Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell


Written By: Jessica Morrell - Feb• 01•23

Writing is

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 26•23

Writing is the mineshaft to the soul. ~ John Baird

Goblin Mode and other Gems

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 22•23

I’m always collecting word gems, aren’t you? Do you keep an active word list to update and refresh your vocabulary?

The first Word of the Year voted by the public for the Oxford Dictionary is goblin mode. As you might guess, goblin mode is not an attractive state of being. Think slothful and freeing.

The annual word is usually based on ‘useage evidence,’ but this year a vote was used, though it was limited to the top three words and beat out #IStandWith and metaverse.  Am I the only one who hadn’t heard of it before?

Here’s a great piece by Caleb Madison in The Atlantic that calls it ‘gloriusly evocative phrase that tells a concise story about how many of us are doing these days’. And Madison uses goblinesque. Then goes on to explain more about goblins such as how they like to hang out in cozy places and how the COVID pandemic led to um, gobinesque behaviors. I now have a sincere crush on him.

And since I cannot stopper my pleausure at the voters’ choice, here’s The New York Times delightful piece on goblin mode. Jennifer Schuessler makes the point that gaming is influencing language. Ahem. She also references how Merriam-Websters Word of the Year for 2022 was gaslighting, though might I add they seem late to the party with this one. Don’t you agree?

Most recently added to my list:lip-worshiper, wangle, hoodwink, killjoy, earlywood, latewood, wuffle, dog-hungry, paucity, gruntled, drubbing

Keep collecting out there….because writers are scavengers


What Inspires You?

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 20•23

We’re blanketed in fog on the hill where I live in Oregon. The roofs are coated in frost, the tall Douglas firs at the end of the block are muffled and spooky, and the kettle is boiling for my second cup of Earl Grey.

For months now I’ve been pondering the question of what inspires me. It’s a long list. Everyday magic always does–like Roz, who was in Trader Joes yesterday shopping with her mother on her birthday. She wore a pale pink sequined top and skirt and pink cowboy boots and glasses that kept slipping down her nose. I left the store with groceries and yellow tulips, my heart lighter and came home and made a pot of Italian sausage and vegetable soup, brimming with fresh herbs. And ate a bowl topped with a hearty mound of parmesan. Cooking has always inspired me along with travel, art, gardening, old forests, and skies. Naturally this is a partial list and includes a lifetime of reading.

As these wintery days wind down and storms whip through the region, I’m often reading fiction tucked under a cozy throw. After a few months of devouring and analyzing dystopian, post-apocolyptic novels and series, I’ve moved onto less grim fare and just finished Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.  Don’t let the pink cover of the US publication fool you–this story isn’t a bit of fluff.  It’s a marvelous tale, winding and witty and inventive. It  wraps around protagonist Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant chemist who is struggling to work in her field in the 1950s and 60s when female scientists were not taken seriously despite their contributions. Or paid fairly.  Desperate to provide for herself and her daughter she’s hired in the unlikely role on a TV cooking show, ‘Supper at Six’ and teaches chemistry to her audience. The pragmatic Zott, wearing a lab coat with a number 2 pencil tucked into her updo is a grand success. But a cooking show is not a longed-for chemistry lab.

Writers beware–beyond the extraordinary and endearing Zott, Garmus has created an array of fabulous supporting characters that will make you envious. The cast’s artfully crafted backstories will only enhance that envy, but do study how she’s pulled off this realistic ensemble. And glory be, the family dog, Six-Thirty also has a viewpoint.  He’d flunked out of being part of canine bomb detection team, but as you might have guessed, is no ordinary pooch.

Am I the only one who adores canine fictional characters? Did I mention the wit? Make that hilarity.  I cannot recommend Lessons in Chemistry enough although I’ll warn you, you’ll hate it when the story ends.

What inspires you? Travel? Art? Music? I’d love to hear from you.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, stay inspired.



Instructions for Living a Life

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 15•23

Instructions for Living a  Life

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

Mary Oliver

Check out the Poetry Foundation for more about Oliver.

I’ve been reading a lot this winter, but haven’t read much poetry lately. Going to remedy that and suggest writers everywhere devour poetry and song lyrics and forage for metaphors and figurative language in all its forms.

I’m feeling so inspired this January and hope you are too.

What inspires you? Are you seeking it out? What about an artist’s date or three ala Julia Cameron? I strolled through an antique mall on Friday and realize how much I seek out visual inspiration. Cameron calls artist dates ‘assigned play.’ One of the reasons I hang out on Pinterest. Too much actually. Do you?

Meanwhile, keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

And just a reminder: make room for wonder.

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 15•23

After nourishment, shelter and companionship,  stories are  the thing we most need in the world. Philip Pullman

A New Year’s Wish

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 02•23


Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jan• 02•23

Light, Lists, and Good Wishes for 2023

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Dec• 31•22

As the year wraps up I wanted to wish writers everywhere light, success, and wonder.

This time of year I ake stock, make plans, and peruse the ‘best of’  lists, especially when it comes to books. Here are a few you might enjoy:

Former president Barak Obama shares his favorite books, music, and movies here.

The thoughtful and beautiful Marginalian has wrapped up her best stories from 2022—You won’t be sorry.

Then there are the indie bookstores best books of 2022–always a reliable and discriminating source.

NPR has this delightful story on favorites you can listen to here. It’s from their Books We Love series and feartures a nicely diverse selection.

Literary Hub has fabulous end-of-year lists including the best literary dragons ranked, the best crime movies and literary adaptations. If you’re not a subscriber, I strongly suggest you check it out.

You might also enjoy Lit Hub’s podcast for writers, Just the Right Book.

So many stories, so much to learn.

Keep writng, keep dreaming, have heart



Written By: Jessica Morrell - Dec• 04•22