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Dastardly Cleverness Podcast Episode 3: "Hope for Democracy," Part 3

Congressman Sam Farr, Supervisor Zach Friend, Adrienne Harris, and Spencer Critchley on stage at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Episode 3 of the Dastardly Cleverness podcast is now live! It's the third and final part of "Is There Hope for Democracy?" our discussion at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. We field great questions from the audience, exploring how people can influence what happens in government and politics — and ultimately, save democracy.

Dastardly Cleverness Podcast Episode 2: More "Hope for Democracy"

Congressman Sam Farr, Supervisor Zach Friend, Adrienne Harris, and Spencer Critchley on stage at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Episode 2 of the Dastardly Cleverness podcast is now live! It's more from "Is There Hope for Democracy?" our fascinating panel discussion at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. The conversation resumes with former Congressman Sam Farr describing the anger and misinformation surrounding health care reform, all the panelists addressing whether public servants really want to serve the public, and more.

How to Write Fast & Well, Part 11: Find Your Voice

Singer at microphone

So far in this series, I've been offering tips that can be used right away, by just about anyone who writes. But now we come to something that can require significant time and dedication: finding your voice as a writer. The good news is you can start making progress today.

What is does it mean to have a voice? It's the way people know you're you and no one else -- as if they were speaking with you in person. It matters, because when people can't get a feel for who you are, they're likely to move on to someone more interesting.

How to Write Both Fast and Well, Part 9: Why Clichés Are Evil

Identical light bulbs arranged in a grid of 3 rows and 3 columns

(Also published at Huffington Post.) Of all the threats to good writing, the worst -- and most insidious -- is cliché: the re-use of the over-used.

Like all other sins, cliché is much easier to spot in others. We all know to roll our eyes at a schmoozer's "Hot enough for ya?" or a jock's "We gave it 110 percent!"

But the clichés lodged in our own minds disguise themselves as self-evident truths and cherished beliefs. It's the clichés you like that are the toughest to escape.

How to Write Fast and Well, Part 8: Block that Metaphor!

Photo: John Barrymore as Hamlet, 1922. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

(Also published at Huffington Post.) Used effectively, metaphors can make ideas come to life. But used ineffectively, they can make a mental mess.

Consider this: "He unleashed a torrent of invective."

At first, that might seem fine. In fact, you've probably seen versions of this sentence in many places (that's because it's also a cliché, but we'll talk about that another time).

But ask yourself a question: Since when has a torrent, which is a fast-flowing river, worn a leash?

How to Write Fast and Well, Part 7: Get Physical

(Also published at Huffington Post.) Last time, I showed you how to improve your writing simply by getting rid of adjectives and adverbs. Instead, I said, use the right nouns and verbs. This time: how to find those nouns and verbs.

The key is to remember that we invented nouns and verbs to stand for things and actions that we can see, hear, feel, smell or taste: "I bit into an apple." Later we created abstractions, like "nutrition". But what's most real to us is reality: the crunch and taste of the physical world.

Our emotions, too, are physical. Have you ever felt anger, love or fear in your brain? No, you felt them in your throat, your heart and your gut.

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