howdoienglish











{July 13, 2011}   Passion

If I could select a one-word summary of the advice that’s been given to the ninety-odd young people in the Publishing Institute’s room at DU over the last two days, it would be that: Passion. Every person in the world of publishing must have a great deal of passion for the work they do, or it’s just not going to work out well. Editors need passion to navigate the manuscripts they acquire through the publishing process; agents need passion to guide their chosen manuscripts to the right house and editor; book packagers…well, they’re another story.

Almost my every waking moment for the last week, especially, has been taken up with something Institute-related. Now that I’m actually there every day…almost my every waking moment is taken up with something Institute-related. This program is a full-time job of listening to lecturers and attending workshops with some of the most brilliant minds in the publishing industry today. And guess what? It’s totally worth it.

Since I have a couple people wanting to know about what goes on with me and the Publishing Institute, I’ll be posting when I can about the goings-on there and, more importantly, how it’s affecting me and how things are going for me in general. I hope to be able to post every couple of days. I got my first homework assignment today and when I get home I just want to collapse on the sofa, so once every few days is the best that can be hoped for, I think.

A quick overview of the last couple days:

Sunday–orientation day. Not my best day. Right before orientation I went to a bridal shower. The only person I knew in either of those places was the bride at the shower, so I wasn’t particularly looking forward to sitting myself in a room of ninety-seven other people after I sat myself in a room with twenty people I didn’t know. Any attempts at conversation both places were stilted and short-lived. I came home frightened for the next four weeks.

Monday–first day of classes. I had the good fortune of arriving at campus at the same time as another commuter (I couldn’t muster up the extra couple thousand to live in the dorms like most of my colleagues). We muddled our way to the building breakfast would be in, making conversation as best we could. (It’s always difficult when you first meet someone to come up with something intelligent and interesting to say, so I think we managed quite well.) I was lucky enough to have her company for the rest of the day as we attempted to get money from ATMs and wrangle parking passes. Sitting in a room of ninety-eight is easier when at least one of them is on somewhat friendly terms with you.

I made the mistake of going home between the last class and our first field trip (to the LoDo Tattered Cover with an author talk, David Wroblewski of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle fame [I haven’t read the book either, though it’s on my list now]), so I arrived late, shuffling into the room while the author read an excerpt. Rarely have I ever been so embarrassed. I also had the fortune of being seated next to the lovely Joyce Meskis (I do mean that, truly), the director of the Institute, after I came in late. She had emphasized timeliness during orientation. You can understand my position. The talk was enjoyable, though, and I loved wandering through the store afterward. I am proud to say I resisted buying anything; I have too much on my bookshelves to read as it is.

Tuesday (today)–second day of class. Sandra Bond, I’m in awe of her now, delivered the lecture on the role of the literary agent. She made me want to be an agent, which I think is a good quality in a presenter. If I want to be everything when the Institute is over, I’ll be in a good position to find a job. Book packaging, though, is a field I don’t think I’ll ever want to go into. I met up with my fellow commuter to go to lunch, and we stumbled on a new acquaintance in the food line and spent our lunch hour talking of science fiction books, working for Tor, NaNoWriMo, old roommates. I had quite the time, delighted to find fellow introverts with similar interests. I can only hope they felt the same way.

Economics proved to be the bane of most of the students. Though equipped with calculators, many of us could only fumble our way through the economic feasibility worksheet for the hypothetical book we were hypothetically publishing. Our presenter, the eminent Robert Follett, couldn’t have been more interesting, though. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him speak: he was inspiring and humorous, acknowledging of his shortcomings and humble in his successes. I managed to finish the worksheet at home where the hum of “I’m so confused” wasn’t there to distract me.

In sum, what I thought might be a torturous four weeks early on has turned into what it should have been all along, an exciting adventure. I feel at a disadvantage not living in the dorms; there you are almost guaranteed three new friends in your suitemates the day you arrive. But with a little luck, I think I’ll be OK. I’ve never been the one comfortable with a large group of people around me, so if I only know two people through the four weeks, I’ll be happy.

