Punctuation Party Stereotypes

By: Mairead Loschi

If you’re living the life of a typical college student, you’ve probably made it to a party or two (no word back on if you remember them…). And, if you’re at all like me (a writer and a deeply introverted person), you’ve probably also cringed at the memory of going to any of those parties. I’ve tried a few methods to get over my shyness at these social events. My latest plan was to bring a notecard with 3 thought provoking and engaging questions to foster interesting conversation. This, however, inevitably failed. I remember being stuck, sitting on a couch, and watching my fellow partygoers move around me. Suddenly, it hits me. Every person in this room can be described with a punctuation mark (and no, I haven’t been doing any illicit substances or been drinking heavily. I’m just a writer at a party who is isolated with her thoughts and has been doing a lot of copy-editing recently).


So here it is, my punctuation party sketch.

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The exclamation point: (used to indicate strong feelings or high volume)

This person crosses the threshold into the party and, although it is pretty dark in here and there are bodies everywhere, is greeted without fail with “Finally, I’m so glad you made it!!” or “OMG so happy to see you!” You look up and it’s your tipsy guy friend who always seems to get cheerier and touchier the longer the night goes on. He wraps you in a huge hug. He’s wearing a white T-shirt under an eye-watering shade of blue button-down and a hat that reads Let’s Party.

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The comma: (indicating a pause between parts of a sentence or used to separate items in a list)

The comma is the friend that you arrived with who grabs you by the wrist, pulling you deeper into the crowd. She says, “okay here’s what I need, another drink, a dark corner where I can dance, and Ignition Remix on repeat”. She’s your comma, a lover of lists and a firm believer in the classic use of the Oxford comma.

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The Certitude point: (used to end a sentence with unwavering conviction)

Standing by the doorway, you get the chance to observe the pick up artist who is well practiced in the delivery of cheesy one liners (For example: “how much does a polar bear weigh”) and a whole array of surface compliments. But hey, at least this guy can approach others with statements of purpose and certainty in his intentions. After all, confidence is key.

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The Period: (a full stop that ends a sentence)

This person is leaning against the doorframe, largely unimpressed by the pick-up artist’s attempted come-ons, and simply states, “climate change is a real problem and I don’t think it’s the weight of polar bears that’s causing fissures in arctic ice caps,” before walking away to refill their drink. End of that conversation.

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The Semicolon: (used to connect two independent clauses)

At the bottom of the staircase that leads to the second floor is the friend who’s eveyone else’s wing-(wo)man. She spends the night connecting acquaintances with “have you met”s and “my friend’s super into tennis too”s.

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The Question mark: (used to indicate an interrogative clause)

A few feet away are two new acquaintances and you can tell that one is interrogating the other. That’s the Question mark. He rattles on with, “What’s your major?” “Where are you from?” “How many pounds did you weigh at birth?” “What’s your astrological sign?” He is crushing any possible future conversations under the weight of his questions.

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The Em-dash: (used to mark off information or ideas that are not essential to an understanding of the rest of the sentence)

At the corner of the kitchen table – now a makeshift snack bar – is any member of the LRR fiction panel, newly obsessed with the grammar of em-dashes and using every opportunity to clarify the long-winded story they’re telling.

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The Quotation Marks: (used to set off direct speech, a quotation, or a phrase)

The pretentious intelligentsia drink-sipper boring those around them with, “I was reading Nobokov the other day” and “I believe it was Audre Lorde who said”.

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The Interrobang: (combination exclamation point and question mark that has recently begun gaining popularity)

The resident hipster drinks her elderberry wine with holistic properties in order to prevent hangovers. She got this symbol tattooed on her forearm because she saw it online once and loved the symbolism, as she also questions life with a passion.

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The Ellipses inside Parentheses: (used when omitting a word, phrase, or more to save space or remove material that is less relevant)

Me, sitting on the couch. I am half caught up in daydreams of my punctuated fellow party-goers and half inner eye-rolling, carrying on an internal conversation questioning why I even went out.


