Skip to main content
Spotify for Podcasters
TreeHouseLetter

TreeHouseLetter

By Veteran, Mother, Writer

Rise above the tedium and join me in the TreeHouse. Sharing the best ideas and writing, MyLinh Shattan has a particular fondness for words, music, and the power of story. “I adore your podcasts; each and every one is a little gem. You never say three words when two will do. Everything you do shows unusual respect and appreciation for your listeners’ time and intelligence.” Buzz, former Managing Editor for News and Public Affairs Programming at WHRB-FM/Harvard Radio Broadcasting
Available on
Apple Podcasts Logo
Google Podcasts Logo
Overcast Logo
Pocket Casts Logo
RadioPublic Logo
Spotify Logo
Currently playing episode

What makes a speech great?

TreeHouseLetterJun 12, 2023

00:00
03:55
Trailway to Heaven

Trailway to Heaven

Fall is my favorite season and I suppose it has something to do with the trees. A new poetry collection and farewell to a friend. Passage from Sidney Lanier and The Marshes of Glynn.

Sep 25, 202305:29
Through the Keyhole

Through the Keyhole

A keyhole view of a week with the Literate Laundress. On laundry and language.

Sep 20, 202306:42
The Ever Restless Soul

The Ever Restless Soul

This is for my friend K--- and M--- and for you, but I suppose it's for myself. Learn about my daughter's letter and the song she shared with insight into music and the restless soul. Billie Marten's song and Rick Rubin's book on Creativity.

Sep 10, 202307:52
Confusables, Contronyms, and Jane's Potato Salad

Confusables, Contronyms, and Jane's Potato Salad

Learn about a real world example of a confusable. Discover a type of word with two opposite meanings. Word Nerd special. A reference and an essay recommendation. Bryan Garner and David Foster Wallace.

Sep 05, 202305:50
The Music in Stories: Pavan on Borges

The Music in Stories: Pavan on Borges

Literature informs and inspires us, says Argentine guitarist and composer Carlos Pavan. This letter considers his suite of songs inspired by Jorge Luis Borges, how the songs reflect the stories: El Sur, El Fin, Funes el Memorioso. Melody, myth, perfect memory. Learn why song IS story and discover the Music in Prose of the literary legend.

Sep 01, 202310:31
Beyond Grade-School Sentences: Adding Depth and Texture to Writing

Beyond Grade-School Sentences: Adding Depth and Texture to Writing

The four basic sentence constructions are simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.* Like the 8-pack of crayons, this is the first order of business, tools we learn and use as children. Let’s face it: many never learn more than these. Add to your toolbox and improve writing immediately. Learn about loose (cumulative) and periodic (suspensive) sentences with inspiration from Vivian Gornick, Ernest Hemingway, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Aug 22, 202307:20
On Theft, Death, and the Moon

On Theft, Death, and the Moon

My friend was recently robbed. It made me sad and reminded me of a story about Ryokan. Learn about the Zen monk who lived on Mount Kugami, Rene Descartes Discourse Part II on Method and Part IV on God and the Human Soul. With a reflection on the death of a young soldier.

Aug 14, 202307:24
The Master Sentence and the Centenarian

The Master Sentence and the Centenarian

A master sentence tends to be long though length is not its sole characteristic, nor is it a sign of a writer’s mastery. Like any art, the master sentence comes in infinite forms. Instead of trying to define what makes such a sentence, I share an example from the Book of Charlie, a memoir about a remarkable life. Understand the elements of artful sentence construction from a prominent writer.

Aug 06, 202310:20
Three Days in Sun Valley and the Best Writing Teacher

Three Days in Sun Valley and the Best Writing Teacher

What I learned in Sun Valley about living and writing and friends. Impromptu visit of Hemingway haunts, who lived and died there. A hike into the clouds, a French hound dog, and a foodie's paradise.

Jul 29, 202306:54
Classic Prose: Thought and Presentation

Classic Prose: Thought and Presentation

Improve writing immediately. "In the classic stand on the elements of style, writing is neither a way of thinking something out nor an art that exists for its own sake..." Learn about classic prose from authors Thomas and Turner with passages from award winning poet and writer Ocean Vuong. Why classic prose resembles cooking with its preparation in the kitchen and consumption in the dining room. Two Book recommendations.