That’s all I have for now. The first part of the editing workshop is tomorrow, along with scholarly publishing. (For that, we read a couple book proposals. One of which I hope is actually a forthcoming book because I will read it. I’m getting so many ideas for books to add to my list…it’s fantastic and terrible, all at the same time.)

I don’t know if everyone can comment on this who might want to. If you can’t but want to, feel free to e-mail (goss.bonniem@gmail.com) or Facebook, whatever works. Thanks for reading.



Story time.

Back in late April, I signed myself up for a digital account with The New York Times in order to be able to really work on the final paper for my International Mass Communication course. I needed to view more articles than the free 20 they allow you, and they had this nifty thing where I could sign up for a month for about a dollar and cancel anytime I wanted. Being a poor college student, I didn’t want to pay the $15 that would be billed me if I kept the account longer than a month. So before the month was up, I canceled the subscription. Imagine my surprise and horror when I looked at my bank account and discovered I had still been charged the $15 though I had already canceled. Calling customer service proved to be a tough thing to do. I phoned once and was connected to a very unhelpful lady who insisted that I hadn’t canceled soon enough and it was, essentially, my own damn fault and no refund would be posted to me. After fuming about it for a couple minutes, I looked at a calendar and discovered that the unhelpful lady was, in fact, incorrect, and I had canceled in time. So I phoned again, praying to be connected to someone else and I was. This lady was much more helpful, acknowledging that I had indeed canceled before the month and shouldn’t have been billed again. I hung up the phone assuming that a refund was on its way.

Assumptions have a crazy way of coming back to bite you.

So after a little more than a month of waiting and watching my bank account for the supposedly promised refund, it still hadn’t arrived. I figured it was worth one more call to customer service to inquire about my refund and why it was taking so long.

I’ve been on the phone for a long time. I called and was connected to another helpful lady. She understood my plight but couldn’t help me herself, so I was transferred to the head honco of some branch of the customer service. I’ve been on hold at least 5 times, possibly more, while she goes off to verify something or other, get in contact with someone or other, and tries to sort this whole thing out. Last time I spoke with her, she said something about not wanting to lead me on about the refund, which I take to mean it may or may not be coming. I’ve sort of resigned myself to the idea that I might not get my refund (though I think I’m entitled to it…and I’m poor), but honestly I could use $15.

Twenty-eight minutes. That’s how long I was on the phone with them. And it’s not even all settled yet, either. I’m going to receive a call either later today or tomorrow at the latest. They need to do some digging around with the stuff on their end and she didn’t want to keep me on hold for longer than she had already. Which is nice. So hopefully they’ll be able to sort through the mess. Apparently since my account is already terminated, it’s very hard for them to figure out what’s gone on with it, so they can’t be sure (right now) if there has been a refund posted and it’s on its way. So we’ll see, I suppose.

And now I’m off to the library to paw through some of their reference books for the economics workshop preparations.



The last few entries have been along the same tone: aw man, this Chicago stuff…

That in mind, I have something different for today. Still applies to the Institute though. Today, I will venture forth from my mom’s house and explore several bookstores. I have a few assignments for the Institute that require me to go to bookstores and wander around (economics workshop, marketing workshop, design workshop), and I’m actually quite excited to get out of the house for a couple reasons.

1. I’ve been sitting in the chair in my room reading from the Chicago Manual for a couple days now. It’s getting a little old. (And there’s still so much left!)

2. Through my old job, I learned of a whole bunch of independent bookstores in and around my area of town (sort of. Most of them are up in the Denver area, but I’m not too far south of that).

So in a few hours I will take off and spend my afternoon immersed in glorious bookshelves in stores I’ve never been to before. Should be fun.



{July 5, 2011}   Put a witty title here

Remember the Chicago Manual of Style? Turns out the readings for this large tome amount to almost the entire work. I looked in the table of contents, and I think we’re only skipping two or three of the chapters. Granted, each chapter amounts to a substantial chunk of the book and I’m grateful that we aren’t required to read the whole thing (though I probably will sometime later), but it’s still a lot of reading.

Thankfully, I’ve read the chapter on grammar, at least, in the 15th edition (Nerd alert), so it won’t really have changed. It’s always good to go back and get a refresher on all those things, though.

