game (Go Phillies!).

And boing! I realized, “Hey, writing is like baseball!”

Consider the writer as the pitcher – the dude on the mound. But the pitcher is not the only player on the field.

Long fly ball or an infield outDSC01390

You pitch the ball and the batter hits it. It’s a long fly ball! The center fielder snags the ball, throws it to the cut-off man, the cut-off man throws it to the plate – runner out!

You pitch the ball. The batter hits it. The shortstop snags it, flips it to the second baseman, then the second baseman throws to the first baseman. Double play!

You may have started with the ball, but you weren’t the only player handling it.

YouDSC01382r pitching coach

Consider the expert editor. She/he tells you where the ball was dragging, where it was too high, where you lost control.

Your team

Is the pitcher the only player on the field? No sir!

Consider all the friends and associates who follow your Fan Page, your beta readers, your blog followers, the people who allow you to guest post. They give you feedback, they have ideas, they guide you and support you.DSC00732

Looking good on the mound

And don’t forget the uniform guys. The ones who make you look good when you go out on the field. Consider what a proofreader might do for you.

The Iron Horse

Lou Gehrig played for the Yanks until his stellar career was cut short by ALS, now commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gehrig played from 1925 to 1939 and made it to the field for 2,130 consecutive games. This streak was considered unbreakable until Baltimore’s Cal Ripken, Jr., broke Gehrig’s record in 1995. Ripken went on to play 2,632 games.

Moral of the story…writing – and incredible baseball stats – are a long-haul sort of thing.

Don’t be an ass-terisk*DSC01375

A few players are listed in the baseball record books with an asterisk. Why? They cheated to achieve their monumental goals (remember the guy who paid a few thousand people to write awesome reviews for his book?).

So, let’s keep it simple – do not cheat.

See you at the Series

No player gets to the World Series by playing just one or two games. You have a long spring training and a long season ahead of you. And sometimes, you might have to wait several seasons to get the recognition you deserve.

So wind up, and keep pitching.


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Publishing

For Memorial Day, “The Trade,” by Karen S. Elliott


The Trade

By Karen S. Elliott

Inspired by Kristi P-L, USAF, Iraq 2009-2010


She packed up her comfy jeans and laying-around T-shirts

She shrugs into a heavy canvas uniform, now her second skin

Boxed up her peep-toe high heels and sandals and stacked them away

Now all she’s got are dusty high-top boots with heavy tread

No delicate black eyeliner around lovely hazel eyes

Just smudges of purple, her badges of fatigue

No long showers here, nope

Just unshaved legs so she looks like the rest of the troops

Forget salon haircuts with mousse or gel

In marches a permanent helmet-head hairdo

She strains to remember how lovely that last manicure felt

Handling weapons with broken, scraggy fingernails, unpolished and blunt

Velvety cosmetic powder abandoned at home

She wears the Iraqi desert upon her face

Late night chat-fest nights with friends of her choosing, no more

Now, it’s early morning wake-up and drill

No delicate sparkling pendants around her neck

Just a dull metal chain with tags that identify her blood type

While mother’s comforting shoulder and soothing touch wait at home

She learns combat strategies and how to react to roadside bombs

Instead of cradling a tiny baby

She shrugs into a burdened flak jacket that hides her girlish figure

She rolls out with a loaded M4 and a 9mm Beretta.


Filed under For The Troops, Prose & Poetry, Special Events

About Agnes, by Karen S. Elliott


About Agnes

by Karen S. Elliott

Inspired by Aunt Agnes R. Holmes, “Ang,” my second mother

It was not prudent to divorce her husband

Because he wouldn’t give up his seat on the bus.

But she did divorce him.

With no regrets.

It was not lady-like to slide down the banister

In the Hotel DuPont ballroom.

But she did it in a gold lamé gown.

And she didn’t look back.

It was not feminine to bowl with a 12-pound ball

But she did it.

And did it fiercely.

And she didn’t regret.

The neighbors thought her nuts

When she rented a pony for my little-girl birthday.

But she did it anyway.

With no regrets.

It was not common to get a mortgage

As a single woman in the 50s.

But she got it and raised our family.

And she never looked back.

It was not sensible to speak out or disagree

with her corporate boss.

But she did it, successfully.

And she didn’t back down.


Filed under Prose & Poetry, Special Events