When I typed the title of this blog post, I almost typed ‘Bird’ Book, the kind that birders record their sightings of different bird species.  A Word Book is very similar; instead of bird sightings it is a list of word sightings.  Often I will come across a good word while reading.  Sometimes a word just pops into my head, or I  might hear someone use a good word.  Words also show up accidentally, like my almost-typo in naming this blog post.  (American poet Elizabeth Bishop once caught a typo in a New York Times article — manmoth rather than mammoth, the result of which is her poem “Man-Moth.”)

I choose cool books that are small so I can tote them around in my purse: a miniature version of the standard black-and-white marbled copybook; a little handmade book; and if I’m feeling grand, an expensive moleskin one. If I don’t have my book with me, then I use my iPhone notes, but I always transcribe them later to my book and always with a pencil.  This is an idiosyncrasy of mine.  I love to write with a pencil because I love the sound and feel of pencil on paper.

Because I am a grammarian,  I categorize words according to parts of speech. Because I am a poet, sub-categories are  vowel sounds (assonance) and consonant sounds (consonance.) In addition to my poems, I can also rely on sound as a way of pumping up meaning in fiction.  Consider how James Joyce does this in his short story “The Dead”:  His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

I would be fooling myself if I thought any of my sentences could achieve Joyce’s functional beauty here, but a Word Book will help me aspire to his genius.  Who knows, maybe Joyce had a Word Book!