Five Podcasts to Help You Become a Better Writer

Over the past few years podcasts have become a source of entertainment as well as information for many people. With podcasts being accessible for many, they have allowed people to both broaden and deepen their interest among an assortment of topics, which includes writing. Writing centered podcasts actually have a fairly large listener base and there are many different types of writing based podcasts to listen to. No matter the kind of writing you’re interested in or skill you want to improve, there is probably a podcast out there that addresses it. Check out some of the podcasts below and be prepared to get hooked!

Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

This podcast takes a look at a wide variety of writing topics with a different subject every week. Topics include grammar, punctuation, style, different types of writing, writing tips for success, and even writing history. Whether you are a seasoned writer or you are just starting to get into writing, this podcast will address topics that will connect you more to your writing and hopefully help to improve it.

Grammar Girl :: Quick and Dirty Tips ™
Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing podcast cover

The Creative Penn Podcast

This podcast is targeted towards those interested in becoming an author. Episodes are centered on being able to make a living out of your writing and how exactly a person can get to that point. They include interviews, and information on how to become and stay inspired as a writer, they look at creativity, publishing options for first time and experienced authors, marketing for writing, and the entrepreneurial side of being an author.

The Creative Penn Podcast: Writing, Publishing, Book Marketing, Making A  Living With Your Writing | The Creative Penn
The Creative Penn Podcast cover

So You Want to be a Writer

This podcast is for anyone that might be interested in the world of writing and publishing. Host Valerie Khoo goes in depth on different writing strategies and techniques to use and attempts to discover when and how popular authors got their big break. In doing this, many guest stars who are well known in writing and publishing are interviewed on the show and their secrets to success and happiness are shared.

So You Want to be a Writer | Podcasts on Audible |
So You Want to be a Writer cover

A Way With Words

In this podcast run by National Public Radio (NPR), language is the focus. This program analyzes and traces language throughout history focusing on its connection to family origin and culture. Co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett debate language and consider the variation and development of both old and new language. It is full of fun and interesting stories and great information that connects to everyday use of language.

A Way With Words | New Hampshire Public Radio
A Way With Words podcast cover

The Writing Life

Known as “a podcast for anyone who writes,” this show takes on a variety of writing focused topics. Created by the UK’s National Centre for Writing, this podcast seeks to introduce writers of all levels to the journeys of experienced writers as they talk through their early careers, experiences with self-publication, working in publishing, and looking at developing one’s technique. Featured guests include authors like Margaret Atwood, Sara Collins, and many more.

The Writing Life | Podcasts on Audible |
The Writing Life podcast cover

These five podcasts are just a small representation of all the writing focused podcasts that are out there. Whether you are looking to become a published author, want to work on the business side of writing and publishing, or just write in your spare time, these podcasts are sure to help provide you with some inspiration and great tips to use in the future.

Micaela | 2022

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What Happened to Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

“Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. If you’re reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom and dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life. Being a half-blood is dangerous. It’s scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful nasty ways.” 

Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief 

One of my favorite book series growing up was Percy Jackson and the Olympians. I very vividly remember finding The Sea of Monsters in our mini 4th-grade library and reading the whole thing in less than a week. Upon learning that it was the second book, I immediately begged my mom to buy the first book and every book thereafter.  

I had a very different reaction when I learned of the movie. Still full of wonder from reading the book for the first time, I watched the movie and left feeling astonished… How could such a good book turn into such a bad movie? With Disney announcing they will be turning the first book into a show for Disney Plus, we will be going down memory lane and discussing what went wrong and if anything went right.  

1. Tweens to Teens

In the books, Percy and Annabeth were twelve while Grover was twelve passing. The story of twelve-year-old Percy was about a young boy struggling through childhood and wanting to find a place to belong. He was a character that the target audience could project themselves onto. After all, doesn’t everyone in middle school want something better? Percy’s youth also creates a fascinating contrast between a scrawny twelve-year-old boy and centuries-old monsters. He was a child fighting monsters that adults fear. He was forced to grow up and fight for survival. By making Percy sixteen, we lessen this impact. The audience’s view of Percy is changed from a pre-teen overcoming his fear to yet another teenage YA protagonist going on a heroic journey.   

