Back to the Basics

It’s strange to be typing right now, and not just because I have temporarily lost the use of one of my fingers.

When I was younger, I carried paper with me everywhere. I always had a few extra sheets in my workbooks or binders so I could write at school. When I got a little older, I began to collect journals to keep my stories together. I always wrote a scene down on paper first, and then typed up a second draft. It took longer, but I enjoyed the simple act of pouring over my own written imagination.

By the time I was getting used to my college courses, I couldn’t even pretend that I had the free time to do much writing anymore, and certainly not writing things down twice. Sadly, this means that my journals have held nothing but notes and the occasional scene scribbled down while at doctor’s offices. I don’t even use word process anymore. I usually just type everything in google docs or evernote.

All that changed last week. I don’t know if my brain was particularly slow that day or I was tired of sitting at a desk or it was just long overdue…it was probably a combination of all three…but I found myself stretched out on the floor beside a stack of loose notebook paper and writing with *gasp* a pen. 

The words just flew out of that pen. I spent half that day and then my free time over the next several days on the floor, crossing out one adjective after another, worrying that I’d misspelled everything, writing sentences out past the red lines until all I could see was black scrawlings. By the time I reached a stopping point, I had written 35 pages. I know that’s not much when typed up, but it felt amazing to me.

I have sense typed everything up in evernote and thrown away the papers. I was more afraid I’d lose a page more than anything else. But I think I’ll be returning to my journals very soon. There really is nothing that can compare to gripping a pen in one hand and running the other over paper. It’s kind of like the difference between a nook and a paperback. Both get the job done, but it’s really all about the feeling.

What about y’all? Do you use journals, a laptop, or a combination? Why?

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Poetry About Books…Nothing Could Sound Sweeter

People have tried to ask me to write poetry before…None as persistent as one of my college writing professors. She did get me to write down a few. I’m not going to share those with you – you will thank me for that later – but I do remember reading a lot of beautiful poetry in that classroom.

Of course, the ones that stayed with the most are the ones about books and writing. So here are a few of my favorites:

There is no Frigate like a Book By Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry.
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll;
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul!

I Opened a Book By Julia Donaldson

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king,
And dived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

Good Books By Edgar Guest

Good books are friendly things to own.
If you are busy they will wait.
They will not call you on the phone
Or wake you if the hour is late.
They stand together row by row,
Upon the low shelf or the high.
But if you’re lonesome this you know:
You have a friend or two nearby.

The fellowship of books is real.
They’re never noisy when you’re still.
They won’t disturb you at your meal.
They’ll comfort you when you are ill.
The lonesome hours they’ll always share.
When slighted they will not complain.
And though for them you’ve ceased to care
Your constant friends they’ll still remain.

Good books your faults will never see
Or tell about them round the town.
If you would have their company
You merely have to take them down.
They’ll help you pass the time away,
They’ll counsel give if that you need.
He has true friends for night and day
Who has a few good books to read.

Partial submission by Louise Carson

I thought of mailing you a paper-clip
then thought again
for surely you must have some
in a similar small green tray
or palm-sized round jar (on its lid
a scene of camels, desert, sun)
or in a drawer, a chain
of collected shining metal wealth.

So I removed the strangely precious thing
and mailed these poems
loose
in a brown envelope of pain.
When you receive them,
you can add your own.

As you can probably tell, because I’ve told you so, I didn’t write these. I just wanted to make that clear. I think there is something so beautiful about poetry that I will never be able to capture in prose. It’s a cross between a song and a story. I have a deep admiration for all poets. I feel that although we do not speak the same language, we might speak a similar one, and so if you need a friendly ear just give me a ring and say, “Jolly Good Day!” and I will say “Hello!” and we can be writing friends.

🙂 Yep, that’s as close to anything as “poetic language” as you’ll probably get from me. 

Are there any poets out there who wouldn’t mind sharing some of their favorite poetry?

Editing with Caution

Have any of you ever had problems when collaborating on writing projects? How do you aproach them?

I know we all have memories of that class that always involved group projects, or that one person who made you do all the work. I was that person who just didn’t belong in groups. I firmly believed that I workd better flying solo, and I still do.

No, I’m not talking about school assignments.  

When do you draw the line for right vs. wrong on creative writing projects. I’ve taken writing classes, writing workshops, and I even went to a writing camp one summer. You think I would have gottn used to things like this. It’s not that I don’t like hearing what other people have to say. It’s just…it’s my creation. My world. If you’re a writer, you’ll understand.

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Image Credit: http://www.gocollege.com

Now I’m on the other side. I have attained my dream job – editing books – and I’m still wracked with nerves every time I contact authors. I usually say something like this more than once: “I want to help you bring your book to the next level.”

And I do. I want to colalborate with authors, but it’s hard not to worry that I come across as sounding very un-humble like ( 😉 ). I try my hardest to look at works objectively, but not at the expense of becoming a teacher. I remember getting pages back covered in red ink. I don’t want to be that person. (Apparently, my computer feels the same way. It has decided that my edits will show up in blue, not red.) 

I’m not sure what answers I would get back if I asked my fellow workers if this feeling eases. I’d like to think that they’d tell me that, with practice, I’ll be able to breathe easier. Only time will tell, I suppose. 

