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Writing Coach and Content Creator. Former college writing teacher. Editor of The Writing Prof. Connect with me at https://www.leehornbrook.com/
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Bio

Hi! I’m Lee G. Hornbrook, freelance writer, editor, and content creator. I am a former college writing professor, and I am here to help you take your writing and your business to the next level.

I spent 25 years in higher education teaching writing at 6 major colleges and universities in every time zone of the United States. I’ve had a diverse career:

  • college writing professor with more than 25 years and more than 100 classes taught in person and online.
  • editor for an internationally syndicated newspaper feature for…


Photo by Jeremy Beck on Unsplash

There’s something about a first: a first kiss, the first time you make love, a first bite of chocolate, a first time trip to somewhere exciting.

Right up there for me in the greatness of firsts is great first lines of novels. A great first line sets a world in motion and establishes a voice.

There are too many legendary first lines of novels to cover all of them here. Ralph Ellison’s “I am an invisible man,” Leo Tolstoy’s “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” and Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita, light of my…


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

We absolutely, positively, do not write like we speak. And if we did, it would drive us all crazy — readers and writers alike.

Go ahead, try it. Be precise, exact, include every “um,” pause, sniffle, every clearing of your throat, every guttural sound when you choke while trying to talk when you drink, every sound of your speech stream.

Go ahead, I’m waiting.

That’s what I thought.

Speech is what linguists call natural language. Humans are biologically hard-wired for speech. Given the right inputs between birth and 7 years old and being dropped in ANY linguistic community, human babies…


Photo by nrd on Unsplash

Recently, I interviewed for a job at a local health food store. I’m a vitamin clerk at a large grocer, a former college teacher making a teenager’s wage with no upward mobility.

The store was clean and friendly, the walls covered with employee art. They close at 7:00 pm to give employees family time. They invited me for an interview.

The manager was 20 minutes late. We chatted pleasantly over coffee. Shook my hand, she’d contact me in two days. She didn’t. Ghosted.

I would have shopped there even if I didn’t get the job. Not now. Whatever happened to common courtesy? “We’ve decided to go in another direction. Thank you for your interest.” They lost an employee and a customer.

I will tell others about my experience.

Demand more. You have the power of choice.


Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

Your growth as a writer depends on your ability to revise.

No, really. Every writer revises, every writer worth reading, that is.

Sometimes the revising is almost invisible. But writers are constantly making changes, making choices, and changing things in their heads before committing to a final product.

More often, writers go through a process, the writing process. And every writer has a process, even if you say you don’t. Process is what allows us to start and to finish a product, to get from point A to Z.

For instance, writers start with ideas, then put those ideas into…


Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash

The woman’s shoulders shuddered as sobs overtook her. She was a stranger to me, but I knew I must act boldly, to meet her basic human needs: kindness and compassion for one in distress.

You see, I work as a vitamin clerk in a grocery store. I was busy stocking shelves, the only employee in the department that night.

There weren’t many customers, but that’s okay. Customers are the lifeblood of our business, but they are often rude and petty, uncooperative and argumentative. They often look down on store workers, treat us like servants or less.

We don’t get paid…


Photo by Arun Clarke on Unsplash

“Do your work.”

Hutch sat opposite me in the diner booth like a guru, his back impossibly straight. He stared at me through clear round discs, John Lennon glasses, with the gold wire frames, the curved arms hooked like a cane behind his ears, his long face accentuated by his receding hairline. He was five years older than me, but it could have been a generation.

He was a professional student in his early 30s, working on a B.A., long ago having surpassed the requirements for graduation. Instead, he kept reading and taking classes, living on student loans, bumming cigarettes.


author’s photo

“‘Ain’t’ ain’t a word.”
“It is so.”
“Is not.”
“It’s in the dictionary.”
“Is not.”

I don’t know how many times I had this argument on my way to elementary school. My friends and I talked about language a lot, especially “4-letter words,” but we argued about ain’t.

It’s not like our teachers taught us about ain’t. On the contrary, it was strictly forbidden in school. We couldn’t write it, and we couldn’t speak it in class.

On the playground, however, our language was sprinkled with ain’ts and splashed wet to dripping with 4-letter words.

In my house, we had…


Between my legs, curled under a blanket that he has wrapped himself in, lies Herman, the 2 1/2 year old Dachshund I share with the girlfriend. At only 16 pounds, this demanding, nervous little dog shares my writing life from title to signature sign-off.

Early in my Medium adventures, when we were still living in New Haven, Connecticut and I was working at Yale, I wrote about Herman on his first birthday, only the second story I posted. We sat outside in the sun on the ancient stone steps of the massive University Museum on Chapel Street. One of the…


Photo by Lea Böhm on Unsplash

I’m a Californian through and through. My sensibilities lie in the West, home of Jack London, John Steinbeck, Joan Didion. When Huck Finn said he was going to light out for the Territory, I know the appeal. The wide-open spaces, the natural beauty, redwood forests, the tallest point in the continental United States not a hundred miles from the lowest point, California calls to me, calls to anyone who dreams of something better.

Once proclaimed the greatest writer of his generation, Thomas Wolfe is now known mostly for the title of his famous posthumous work, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”…

Lee G. Hornbrook

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