I like to blame some of my ineptness with grammar on the fact that I never diagrammed sentences when I was in elementary or middle school. It’s just an easy target. To remedy this, both for the Institute and for the rest of my life as I hope to deal with grammar for a good long portion of it, I have requested a book from my public library, Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: the quirky history and lost art of diagramming sentences by Kitty Burns Florey. I found it when I was looking through some of those publishing newsletters I’m subscribed to and put it on my list of books that might be worth reading. It’s on its way, and I should get a call when it’s ready.

I’m looking forward to it; I might even bump that book up to the top of my “read for fun” list. Currently on that list is Brian Jacques entire Redwall series. I’m terribly behind (I was racing my sister) at The Bellmaker. I try to read a chapter or two a night, but that’s a rather slow pace. Thanks, DPI, for all the homework!

I jest. I’m actually quite enjoying these advance assignments from the Institute. Speaking of…I need to get a system going for the last few days, here! The time is almost upon me, and I still have a good bit to do. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make a schedule of what I need to do.



{June 27, 2011}   Books, books, books

First things first: I snagged a new audio book, A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, off audible.com’s free trial offer. Note to self, cancel the subscription soon so you don’t get charged money you don’t have for a service you probably won’t use enough.

I moved this weekend. It’s the biggest reminder that the Institute is coming up soon. I’m still up in my old apartment, haven’t fully moved out yet, because I still can work a couple extra days so I get a little extra money. My apartment is ridiculously empty, though, and I’m sleeping on the floor with a blanket and a sleeping bag. Good thing I’m still young, my mom said.

I’ve been thinking for the last few days that it might be super-awesome to work in a bookstore when I get out of the Institute. The more I read about it through these publishing newsletters my boss recommended I sign up for (Shelf Awareness, Publisher’s Weekly), the more it sounds like a fantastic job. Stand around and help people find amazing books all day? Sure! Read the newest books before anyone else so you can recommend them to people? Absolutely! Take books home to read for an ‘assignment’? Sign me up!

What I’m coming to realize, I think, is that just about any job that entails working with books is going to make me happy. Obviously, the closer I am to the book, the happier I’ll be. This is a good realization because it means that just about any job I could get in the publishing institute will make me happy at least some of the time. And that’s what’s really important in a job, right?



{June 23, 2011}   A startling realization

Today, dear reader (and by reader I mean me because I’m the only one reading this right now), I discovered something that, quite frankly, saddens me and I’m not quite sure what to do about it.

I discovered that…I can’t go to the library for at least a week. I’m almost done with the final book in Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series, listening to it, actually, because I can actually get through a book that way. Driving to and from work, to and from the boyfriend who lives an hour away, it makes more sense to listen to a book instead of reading it. That and with all the advance assignments for the Publishing Institute, if I’m reading, it’s one of the manuscripts for that.

Back on track: once I’m done with my current listening book, I need another. Or would like another, rather. The unfortunate thing about this situation is that I’m moving in a week. I can’t check out a book from the library where I’m moving to because, well, I’m not there yet. I can’t check out one from one of the libraries where I am now because (unbelievably) I don’t have a library card for this district (I blame the fact that I had my university library for the last four years) and I don’t think I can check out books from the university library anymore since I graduated.

All of this means that I won’t have a book to listen to for a week before I move. I don’t know what to do.

Options include getting a library card for this district for a week (which I’m considering), trying to check out a book from the university library, buying a book from audible.com, and just living without a book for a week. I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I’ll have to figure something out tomorrow since I’m sure I’ll finish the book either today or tomorrow.



{June 21, 2011}   Editors on Editing

I haven’t started in on the Chicago Manual yet. It looms so large in my view that I’m trying to distract myself with other reading. So I picked up Editors on Editing instead. Not sure it was more soothing than reading Chicago would be, though.

Reading through these essays from professional editors talking about their experiences editing, I wonder if I would be that dedicated to my job. It sounds pretty crazy, being an editor, no matter what kind of editor.