Oh My Pod! Podcasts to Keep You Entertained Over Spring Break

By: Mairead Loschi

Podcast microphone

(Creative Commons/ Flickr)

Spring Break is finally here and it couldn’t have come sooner. You’re probably off to an exotic location or maybe even your bed (both options sound pretty amazing right now). Midterms are over and this is your chance to relax and get away from all of that reading and studying. On those long flights to Puerto Rico or the hours whiling away in your room (ignoring the dishes and laundry your parents have started to nag you about) I am sure that you will be craving entertainment. Sure, you could binge-watch something on Netflix. However, I would like to offer you a better option… listen to that podcast you’ve been thinking about for so long.

No matter what mood you’re in or what you hope to get out of your relaxing spring break, let my podcast suggestions be your newest form of escapism for this week of leisure.

1. The Podcast(s) for Your Inner Crime Detective

At this point if you haven’t listened to Serial I have only one thing to say to you: just do it! Seriously, do it now. Don’t continue reading this article until you’ve finished it. Okay, you’re back. At this point you’re probably full to the brim with theories and even more questions than you have answers for. In that case, I would suggest that you move from Serial to Stranglers, a new podcast from Earwolf. Strangles investigates the Boston Strangler murders that occurred during the 1960’s. If you can get past the strained Boston accents and old-timey sound of some of the voice actors, I promise that you’re in for a real treat. I enjoyed it because of the New England elements of the story, the mystery and theories I developed along the way (more than one killer?), and the larger social dialogue it fosters about the general populist’s fascination with serial killers and violence against women.

2. The Podcast to Enjoy from Your Bed

In Your Dreams is a hilarious podcast that will captivate all those mystified by the unconscious or haunted by their dreams. Now is your chance to analyze all those crazy nightmares that always seem to pop-up around midterm season. In this new podcast from Earwolf, comedians Chris Gethard and Gary Richardson dive into dreams that have been submitted by their listeners. They provide absurdist analysis, coin new phrases along the way (reality-mare anyone?), and ultimately make you question your own psyche. I’ll freely admit that I’ve gotten inspiration for stories from the strange dreams that have been shared on this podcast. The only downside to this series is the shameless plugs for In Your Dream’s sponsor: Casper mattress. However, the occasional annoying commercial is well worth it for the belly laughs that you’re sure to have. I love that this podcast popularizes dream analysis and introduced me to so many great comedians along the way. It’s definitely worth checking out.

3. The Podcast for When You Don’t Want to Watch the Bourne Trilogy on Its 700th Rerun

Let me tell you about one of my favorite podcasts. Yup, I said it. It’s an amazing series and I will stand by that comment. The name of the podcast is Homecoming from Gimlet media. It’s a radio drama that is so beautifully layered that it creates a completely immersive listening experience. Above all things, this podcast excels at characterization. It has taught me how to write dialogue more effectively than any other medium. This podcast demonstrates that what is unsaid can create both mystery and be more impactful than that which is explained. A few things I LOVE about this podcast are: 1) the voice talent features actors such as Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer, 2) the psychological thriller and military elements, and 3) the “behind the scenes look” for each episode includes the books that inspired each podcast. I would classify Homecoming as a must listen. I’ll admit that if you listen to this podcast and nothing else on this list, I’ll be content.

4. The Podcast for When You Need a Bedtime Story

I found Myths and Legends last summer when I was looking for someone willing to read me a bedtime story (and yes I am a 21 year old quasi-adult—what’s it to ya?). The host, Jason Weiser, has an undeniably soothing voice and is as talented at research as Beowulf is at being a bad-ass epic hero. Weiser can weave a tale like an English major (maybe because he was one). His podcast covers everything from folklore and mythology to fairytales. Things I dislike about this podcast: nothing except having to wait a week for the next episode to be posted. Things I love about this podcast: both the incredulous sarcasm (see The Little Mermaid episode) and the nerdy jokes.