2. Slow Burn to Whirlwind Romance 

In the books, it took Percy and Annabeth around five years to develop a romantic relationship while it took the movie around half an hour. The movie version of Percy and Annabeth had a small rivalry during their first meeting and subtle romantic nods by the middle of their quest. This quick progression erases the fact that they were enemies and best friends way before they were a couple. In the book, the entire quest showed how they overcame their parent’s rivalry. Instead of a son of Poseidon and a daughter of Athena, they progressed to simply being Percy and Annabeth.  

3. Look at Luke 

As a consequence of aging up the main trio, there was no longer an obvious age gap with Luke. In contrast to the twelve-year-old protagonists, Luke was originally portrayed as a more mature and experienced seventeen-year-old. He was portrayed as the cool older brother figure. He was one of Percy’s first friends. He looked out for Percy and was well-loved by the entire camp. This relationship was diminished in the movie because they looked the same age. Without this relationship, his betrayal, in the end, did not have the same impact and was less unexpected.  

4. Grover’s Personality Shift 

Another character that underwent a transformation was Grover. The only two similarities between the book Grover and the movie Grover were that they were friends with Percy and that they were satyrs. Everything else was drastically different. They were two characters that had opposite personalities. Book Grover was very shy and anxious while movie Grover seemed to be the embodiment of confidence. This shifted his dynamic with Percy. The book pair had Percy sticking up for Grover and trying to look out for him while the movie pair had Grover showing Percy the ropes. There’s nothing wrong with the movie Grover’s character- except that it wasn’t Grover. 

5. Was It Even the Same Quest? 

While the movie was technically called Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, it could very well have been named The Pearl Finder since that took up most of the plot. In the books, Percy was given three pearls as a gift from Poseidon. In the movie, they were created by Persephone and Percy had to go and fetch all of them. This created a whole new focus that took away from the main quest.  

Additionally, the existence of the pearls as a quick getaway for Percy, Annabeth, and Sally characterized Hades differently as well. Sally uses a pearl to leave in the movie while she was voluntarily returned by Hades in the books. The plot twist in the book was that Hades just wanted to be left alone while Ares was the problematic god attempting to stir up a war. The movies cut Ares completely and stuck with the stereotype of the god of the underworld being the villain of the story. 


Overall, if the movie did not have the words ‘Percy Jackson’ in the title it might have been better since it was almost unrecognizable from the source material. From wildly different characters and characterization to a completely different quest, this movie was a wild ride from start to finish. Still not convinced? I would say ask Rick Riordan, the author, since I know he would agree with me. However, this isn’t possible since he’s confessed to never even watching it after reading the script.  

Interested in what Rick Riordan has to say? Click here to read his letter to the producers!

Jyoti Duwady, Fall 2021 

Works Cited 

Haguenauer, Esther. “Percy Jackson: Everything That Went Wrong with the Movies.” ScreenRant, 13 July 2020,  

Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief. Papyros, 2010. 

New Zealand Book Recommendations

Painting of New Chums beach, New Zealand
Image by Caz Novak in Pacifica collection “New Chums Beach”

Books are a way for people to learn about other’s perspectives and experiences in life. I have found that people do not often enough read books from other countries and make an effort to find books other than what we get given in class. I have spent most of my life in New Zealand and found it to be full of culture and great books. Here are some that I have enjoyed and others I plan to read. All photos and descriptions and photos are from Goodreads.

The God Boy by Ian Cover cover
The God Boy by Ian Cross

The God Boy by Ian Cross

“Set in a small town in New Zealand, the story is told through the eyes of a gauche thirteen-year-old boy called Jimmy Sullivan. It is the haunting tale of a young boy growing up in a catholic household, seeing things he shouldn’t and struggling to cope. The book appears to be domestic in scope and provincial in vision, but by the end of the novel, the reader has encountered murder, and witnessed the warping of a promising mind and the destruction of a family.” 