And then I talked with my boss about what sort of real job I’ll be looking at getting. Watching a computer screen the whole day makes me incredibly tired, and she informed me that most editing these days is done by computer. Joy. So I could freelance edit, which would allow me to set the kind of schedule I would be comfortable with while editing. That route, however, requires me to be the provider of my own insurance and grown-up things like that. Although not the end of the world, it would be easier to have company insurance.

It’s normal for me to experience rising anxiety as something foreign and unknown approaches, so that might be what this is all about. I might just be freaking out because, well, that’s what I do. I’m going to try and dismiss my fears by focusing on that as a reason. I’ll experience the Publishing Institute and allow that to help me make up my mind about what sort of publishing job I would like to get. I shouldn’t get too carried away by my imagination until I have more information about all of this.

There. I feel better. I should keep reading my book.



{June 17, 2011}   Manuals, Chicago style

In preparation for the Publishing Institute, I need to read most of the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. Of course we have to read the 16th, I thought, can’t use the 15th, the one I already have. The one I bought not too long ago thinking it would be with me forever (even though I really knew better, even at the time).

In a serious blindness on my part, I hadn’t known that Chicago published the 16th edition until my boss at my internship gave me her Chicago online login and informed me that the 16th edition was on there, but for now we’d go with what we already had on our style sheet, which was 15th edition. I wondered how much could actually changed in order for Chicago to feel they had to put out a new edition. I’m tempted to examine the 15th and 16th side by side, now that I have both.

Back to reading for the Institute. It’s basically the entire manual, really. Only a couple hundred pages of the behemoth book are being left out. And it makes me wonder how much of what is in that book I will actually know. How much of what I read will be a refresher of information I’ve already learned at some point in my education. I worry that I won’t know enough and I’ll have to scramble to memorize enough of everything so I appear competent when I arrive in Denver.

It’s frightening. Intimidating. And it’s moments like this when I feel so, so small.



{June 15, 2011}  

I needed a WordPress account in order to be added as a user to the blog I set up for the press I work at. So I decided, why not, I’ll create my own blog. Maybe I’ll even use it, too. I’ve never kept up with a blog for very long, unless it was a journal-type blog where I ranted about feelings and opinions for pages.

An English blog felt new, different, something that would be unique and thus worth continuing. I’ve looked through numerous book blogs over the course of my employment with this small press, and they all look about the same, reviewing books sent them by publishers (me included) and talking of bookish things.

I don’t know much about the publishing industry, the industry I would absolutely love to spend the rest of my life slumming around in. It worries me sometimes, worries me because what if I am completely unprepared to float in a large publishing company? What if I don’t know what I need to know?

This blog is my way of chronicling new English oddities I learn. Maybe other people are as clueless as I am about some of these particularities. I’d like this blog to become a public forum of sorts, a place for people to discuss the English language. I want to research into the English language, find out why English is as strange as it is and let people know. I majored in English, so if I don’t know, it’s likely others don’t as well. I work with a publishing company, and escapades with that will be related through the blog as well.

In general, this will be an English space, a place for anything relating to the language of English or the industry of publishing.

I’m excited. Let’s go.



{June 14, 2011}   Acquisitions

In my job as a marketing assistant with a micropress, I’ve done a lot of interesting things. Some of them I would classify as “intern” tasks, stuff that you would assign to the new kid because you’re too busy to address envelopes or put chatter teeth into bags.

Today I was the acquisitions editor. Our press opened up submissions to anyone with a book for children, and we have received a good number so far. We haven’t responded to many, however, and my task was to fix that.

The strange thing about being an acquisitions editor for a day was the godlike power vested in me. Though I discussed several submissions with the president of the press, she told me to look through the rest of them and decide if any were the type of writing we wanted to include in the titles published by this press.

I, a twenty-something fresh out of college, decided the fates of people who have been writing longer than I’ve been alive, in some cases. It was with a conflicted conscience that I sent e-mails from an anonymous press e-mail rejecting some people’s manuscripts and asking for full manuscripts from other people. I could be a factor in whether or not some of these people get published.

I may be overestimating my effect when it’s all said and done. But I have gained an appreciation for people who hold this job, for people who decide the fate of a manuscript (and possibly an author).



et cetera