5. The Podcast for Laughing with Your Squad

If you love girl power, abbreviations, and laughing until you cry then you’re sure to enjoy 2 Dope Queens with comedians Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams. The tone of the podcast is so seamlessly candid that it’s as if you’re talking with your best friend about each episode’s topic: social issues, angry uber drivers, boyfriend drama, and strong women. Each podcast features three guest comedians who share their own hilarious and relatable stories. I’ll admit that I’ve been inspired to write a few poems from the human stories shared on this series. 2 Dope Queens has also encouraged me to incorporate more comedy into my fiction pieces. The thing that I like most about this podcast is how diverse the voices, stories, bodies, and experiences are while still resonating with the listener. I always feel happier and more empowered after I listen to this series.

6. The Podcast for Fangirling Over Your English Professors

If you want to bask in the creative talent of your fellow students and achieve a more thorough understanding of your favorite professors, I would definitely recommend that you check out Professors Are People Too. UConn’s Ali Oshinskie uses her podcast to interview both her peers and professors, allowing her audience the chance to really get to know the person standing in the front of their lecture hall. Episodes feature Gina Barreca, Cathy Schlund-Vials, and LRR’s fearless faculty advisor Sean Frederick Forbes (O Captain! My Captain!). A must listen for any UConn student!

7. The Podcast for Your Love of All Things LRR Related

The Long River Review has its own companion podcast. The intro episode will be out next week. Listen in for a sneak peek into the making of the Long River Review, hear readings from poets and authors, and LRR staff interviews. Listen to it! Shameless self-plugs for days!

The Inconvenience of Inspiration

By: Mairead Loschi

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(Google Images/ Creative Commons)

Ever since I was young, inspiration has been my fickle friend. Let me set the scene: it is a late August evening, just creeping toward dusk. My sister and I are playing on the front lawn of my Grandma’s summer home. My mom remembers me rushing in through the sliding screen door, dashing into the kitchen and yelling for a pen and paper with the explanation, “I just thought of something I want to write a poem about.” She remembers me jotting down the few thoughts that had struck me before returning to the front lawn to play.

Inspiration tends to strike me at the most inconvenient of moments: such as a stroke of genius in the shower… but I can’t write anything down because I’m dripping and there’s no notebook in the bathroom and my wet hands or hair would smudge the ink anyway. Or, a blinding realizations right before I fall asleep… but I’m snug in bed under layers of covers and the light switch is all the way across the room and I don’t feel like fumbling in the dark to write slanted lines that overlap when I read them in the daylight the next morning. Or, god forbid, if I hear the perfect line of dialogue from the old man in front of me at the cash register… but I have to put my groceries on the conveyor belt and exchange pleasantries with the cashier and sign the receipt and by the time I’m in the car the line is gone.

I have tried many different strategies in order to catch these moments of inspiration. I have bought an abundance of notebooks in order to write down my ideas, living under the deluded assumption that I would be able to fill every page with a writer-ly flourish. At this point, I have about five different notebooks – each with ten pages full of drastically different ideas. One of these volumes is a travel journal interspersed with sad one-liners, angry rants, and drafts of poems. Another notebook has the beginning of a short story cut off on the next page by a mundane to-do list that includes laundry and homework. I’ve tried to quickly capture moments of inspiration on my phone’s notepad because, well, I like to live dangerously (considering that I haven’t updated my phone in two years and I’ve ignored all of the push notification warnings Apple has tried to send my way). Of course, when my phone inevitably broke I lost a grand total of: 18 notes on my phone, 39 days of inspiration, 4 book quotes I love, 2 lines of dialogue for a new character, and 1 political rant.  But alas, where else was I supposed to put this information when the inclination to write arose?

I don’t pretend to have the solution for the inconvenience of inspiration, but I have settled upon a resolution for myself. I have decided to start avoiding distractions and improve my time management skills. I have recently taken both a social media and iphone hiatus. I have made a pact with myself that I will take time out during the day to get into a quiet headspace. And, if I continue to allow myself the time to work on my craft, I believe that inspiration will find me when I am ready to embrace it. I have gone back to writing by hand – I keep a pen on me at all times.  I have given notebooks a second chance with the intention of properly using them from now on. I accept that there will be a point when I will need to write something down and my phone will be my only option. However, from this point onward I will be transfering my notes to paper every night. I am learning to accommodate inspiration as it comes and to be overly prepared for its arrival.