Jul 24, 202307:09
Biblical Times - Fire and Flood

Biblical Times - Fire and Flood

We live in biblical times. Fires and floods. Plagues. Or, pandemics. Learn about flash flooding in the Hudson Valley and the First Noble Truth.


Jul 24, 202304:45
July 4th Declarations: a Nation, a Panda, a Soldier

July 4th Declarations: a Nation, a Panda, a Soldier

What does July 4th mean to a fledgling nation and what kinds of people made such a nation possible? Learn about Mark Manson's book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and how his superhero the Disappointment Panda helps us see ourselves against a stark backdrop, the life of the soldier as she finishes Air Assault training.

Jul 04, 202311:59
Goggins, Pushup Yoga, and the Art of the Paragraph

Goggins, Pushup Yoga, and the Art of the Paragraph

Learn about the 'toughest man on the planet' and improve writing with examples of the four types of paragraphs. Also check out the two strand or A/B structure. To see the four paragraphs and learn more, visit my website at TreeHouseLetter.com.

Jun 29, 202310:58
Where's Your Cathedral?

Where's Your Cathedral?

Some seem to know what they were meant to do. This is about finding purpose and meaning in your work. Learn about the origin of the parable of the brick layers made popular by Angela Duckworth, two book recommendations, and insight on the 10,000 hour rule.


Jun 21, 202304:56
Degree of Separation

Degree of Separation

Thought exercise for the day. How many friends between you and anyone on the planet? Topics: Social connection on Earth in 2023, Network theory, Math geek special, logarithm

In popular culture this number is often referred to as Six Degrees of Separation, that all people on the planet are at the maximum six or fewer social connections away from each other. The idea likely originated in a 1929 short story and became notable in 1990 in John Guare’s play of the same name, Six Degrees of Separation.

Jun 12, 202307:15
What makes a speech great?

What makes a speech great?

A great speech is one you remember. This time of year you hear a lot of speeches and may have to give one of your own. So, give a speech worth remembering. I dissected a great speech to understand what makes it so and reflected on lessons I’ve learned as a speaker.


Jun 12, 202303:55
"It is precisely because life is so precious to me that I am prepared to die."

"It is precisely because life is so precious to me that I am prepared to die."

A soldier's own obituary, John "Alex" Hottell, III -- published in the NY Times 3 March 1971. A Memorial Day remembrance.

May 27, 202308:07
The Cure for Resentment and Cynicsim

The Cure for Resentment and Cynicsim

Thoughts from a British headmistress, marine veteran, and college graduate. Two book recs, one podcast rec.

May 23, 202304:51
Weasel Words

Weasel Words

What are they and why should we avoid them? Improve writing immediately. Bonus: two book recommendations on usage, grammar, and style

May 16, 202304:07
What makes a single person's death feel large?*

What makes a single person's death feel large?*

Four friends died recently and three were my age. Learn what makes the eulogy powerful and lasting from a personal vignette and from Vivian Gornick. An elegy on What is Dying? from Margaret Drabble to share with the bereaved. May they rest in peace.

May 06, 202307:51
Wild Horses Dragged Me Away

Wild Horses Dragged Me Away

My road trip last weekend had a detour to Assateague Island. Learn about wild horses on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a wild herd in Patagonia, and the chlidren's classic, inspired by the true story of Chincoteague Ponies.

Apr 29, 202304:17
Go Slow to Go Fast

Go Slow to Go Fast

Baking Sally's shortbread cookies with my nephew and a German proverb. Miles Davis's advice to a young jazz guitarist. How these ideas provide insight on creating, baking, performing.

Apr 08, 202303:57
Sleep on It: Darkness Helps Us See the Light

Sleep on It: Darkness Helps Us See the Light

On dreams and patterns, a "Digit Dork" special with insight into Fibonacci and the Golden Ratio

Mar 27, 202308:54
A Day With the Night Stalkers

A Day With the Night Stalkers

On a lonesome stretch of road north of Nashville..... Learn about the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the Soldier and the Citizen, on the Ides of March

Mar 20, 202312:42
Hey, why aren't dogs alcoholics?

Hey, why aren't dogs alcoholics?

True Tale from Toxin Tails and the Pet Poison Hotline about Red, the retriever St. Bernard mix.