Read more about God Boy on Goodreads.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme cover
The Bone People by Keri Hulme

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

“In a tower on the New Zealand coast lives Kerewin Holmes: part Maori, part European, asexual and aromantic, an artist estranged from her art, a woman in exile from her family. One night her solitude is disrupted by a visitor—a speechless, mercurial boy named Simon, who tries to steal from her and then repays her with his most precious possession. As Kerewin succumbs to Simon’s feral charm, she also falls under the spell of his Maori foster father Joe, who rescued the boy from a shipwreck and now treats him with an unsettling mixture of tenderness and brutality.” 

Read more about The Bone People on Goodreads.

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera cover
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

“Eight-year-old Kahu, a member of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, fights to prove her love, her leadership, and her destiny. Her people claim descent from Kahutia Te Rangi, the legendary ‘whale rider.’ In every generation since Kahutia, a male heir has inherited the title of chief. But now there is no male heir, and the aging chief is desperate to find a successor. Kahu is his only great-grandchild—and Maori tradition has no use for a girl. But when hundreds of whales beach themselves and threaten the future of the Maori tribe, Kahu will do anything to save them—even the impossible.” The Whale Rider was made into a movie in 2002 that is well known in New Zealand.

Read more about The Whale Rider on Goodreads.

Tu by Patricia Grace cover
Tu by Patricia Grace

Tu by Patricia Grace

“In this new novel acclaimed Maori novelist Patricia Grace visits the often terrifying and complex world faced by men of the Maori Battalion in Italy during World War II. Tu is proud of his name–the Maori god of war. But for the returned soldier there’s a shadow over his own war experience in Italy. Three brothers went to war, but only one returned–Tu is the sole survivor.” 

Read more about Tu on Goodreads.

Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump cover
Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump

Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump

“A tale of raw adventure as Uncle Hec and Ricky use all their skills to survive in the hard world of precipitous hills and impassable forest. It uncovers the slow maturing of love and trust between two loners in a hard world.” There is now a New Zealand movie based on the book called “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” directed by Taika Waititi that was released in 2016.

Read more about Wild Pork and Watercress on Goodreads.

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff cover
Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff

“Once Were Warriors is Alan Duff’s harrowing vision of his country’s indigenous people two hundred years after the English conquest. In prose that is both raw and compelling, it tells the story of Beth Heke, a Maori woman struggling to keep her family from falling apart, despite the squalor and violence of the housing projects in which they live. Conveying both the rich textures of Maori tradition and the wounds left by its absence, Once Were Warriors is a masterpiece of unblinking realism, irresistible energy, and great sorrow.” Once Were Warriors was also made into a famous New Zealand movie in 1994.

Read more about Once Were Warriors on Goodreads.

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield cover
The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield

“The fifteen stories featured, many of them set in her native New Zealand, vary in length and tone from the opening story, “At the Bay, ” a vivid impressionistic evocation of family life, to the short, sharp sketch “Mrs. Brill, ” in which a lonely woman’s precarious sense of self is brutally destroyed when she overhears two young lovers mocking her. Sensitive revelations of human behavior, these stories reveal Mansfield’s supreme talent as an innovator who freed the story from its conventions and gave it a new strength and prestige.” 

Read more about The Garden Party and Other Stories on Goodreads.  

Ella Tomkins | 2021

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Loanwords (and other ways languages mimic each other)

“Languages and dialects…do not exist inside of a vacuum,” note linguists Hans Heinrich Hoch and Brian Joseph (Hoch and Joseph, 2009). Throughout all human history, languages have influenced and impacted one another in a series of gentle encounters and violent collisions, leading to some truly complex and truly bizarre linguistic phenomena. Some of these phenomena involve the “borrowing” or “loaning” of a word from one language into another, either perfectly translated or slightly modified to change pronunciation, meaning, or connotation of the word(s). Many words that you use everyday are, likely, not English at all (or, at least, were something very different before they were English).

