Carver’s rules for life, dethroning King Apostrophe, the author that Agatha Christie ‘remembered’: newsletter, July 12, 2019

July 15, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: grammar, journalism, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, July 12, 2019.

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The honey harvest was completed last weekend at the Stovall house, and we gathered almost eight gallons of honey from three hives, which is a little more than 100 pounds of honey. That was an adequate and satisfactory harvest, not quite as much as in some previous years but certainly enough to make the efforts worthwhile. Harvesting honey is hot, hard work, so make it a point to be kind to a beekeeper.

Meanwhile, the summer continues with heat, humidity, gardening and many other projects. These things, plus some new books and a few literary discoveries, got in the way of watercolor this week, and I did not have a chance to complete a new video of Verse and Vision. I have several things in mind and hope to get back on track next week.

I hope that you have had a great week and are looking forward to a pleasant weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,747 subscribers and had a 31.5 percent open rate; 7 people unsubscribed. A chart showing the monthly open rate averages will be published in the first newsletter of each month.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement, and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.

George Washington Carver’s rules for a good life

The great scientist George Washington Carver developed some simply-formulated rules for living that he presented to his students. They’re worth passing on to you.

— Be clean both inside and out.

— Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.

— Lose, if need be, without squealing.

— Win without bragging.

— Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.

— Be too brave to lie.

— Be too generous to cheat.

— Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.

Carver was born sometime in the early 1860s — he was not sure when — as a slave in a Missouri family. When he was an infant, his family was kidnapped and taken to Kentucky where they were sold. His Missouri master, Moses Carver, hired someone to find the family, but that person only found George. When the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, the Carvers raised George as their own, teaching him to read and write and encouraging his intellectual pursuits.

Carver went to school where he could and eventually graduated from high school in Minneapolis. He attended or attempted to attend several colleges and finally landed at Iowa State as its first black student. He got his bachelor’s degree in 1894 and a master’s in 1896. He taught there as the university’s first black faculty member.

Booker T. Washington recruited him to the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1896, and he taught there for the next 47 years, developing a strong agricultural research department and gaining a worldwide reputation for his work with peanuts and sweet potatoes.

Carver never married and continued his research and teaching into old age, despite his deteriorating physical condition. He died in 1943 of complications after a fall down a flight of steps.

Carver openly professed his Christianity throughout his life, and he often told his students: “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

Is it time to dethrone King Apostrophe?

As a member of the Realm of the Apostrophe, you should stand up and declare your position.

Are you loyal to our little king (“the squiggly one,” we affectionately call it), trying to follow all the confusing rules put out by his courtiers?

Or are you one of a growing number of apostates, planning a palace coup that would banish the squiggly one from the language entirely?

The question achieved increased urgency last week when Anu Garg, the founder of A Word A Day, outed himself as one of the rebels. He wants to oust the king and his rule-making courtiers.

A little squiggly mark, and so much trouble. Death to the apostrophe! With apostrophe in the discard bin, greengrocers can go back to making sure their stuff (such as, potato’s and tomato’s)** is fresh, little kids can go back to rejoicing in the beauty of English spelling (is it height, hieght, or hyt?), and hiring managers can go back to finding some other reason to reject a job application (a degree from Harvard is nice, but a resume in Comic Sans?).
What about those of us with black markers in our hands, defacing (correcting) signs and defending the world from apostrophe catastrophe, you ask. Well, you’ll have to find something more fulfilling and productive in life. Have you brushed your cat’s (or cats’ or cats) teeth lately? Source: A.Word.A.Day –cat’s pajamas

Read Anu’s reasoning at the link above and the comments that followed, and decide for yourself. Let us know if you have any thoughts.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”

Margery Allingham, the writer that Agatha Christie ‘remembered’

Agatha Christie once wrote that Margery Allingham was one of the detective fiction writers that she “remembered.”

That was a high compliment coming from Christie, who said that she was often asked which detective fiction writers she read.

What people should really ask you is: ‘How many of the detective stories you read do you remember?’ Not very many. And there Margery Allingham stands out like a shining light. Everything she writes has a definite shape. The people, their characters, the very distinctive atmosphere in which they move and have their being — never twice the same — each book has its own separate and distinctive background. (“Margery Allingham — A Tribute” by Agatha Christie in The Return of Mr. Campion: Uncollected Stories)

Allingham was born in 1904 and came of age — literally — in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. She published her first novel, Blackkerchief Dick, in 1923, when she was only 19. The novel was not a great financial success, but its popularity with some readers showed that Allingham could attract and keep an audience.