Mar 20, 202301:50
The Edgeless Sound and the Night Owl

The Edgeless Sound and the Night Owl

Poetry for Emergencies and the Leonard Cohen translation of Roshi's Poem. A footnote depicts the lesser-known, closed to the public "Poe Arch" or Edgar Allan Poe Memorial at the archives at West Point

Mar 05, 202305:15
Belief is a Powerful Elixir

Belief is a Powerful Elixir

It's a powerful thing, belief. If a person believes in you, you can move mountains. Music as a gift, and a passage from Maya Angelou from her essay collection, Letter to My Daughter. 

Feb 27, 202306:04
Presciption for Life and Rumi's Cow

Presciption for Life and Rumi's Cow

Poetry for Emergencies. A discussion of Melody Moezzi's memoir, The Rumi Prescription, and how the mystic poet helps her deal with modern life challenges. 

Feb 23, 202303:23
Two Things Everybody's Got to Do

Two Things Everybody's Got to Do

This winter I received five books I own, four as gifts. What do you do when you receive a book you already own? One was Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. I pulled my copy off the shelf to read my notes, the marginalia, the pages underlined, tabbed, highlighted. What is Love? What are the two things? 

#blackhistorymonth

Feb 11, 202304:15
Good Luck and Smooth Sailing in the Year of the Cat

Good Luck and Smooth Sailing in the Year of the Cat

Happy Lunar New Year! The Vietnamese celebrate the Cat versus the Rabbit. Learn about the difference and pick up a writing tip from the songwriter and musician Al Stewart from his hit song, The Year of the Cat.

Feb 06, 202305:03
"Good Luck and Smooth Sailing" in the Year of the Cat

"Good Luck and Smooth Sailing" in the Year of the Cat

Episodes with music are only available on Spotify.

Happy Lunar New Year! The Vietnamese celebrate the Cat versus the Rabbit. Learn about the difference and pick up a writing tip from the songwriter and musician Al Stewart from his hit song, The Year of the Cat.  


Jan 30, 202311:24
How to Capture a Life in 400 Words

How to Capture a Life in 400 Words

Writing the obituary is a sobering task.  The structure and getting it right. WHO was the person and HOW did she live? Writing as a gift. 

Jan 15, 202306:34
Punch In, Punch Out: the Profession and the Side Hustle

Punch In, Punch Out: the Profession and the Side Hustle

Many authors publish one or two novels; few write full-time. Fewer write for a life-time. Excerpts and ideas from Haruki Murakami's memoir and essay collection, Novelist as a Vocation. On creativity, originality, and his writing process. 

Jan 09, 202306:49
Pithy and Practical - Time in Memoir

Pithy and Practical - Time in Memoir

A reader loves the TreeHouseLetter because it is "pithy and practical." The pithy in this letter is about the winter solstice and Christmas; the practical is about perceptions of time. How do we manage the human construct of time, as a child and as an adult and in writing? Learn about the divided self in memoir, how time creates meaning and tension. Understanding the character of "I" and the narrator of "I" helps writers and readers understand time in their own lives. Happy and Healthy 2023! 


Please rate this podcast or share if you liked. It really does help! Thank you for listening.  

Jan 03, 202309:07
Giving Thanks for Dissent and Cookies

Giving Thanks for Dissent and Cookies

Gratitude is vogue, hip, lit. It's handy and eternal, an ever-ready virtue . . . but it's the sense of duty and expectation that gives it a gloss and cheek that's a bit off-putting. In walks a fresh voice on basketball coaches and how to make the best ever soft-in-the-center, crispy-at-the-edges  chocoloate chip cookie. 

Nov 30, 202206:47
On Perfect Love and Longing

On Perfect Love and Longing

What I learn from my mother on a Tuesday morning about love and longing. How Susan Cain's new book, Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Makes us Whole, helps me understand her. 

Nov 16, 202208:55
"Kinda This, Kinda That" in the Mid-pack

"Kinda This, Kinda That" in the Mid-pack

Mid-life has its miseries. And, mid-life for me has fitness challenges. It was most noticeably on display in the Army’s ten-miler around Washington, D.C. this October. Here’s a story of inspiration for the mid-packers and the mid-lifers.

Nov 06, 202207:22
What to Say When People Thank You for Your Military Service

What to Say When People Thank You for Your Military Service

True story from the SMA--Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston--who spoke at the Army Ten-Miler. A man with 35 years of service in the Army and a half dozen deployments shares his wisdom on service with grit and grace.

