Category Archives: Writing

Apostrophes and Periods!

I recently went to a North Carolina Writers Network meeting in Asheville. Nina Hart, Writing from the Top of your Head, was the speaker. She’s a writing and creativity coach, who help people become fearless writers.

Because I write about the outdoors, I don’t have writer’s block. I start with facts, try to make them interesting and relevant, but I can always rely on facts.

The writing exercise was: Write the worst that you can. What??

Since I didn’t know what that meant, I wrote the first thing that came to my head about writing badly: I judge people by their use of apostrophes.

I could go on about the “IT’S” and ITS problem but I’m an outdoor writer.

Poster campaign at OVC

Clingmans Dome

I try to let people know gently that there’s no apostrophe in Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Since 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has been the official arbiter of American place names. This board decided from the very beginning to not use apostrophes. So Clingmans Dome and other place names usually don’t use the possessive form.

Some say that cartographers feared that these punctuation marks could be mistaken for topographic features or symbols. Leaving out the apostrophe reduces the amount of printed type on a map.

Another reason might be that apostrophes suggest possession or associations not meant to be used within the body of a proper name. The idea is that geographic names belong to all of us. Owning a piece of land is not in itself a reason to name it after the landlord.

Another blog quotes Jennifer Runyon, a senior researcher for the board.

“It’s ingrained in us from the first day on the job that geographic names belong to all the people,” she said. “The feeling is that owners come and go, but names are supposed to stand the test of time.”

Gene Espy, 2nd A.T. Thru-Hiker

Appalachian Trail – A.T.

Then there are the periods in A.T. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which manages the Appalachian Trail, uses periods and that’s the right way. They get to say how to abbreviate their trail.

For completeness, Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail uses MST, without periods. That’s good enough for me.

I’m not a Grammar Vigilante. I don’t try to sneak around fixing grammar on public boards. I just stick to outdoor names.

What you can learn from “writing badly”.

Great Smoky Mountains Association picked up FAB

I am thrilled to let the world know that the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) picked up  my book,

Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South.

Swain County Visitor Center

You know GSMA as the park partner which manages the bookstores in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Surely you’ve stopped at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, Sugarlands, or maybe, at the Swain County Visitor Center to buy a book, honey or a T-shirt. They have nine stores in and around the park.

But GSMA is also a publisher of all things Smokies.

They are the authority on trails, flowers, birds, salamanders … of the Smokies. If you’re a hiker, you should have Hiking Trails of the Smokies. If you’re a birder, they have Birds of the Smokies in a small-format book.

GSMA has carried all my books including Forests, Alligators, Battlefields. But now they’re going to publish it as well. They might put a new cover, change the price, make all the decisions that a traditional publisher does.

And they’re going to distribute it as well. That is always be the biggest challenge with independent publishing.

So if you’re thinking that you might want a copy (or two or three), go to the Official Park Store and buy a copy from them. Or in a Smokies store, of course.

That’s buying local.

Visiting Buford’s Massacre Battleground

Buford Massacre Site

When I first signed up for Nicole’s Sleepaway Writing Camp in Waxhaw, I knew I had to find Buford’s Massacre Battlefield. In Forests, Alligators, Battlefields, I wrote about this Revolutionary War battlefield in South Carolina where the Patriots were massacred by a British Regiment led by Banaster Tarleton.

But the battlefield isn’t a national park unit or a state historic site – hard to tell who protects it – so I never felt the need to search it out.

When I drove to the writing retreat, I stopped at the Museum of the Waxhaws and asked where the battlefield was. The first woman I spoke to didn’t have a clue and she had to bring out the historian. It turned out that the museum had a big display on Buford’s Massacre. Here’s the story:

Lt. Col. Banaster Tarleton on the British side meets Col. Abraham Buford with the Southern Continental Army on May 29, 1780. The American Patriots were badly beaten. But the legend is that Tarleton continued to slaughter the Americans after they surrendered.  This infuriated the Americans who came out in greater numbers for the Battle of Kings Mountain.

The site isn’t as obscure as I thought since my iPhone map app could find it. It’s south of Buford, SC on US 522. A field with a large sign, several monuments and plaques and a couple of graves. But one monument got my attention and was worth the search.

This monument was first erected on June 2, 1860.

Now why did the good people of Lancaster County wait so long to erect a revolutionary war monument? This was part of a movement to remember the revolutionary war just as the potential of a Civil War was heating up. I have seen similar monuments at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, Cowpens National Battlefield and Kings Mountain National Military Park. The message was

If we could unite to beat the British, why can’t this country stay together now?