A man (labelled "The Anglo-Saxons") pointing to a butterfly (labelled "Celtic, Latin, Greek, German, Spanish, and French"). The man asks " this English now?"
(“Is This a Pigeon?” Meme, altered)

“Borrowed” or “loan”-words are words that have been adopted from one language (the donor language) into another language (the receiver language) without translation (Durkin, 2014). Karma, for example, is a Hindi word without a clear English counterpart. As such, English-speakers simply “borrowed” the word for use without translation. Loan-words are extremely common in almost every language on Earth—and show how much languages influence and build one another. When two speakers of two different languages encounter one another, something they communicate new concepts, terms, or ideas to one another, which become adopted or “borrowed” into one another’s language. These words are often, then, put through the internal rules of either language, changing its pronunciation, meaning, grammatical usage, or connotation.

Mind you, loan-words are different from cognates or calques, which are similarly words that travel across multiple languages, but in different ways. Cognates are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share the same etymological root—meaning, the same words from an ancient parent language eventually developed into the two similar words in two different languages (Crystal, 2011). The English word “night” and the German word “Nacht,” for example, both come from the etymological root “nókʷts,” originally a Proto-Indo-European term. The words sound similar, but neither was borrowed directly from the other.

Cognate Table (Proto-Indo-European Languages)
Six hands, each holding the next by the wrist. The hands, in order, are labelled "Nacht, Nuit, Noche, Nit, Notte, and Night." The center space in between all of the hands says "nokwts."
(Hands Grasping Meme, altered)

Calques are words translated entirely with intact meaning from the donor language, usually described as “word-for-word” translation (Crystal, 2011). These can create many phrases of terms for things that originated in other languages, but eventually become so adopted into the receiver language that its original origin is lost to most speakers. A very common example of a calque is “Long time, no see,” which originates as a direct translation of the Mandarin, “好久不見 / hǎo jiǔ bù jiàn.”

Calque OriginsCalqued Phrases
marché aux puces (French)      flea-market (English)
Flammenwerfer (German)        flamethrower (English)
el momento de la verdad (Spanish)      the moment of truth (English)
high school (English)                escuela alta (Spanish)
Adam’s apple (English)            manzana de Adán (Spanish)
skyscraper (English)                 Wolkenkratzer (German)

Sometimes phenomena such as these are called lexical borrowings, which refer to the borrowing on more than one word—or entire phrases—from the donor language. Déjà vu is a common example of a lexical borrowing, and one that most English speakers are familiar with. Due to their length and complexity, lexical borrowings are rarer than loan-words, but aren’t at all uncommon. Some words make an even more complicated journey through languages, with some undergoing a process called reborrowing—where a word is adopted by a receiver language from a donor language and then adopted back (with modifications) by that same donor language (Crystal, 2011). The English term “anime” underwent such a process, beginning as the English word “animation,” before being adopted into Japanese as the word “アニメ / a-ni-me.” Once re-borrowed into English, the word “anime” evolved from the Japanese pronunciation and came to specify Japanese animation itself.  

One Spiderman, labelled "deja vu," pointing at another Spiderman labelled "deja vu (but in English)."
(Spiderman Pointing Meme, altered)

By Maddy Lee

Works Cited:

Crystal, D. (2011). A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics (Vol. 30). John Wiley & Sons.

Durkin, P. (2014). Borrowed words: A history of loanwords in English. Oxford University Press.

Hock, Hans Henrich; Joseph., Brian D. (2009). “Lexical Borrowing”. Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship: An Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics (2nd ed.). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 241–78.

Shakespearean Words Translated to Our English

Whether you’re a student who needs to learn Shakespeare for their English class or a veteran reader, chances are you’ve come across several words in Shakespeare’s collected works that confused or frustrated you. Some of them may seem made up or some may be words we are already familiar with that seem to have a different meaning in this context. The purpose of this post is to help with some of the most common Shakespearean terms that are either outdated or mean something else today. 