Oct 13, 202205:02
Everyone Should Write

Everyone Should Write

In her new book, Write For Your Life, Anna Quindlen argues for the importance of the diarist, such as the secret yet eternal life of Anne Frank. She ruminates on the doctor, the student, the gangster, the child, the parent. Love letters. Queen Elizabeth “spoke through her handwriting.” Writing is a human endeavor, for all of us, from criminal to royal. Learn why writing is one of the most precious and uncommon gifts we can give.

Oct 04, 202204:52
What can music teach us about writing?

What can music teach us about writing?

Just like song, for writing to work it must have rhythm. This has taken me a long time to learn. I came across the idea in Haruki Murakami’s memoir, Absolutely on Music. This book is about a series of conversations with the former conductor of the Boston Symphony, Seiji Ozawa. The novelist meets the maestro. They talk. Learn what the novelist has to say about writing and rhythm and decide if prose rhythm matters with less than average examples. Hear the music in the prose of Beryl Markham and David Foster Wallace.

Oct 04, 202216:52
Reading for Foodies: Zauner's memoir, Crying in H-Mart

Reading for Foodies: Zauner's memoir, Crying in H-Mart

My Vietnamese side of the family are foodies, planning visits and life around meals. Writers focus on the visual and often forget the other senses, taste and smell and sound and touch. Learn about Michelle Zauner's megahit-memoir and how it resonates with this reader, at times pitch perfect. 

Sep 15, 202211:30
Bringing Writers and Readers Together

Bringing Writers and Readers Together

Maybe the better way to think of this is, why you listen to or read TreeHouseLetter. For me, it’s about why I write. Which, are two sides of the same coin. Why do you Write? Who do you write for? 

Sep 13, 202208:51
"Old Age is Not for the Young"*

"Old Age is Not for the Young"*

Society obsesses with youth as if beauty were the monopoly of the young. Yet, wisdom and truth which come with age are beautiful in their own right and something we are quick to dismiss. The old and the very young have always held sway for me because of bald and unerring candor, and the lack of affectation. The title quote is from Ursula Le Guin's No Time to Spare. Learn what Le Guin and former Poet Laureate Donald Hall share about old age. 

Sep 07, 202211:55
What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?

What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?

What book do you believe is that good that you could hunker down and spend the remainder of your days with it? The absolute pinnacle of lexicography in one volume. Word work and how it improves writing. The Professor, the Madman, and Noah Webster. What is the singular trait common to each man and does each of us have the ability to tap into it? 

Aug 26, 202214:22
Charlie Munger and the Art of Swearing

Charlie Munger and the Art of Swearing

True story of the iconic investor. When is offensive language appropriate and effective? Ursula Le Guin on the last two swear words, George Patton on eloquent profanity, and Munger with the shock value of a well timed one-liner.

Aug 19, 202210:49
The Sentence Fragment

The Sentence Fragment

What is a good fragment and why use it in your writing?  Passages from Mary Oliver's essay, Upstream, and guidance from Priscilla Long. Two book recommendations. 

Aug 17, 202208:19
No Ordinary Hike: Marchback for the USMA Class of 2026

No Ordinary Hike: Marchback for the USMA Class of 2026

The march back is a 14 mile ruck with full gear and M4 rifle for 1200 new cadets in the West Point Class of 2026. It is the culminating event of Cadet Basic Training at West Point. Learn about the march, the Long Gray Line, and listen to life-changing stories. 

Aug 10, 202211:56
On Fighting and Writing: Blackwing and Bruce Lee

On Fighting and Writing: Blackwing and Bruce Lee

A visit to Augusta's Indie Book Store and local bakery. Learn about the cult pencil's limited volumes Blackwing 651 named for Bruce Lee, a prize purchase at The Book Tavern with insight on a fighting triad and writing. 

Aug 01, 202209:13
Spandrel: Byproduct of Evolution and Thing of Beauty

Spandrel: Byproduct of Evolution and Thing of Beauty

Word of the week. Dig into the word's roots--in architecture, psychology, philosophy, even philately--for a surprising and stirring take-away on function and beauty. 

Jul 22, 202206:37
Thoughts on Music and the Brain

Thoughts on Music and the Brain

Pitch is purely a psychological construct. If so, why do we love the music we love? A philosopher, a neuroscientist, a dog, and Roy Orbison help us understand why. 

Jul 18, 202211:39