howdoienglish











{July 18, 2011}   Catching up

See, the thing about this whole school business is I don’t have much time outside of it to do much of anything. Which is why this post is so late. To sum up:

Wednesday–My dislike of committees was deepened just a little more. The second half of this day was devoted to university presses and scholarly publishing. We’d been given two proposals to read before coming to class and got funneled into groups after a short lecture to go discuss whether or not we, as a university press editorial board, would acquire the manuscript. The unfortunate thing about most committees, I’ve found, is the distinct lack of multiple voices. A couple dominant personalities take over, interrupt others, and generally steer the meeting toward the outcome they’d like to see. It may not be intentional, that might just be the way they are, but it’s frustrating for people like me, non-dominant personalities who then sit in the corner doodling in their notes.

On the bright side, university press publishing does sound somewhat interesting, and there’s one in Boulder, so that would be a job path that would keep me in Colorado. Which is, after all, what I’d really like.

The first half of Wednesday we had two lecturers, both freelance editors. Listening to them talk over the last few days, I’ve come to appreciate what an intense job editing really is. (Actually, I don’t think there’s a job in publishing that isn’t intense.) Being an editor means a lot of nights and weekends work because manuscript reading doesn’t occur during business hours. Though I think it would be fabulous to have that much to read and engage with, I think I’d also like some time to spend with the boyfriend.

Thursday–By this time, I was super excited that the two people I’d met earlier in the week were continuing to hang out with me. I walk into the lecture room at the beginning of the day and know that, if I’m the first one there, two other people will soon join me. I know it’s kind of sad, but it’s a huge accomplishment for me to have even two people to talk to because it means I went somewhat out of my way to talk to them, to interact with them, and they didn’t run away. I’m always afraid of people running away; it’s happened before.

On to Institute stuff. We had homework over Wednesday night, to edit and refine the reader’s report we should have written before arriving at the Institute. They gave guidelines on Wednesday, but it was still a difficult task. The goal of a reader’s report, if you haven’t heard of it, is to inform your boss the editor about the manuscript and offer a summary and an analysis of whether or not it should be published. As an associate editor in a publishing house, that seems like a lot of power. But big-time editors don’t have that much time to read every manuscript that gets submitted to the house, so they parcel out the reading to the associate editors who write these reports and turn them in. The report gives the editor an idea of if a particular manuscript has qualities that would make it a good candidate for publishing. The associate’s opinion isn’t always followed, and that’s how it should be, but apparently the advice gets followed 95% of the time (according to one of the editors doing the workshop). My report didn’t go over that well, but I got a good enough grade that I’m not super worried about passing.

Yeah, speaking of, I have to get a B average at the Institute to pass and get my certificate. So, no worries or anything: I made the Dean’s List last semester, I’m good. šŸ˜›

Also Thursday we were spoken to by two people in the college textbooks business. The best part of the lecture was the free books the first guy brought. I snagged one to give myself a brush up on grammar-type things. Overall, college textbook publishing doesn’t sound like a part of publishing that I’d be interested in going into. Though I thought that I wouldn’t know how to do anything but go to school since I’ve been doing that since age six, I’ve learned since graduating that that’s a completely false statement. In fact, being back in school is more tiring than working all day. So I don’t think IĀ  would enjoy a job so thoroughly based around academics. It was a good era, for the most part, but it’s time to move on, as frightening as that may seem sometimes.

And then we had to get into groups again, but this time after school hours. My group decided to meet at the “picnic” held after school got out for the day. Our task was to write a semblance of an editorial critique for the untitled manuscript we read and prepared the reader’s reports on before coming to Denver. I’m happy to say that this group behaved much better than the last and everyone’s opinion was valued and discussed among all group members. I went home exhausted.

Friday–This was one of the most interesting days so far. Our reader’s reports were handed back with more feedback, and someone from each group Thursday presented their group’s editorial critique of the manuscript. Then, get this, we got on the conference call with Clive Priddle, editorial director at Public Affairs. This is the house that acquired the manuscript we’d spend days, and weeks, poring over, and he answered questions and talked about the process the book has gone through. I’m excited about it and eager to see how much has changed from the manuscript form I saw it in to the finished product that will be on shelves soon. I can’t tell much about it because it’s still in the production process and confidential, but once the book comes out, I’ll be sure to feature it.

We got an introduction to line editing, which is kind of a fancy phrase for most of the type of editing I did in college. Correcting grammar and sentence structure, but also looking at the big picture and making sure everything makes sense where it is. Another assignment was given out, line editing a section of the first chapter of another book. I must admit, working on this edit was harder than I thought it would be. It’s easier when it’s my own work or a friend’s, because I know more of what’s allowed, but with an author I’d never heard of (because they put a pseudonym on the manuscript), I wasn’t sure where my boundaries lay. I’m not sure how to edit while keeping an author’s voice and style because that’s something I never did in school. I actually discussed this with a professor of mine, how students’ educations are lacking because they are not taught how to imitate another writer’s style. Though an incredibly hard exercise, I imagine, I can also see how this would greatly benefit the student. And now I have experience with a situation that may have been easier had I had that education, though I’m not sure what good that does me. I finished the assignment, but I’m really not sure how well I did. That and I was tired all the while I worked on it.

The last bit of Friday was a copyediting lecture. This, I thought, would be the best part of the Institute. And then I found, after listening to the first little bit, that I’ve heard this lecture before. I’d taken classes with the lecturer, the lovely Alice Levine, and though this one was slightly different, it was only a variation on a theme. I have all the materials she handed out somewhere in one of the boxes in my mother’s basement, and no new information was imparted to me. Following is what I wrote while listening:

“I begin to wonder if copyediting truly is the calling I believed it was throughout high school and college. I think I would feel lost if I hasn’t been at the Institute when I realized this. As it stands now, I’ve been exposed to several alternative careers. I have some of the compulsive tendencies that make a good copyeditor, but I also have the creative side that makes copyediting difficult. I may not have enough compulsion to properly copyedit.

“I suppose we’ll see as I go along in the Institute. As I learn more about grammar, that will help determine if this is a course I would want to pursue or not.

“Perhaps hearing this lecture for the second or third time is skewing my opinion…”

Yes, a crisis of career path. If you’d asked me anytime from maybe halfway through high school up until I entered the Institute, I would have told you that my dream was to be a freelance copyeditor. Now I’m not so sure. Like I said above though, this is the best place to be having a crisis like that. There are so many avenues open to me and I’ve only gone through one week of lectures. There’s no need to fret, I know this.

So now, after a nice weekend with my boyfriend and his family, I think I’m ready to head back to school. I’m also going to the Rockies game tomorrow night with a few other Institute people, so that’ll be an opportunity for me to meet some more people. And if I don’t meet people, well, I’m still at a Rockies game, so whatever! šŸ™‚

Maybe I won’t take so long next time to update. I imagine it’s tiring to read through this much; it’s tiring for me to write it.

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{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.



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