But I don’t really expect that my thoughts will change much. It’ll take some confidence, some experience, but more than anything, it will take trust on both sides. Being asked to collaborate with someone else on their book feels almost like walking on sacred ground – one must proceed with care. I intend to do just that.

In the meantime, I thought it didn’t hurt to ask … Does anyone have any experience with collaboration?

 

The Em Dash?

I was an English major. I was a Technical Writing minor. I took grammar classes and diagrammed sentences for fun.

And yet I’m still learning things every day. 

For instance, did you know the difference between a hyphen and a dash? If you answered yes, did you know that there are four different kinds of hyphens/dashes regularly used in printed text? That’s right – five.

When someone first asked me about “em dashes,” I played along. “Yes. Sure. Of course I know what that is! I’ll make sure to double checks all of the…uh…m hyphens.”

I can laugh about it now, but that one conversation sent me on a frantic hour-long googling session. Here’s what I found out.


According to CSM, these are all the kinds of hyphens/dashes:

Hyphen –

En dash —

Em dash —

2-em dash—-

3-em dash——

And they all have specific purposes!


It suddenly occurred to me—Commas. Ellipses. Spaces. Numbers. Basic grammar. Did I know anything?

It turns out that CSM isn’t all that different from MLA, but I had to break a sweat discovering that. And it was…reassuring…to know that I’m not done learning. It feels like I just finished college yesterday. I don’t think I ever felt that “I’ve got the world on a string,” feeling as a post-graduate, but I’m sure many people have.

News flash! We never stop learning. If we do, then something is wrong.


Could I get through school with out knowing that? Yes.

Can I have this job without knowing that? Apparently not.

Do I now add proofreading marks and word comments to my personal writing? Yup. (It’s kinda scary and yet oddly satisfying to have a conversation with myself like I have with the Press’ authors.)

Will I  still keep learning? You betcha!

Who’s with me?

You Can’t Jog in a Bookstore

 

I’ve got another confession to make: I’ve become a runner.

Well, sort of…not really. I hike for 56 minutes and jog for four one-minute increments, but I’m getting there. I started walking along the trails near my apartment, because I wanted to get out of the house more. An at-home computer job doesn’t lean towards much exercise. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d enjoy it.

My motto was always been: I’d rather read.

Do you want to go to a party? No, I’d rather go back home and read. Do you want to go out and get some pizza. I’d rather have the pizza delivered here so I can read. Do you want to go the part? Um, do I have to…because I’d rather stay home alone and read!

But I’ve found that my morning hikes actually allow me to get more work done. Sure, I might still want to be reading, but I’m beginning to really enjoy my morning outings.

Sometimes I take my earphones and sing along while I jog. (Or dance along the trails 🙂 ). Sometimes I do my bible study before going out and pray while hiking. But more and more lately, I’ve just begun to enjoy being alone with my own thoughts. It’s helped me to organize my thoughts and tasks for the day and, more importantly (yes!), it’s allowed me time to think about my writing. Most days, I just can’t wait to get home from my walk and open my laptop to write.

It’s fantastic! I knew that ideas usually hit writers when they can’t write them down, but this is something else entirely.  Did anyone else know that getting out into nature and exercising could jog the imagination so much, and if so, why didn’t you tell me?

Of course, many days (like today), I can’t just open up my laptop and start writing whatever I want. I do have to work. But jotting down a few hurried notes before opening my email is almost just as satisfying. 😉

I don’t think I’m going to become an exercise nut anytime soon…or ever. But I have gained a new apparition for nature. After all, you can’t jog in a bookstore…

Or see a deer. For fun, I’ve included some pictures of the trails near my home.

I want to know if anyone else has experience this feeling before. Is there something else that you enjoy doing that helps to relax you and exercise your imagination?


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Those mistakes you always seem to make

If you’re like me, there are really embarrassing writing mistakes, there are the mistakes that you make because you’re rushing and really not paying attention, and then there are some mistakes that you always seem to make.

I’ve made all three of these mistakes in an academic paper. See if you can guess which type of mistake was which:

-Thourough

-Wierd

-Thet

Well I bet the really really embarrassingly one is easy to pick out. I wrote “thet” instead of “that.” It happens. I’m sure you have several examples from your own writing.

What about “wierd?” I always classify this one as rushing the editing process when I find it. It’s such a common mistakes that I always check it. The simple fact that I used this word in a paper might prove that I wasn’t paying enough attention to my work. I choose this word because I know that it’s very easy to get the whole i before e thing mixed up. I bet you do a double take every time you have to write this word.

So that leaves “thourough” as the word that I just can’t get to stick in my mind. In case you didn’t recognize it, “thourough” is supposed to be “thorough”…or “through.” I’ll possibly never know. I have to look these words up almost every time I use them just to make sure that I get them right. I don’t know why my brain seems to have a problem with the different combinations of t-h-r-o-u. I just do.

I’ve heard this phenomenon, if you choose to describe it that way, described with the fact that English is a convoluted language filled with inconsistent rules and some rules that should just be wrong (like a sentence with “that that”…What’s with that?).

My former linguists would say that there is a pattern, a consistency in the errors that people make. It’s not just random. Our brain recognizes the inconsistency of learned patterns and tries to make up for them…but that just leads to learned spelling errors.

I don’t know the answer. I just find it fascinating.

What do you think? What word do you always seem to get wrong?