Her next novel, The Crime at Black Dudley,  introduced Albert Campion, part adventurer, part detective, as a minor character, and many readers interpreted Campion as a parody of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey.

He wasn’t. At least, that’s not the way it turned out. Her next novel, Mystery Mile, had Campion as the central character, and he became one of Allingham’s chief writing devices from then on. In all, she produced 17 novels and more than 20 short stories. Campion not only worked on country-house murders but also colluded with MI6 on national and international issues.

Allingham wrote many other novels, short stories, stage plays, and radio plays. Her life was cut tragically short by breast cancer in 1966, but she still holds a premier position among female detective fictions writers.

Three female poets

Readers of this newsletter know how much I enjoy finding out about the lives of writers — especially if they are women, and especially, these days, if they are poets. In the last few weeks, I have found three about whom I knew little or nothing.

My cup has been full-to-running-over the last couple of weeks, so I haven’t had much of a chance to dig into their lives and write something about them just yet. I plan on doing that and thought I might mention them now to give you a bit of a heads-up:

Ann Eliza Bleecker (1752-1783), a wife and mother in upstate New York, had her life disrupted by the American Revolution but still managed to compose some exquisitely beautiful poems in her letters to friends and family. Bleecker suffered tragically as she had to flee the invading British Army with her small children after her husband joined the New York State Militia. The disruptions led to the deaths of her infant daughter, mother, and sister. Eventually, she too succumbed and died at the early age of 31.

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was the slave of a Boston family, who saw to it that she learned to read and write. Her bent for poetry and her family’s connections caused her to become the first published African-American poet in the nation’s history.

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) wrote “The New Colossus,” the words of which are on an inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty. They are lines we often quote and sometimes misquote. More about her in next week’s newsletter.


Verse and Vision

For the first time in several weeks, my list of videos in the Verse and Vision series failed to grow. I’ll try to be back with a new one next week.

Here’s the complete list of videos I have made since the beginning of April:

To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace: 

The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

The House of Rest by Julia Ward Howe

Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scott

Ole Bert: In His Own Words by Bert Garner:

In the Highlands and Consolation by Robert Louis Stevenson:

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer:

The Old Clock on the Stairs by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Evening Star and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray

My Heart and I by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

And more are on the way.


Dan C.: Great insight on “The Star-Spangled Banner.” You missed some key points in the Francis Scott Key story. The more you research, the more you find that the stories differ. These I am most comfortable with.

— The Fort’s commander, Major George Armistead told the commander of Baltimore defenses in July 1813 that he needed a flag—a big one. “We, sir, are ready at Fort McHenry to defend Baltimore against invading by the enemy…except that we have no suitable ensign to display over the Star Fort, and it is my desire to have a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”

— Major Armistead told the British that as long as the flag flew over the fort he would not surrender. While visible, the flag was a key point of bombardment by the British and the pole was knocked down several times, always returned to a flying state by soldiers holding the pole up. Several soldiers were injured and others replaced them holding the pole with sandbag support.

— Only four Americans out of the 1,000 on the island died during the bombardment.

— There were two flags,  a smaller 17 by 25-foot storm flag and the larger garrison flag measuring 30 by 42 feet.  The flag that was seen during the battle was the smaller storm flag. The garrison flag, according to eyewitness accounts, wasn’t raised until the final morning after the bombardment ended.

— Key and the other Americans watched the battle under guard from the deck of their own ship, not the British ship.

— Dr. William Beanes, a friend of Keys was the POW.

— It did not become the National Anthem until 1931.

— To further snub our noses to the British, the music was taken from a popular English drinking tune (or sung in gentlemen’s clubs in Britain) called “To Anacreon in Heaven” by composer John Stafford Smith.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: George Washington Carver (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

The idealists and visionaries, foolish enough to throw caution to the winds and express their ardor and faith in some supreme deed, have advanced mankind and have enriched the world. Emma Goldman, social activist (1869-1940) 

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: Writing the national anthem, ripping off Dickens, publishing a Civil War memoir: newsletter, July 5, 2019






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