Let’s start with words that we no longer commonly use today…

afore — in front or before something else.

alack — an exclamation, mostly meaning “oh no!”

alarum – a call to arms.

amain – a moving object at full speed.

arras – this one may still be used today, but in case you do not recognize it, it means a hanging tapestry.

assay – an attempt.

aught – anything, anything at all. 

avaunt – a derogatory way of saying “go away.”

belike – likely to happen.

beseech – ask or implore.

bethink – think about or reflect on something.

caitiff – derogatory term for a pitiful or cowardly person.

chid – scold or reprimand.

corse – a corpse.

cozen – to trick or deceive. 

doublet – close-fitting men’s jacket during the 14th-17th centuries. 

ducat – the trade coin of Venice, currency.

durst – dared (specifically in past tense).

ere – before (only used for time).

fain – glad or pleased.

forbear – refrain from doing something.

forsooth – truly or in truth.

forswear – to give up doing something; swear off.

hap – chance or fortune.

hath – has.

hie – to go quickly or hurry.

morrow – morning.

murther – murder.

perchance – perhaps.

perforce – forced to (out of necessity).

thou – you (in a casual and informal sense). 

ye – you, you all.

yon, yond, yonder – over there.

Those words can be frustrating for anyone. The only more frustrating cases in Shakespearean texts are words that we have today but meant something different in the context of the stories you’re reading. Let’s take a look at some examples below. 

still – constantly.

sad – serious.

power – troops (in terms of arms and firepower).

physic – a cure that comes from a doctor. 

office – someone’s duties or occupation.

meet – right or fit for something.

humour – mood (whether good or bad).

issue – offspring.

heavy – sad.

gentle – honorable or noble. 

envious – with poor or ill-intent. 

discover – to make known or make others aware.

crave – to request something.

colours – the flags of an army. 

brave – general excellence. 

bootless – useless.

base – of low status or quality. 

A Fun History of Idioms: To Rain Cats and Dogs

Idioms are phrases that we use everyday and, for most native English speakers, we know exactly what they mean without having to think about it… but when you do stop to think about it, some of these phrases are pretty strange. 

Have you ever wondered, for example, where phrases like “raining cat’s and dogs” and “going off half-cock” came from?

In this blog series, we will examine various English idioms and find out where and how they originated! 

Image by Yerson Retamal from Pixabay

This Month’s Idiom: “To Rain Cats and Dogs”

The English idiom “to rain cats and dogs” is used to suggest that it is raining heavily. The animals, cats and dogs, really have nothing to do with the meaning of the idiom. So where did this odd phrase come from?

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Where Does It Come From?

According to the Library of Congress, no one knows for sure where the idiom came from, and there are several possibilities. 

The phrase first appears in print in 1651 in a collection of poems by Henry Vaughan. Vaughan mentions a particularly well-made roof that would keep out “dogs and cats rained in shower” (Library of Congress). The following year, the playwright Richard Brome wrote “It shall rain dogs and polecats” in one of his comedies (Library of Congress). 

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Etymologists have examined several possible origins of the phrase. Here are some of the most likely theories: 

  1. In Norse mythology, Odin, the god of thunder and storms, was often depicted with dogs and wolves, symbols of the wind. Furthermore, witches were said to ride their booms during storms, and they were often depicted with black cats. The cats, themselves, became a sign of heavy rains for sailors. It is possible the idiom came from these Norse ideas and that it implied that a storm came with strong winds (dogs were a symbol of the wind) and heavy rain (cats were a symbol of heavy rain). 
  2. The Greek expression “cata doxa” means “contrary to experience or belief.” When pronounced, the phrase is similar to “cats and dogs.” It is possible that the idiom comes from this phrase and suggests that it is raining abnormally or unbelievably hard. 
  3. The Old English word “catadupe” means a “cataract or waterfall.” It is possible that “raining cats and dogs” comes from this, similarly pronounced phrase, and implies that the rain is like a waterfall.

Image by Nana Cola from Pixabay

It has also been suggested that cats and dogs used to huddle in thatched roofs during storms to get out of the rain and that they would be washed away by the storms. According to the Library of Congress, this theory is false. However, it is possible that dead animals (probably rats, rather than cats and dogs) being washed down the streets of British cities during heavy storms could have contributed to the phrase’s origin.