Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Pinterest, Podcast

How an idea comes to fruition: Collaboration, Research, Pinterest, and Maunsel White

Ever wonder how an idea comes to fruition for an editor? Or if we actually do more than just stare at the computer screen at words all day? Let me tell you about how a typical jumping off point down the rabbit hole goes when I work with my client, Edward Branley. You know him as NOLA History Guy, and as the author of various books from New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line (LA), Legendary Locals of New Orleans,  and New Orleans Jazz.

One morning, Edward emails me:

Maunsel White was a planter and militia officer during the War of 1812. He’s buried in Cypress Grove cemetery. He’s going to make a good podcast subject. There’s a graf from his wiki page that caught my eye:
An 1850 New Orleans Daily Delta newspaper article (reprinted in several other sources at the time) noted that “Col. White has introduced the celebrated tobasco [sic] red pepper, the very strongest of all peppers, of which he has cultivated a large quantity with the view of supplying his neighbors, and diffusing it through the state.” Furthermore, observed the newspaper, “by pouring strong vinegar on it after boiling, he has made a sauce or pepper decoction of it, which possesses in a most concentrated form all the qualities of the vegetable. A single drop of this sauce will flavor a whole plate of soup or other food.”[6]

can you get the Daily Delta out of your database? 
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Maunsel White

 

Part of my research repertoire includes having subscriptions to various old newspaper databases. For this, I use Newspapers.com.

Newspapers.com has ~5,000 newspapers from the 1700s to the 2000s. It’s a great repository of old and new, and  I love looking through the old advertisements and the variety of places you wouldn’t see news from.  The captions and the verbiage make me smile.

Here’s what I mean, from The Daily Commercial Herald (Vicksburg, Mississippi) 07 March 1894 (Wednesday). An Advertisement for Tobasco (Maunsell White) 50 cents per bottle.

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The Daily Commercial Herald (Vicksburg, Mississippi) 07 March 1894

 

Here is the image of the page in The Daily Commercial Herald that I found the advertisement in:

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Since being an editor means a lot of research, where would one keep their research? Keeping it on the hard drive of the laptop means it is going to run slow. What if you need to collaborate in real time over Skype or Google? How do you keep it organized? I use Pinterest. It saves me time, and I label each PinBoard with the title of the subject I am researching. Some, only have two or three “pins”, whereas others have over 1,000.  Here is a peek into my Maunsel White Pinboard.

While you’re there, feel free to browse around. You never know what rabbit hole I am falling into these days. Enjoy!

OH… The final product Maunsel White Podcast [#1] from Edward Branley.
Here’s the other story on White – and his connection to the battle of 1812 and Andrew Jackson… stay tuned for the podcast relating to tobasco and the Pinterest board coming soon.

Editorial Extra:
Here’s a link to Tulane University’s online exhibits – Andrew Jackson to Maunsel White. You know I posted these images on the Maunsel White pinboard. And even when the job is done, the historian, researcher in me, never stops finding interesting things to add!

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Andrew Jackson to Maunsel White- Tulane University online exhibits
Featured image : 1879 menu from steamship Ed. Richardson includes “Maunsel White” sauce.
Posted in Books, From The Editor's Desk, Writing

What is a Beta Reader’s Role?

Beta readers are people who are most likely to buy and read your book. They play an important role in your publishing journey, as they see your book raw, naked, and parts you wouldn’t even show your mother. Make sure they are on your plan, as they will look at it with fresh eyes and tell you things you don’t necessarily want to hear.

My daughter is a beta reader for a series of books by my client, edward branley, since his “dragons” series (Dragon’s Danger, Dragon’s Discovery) is exactly in her age range. [Edward will tell you one of the characters is based on her. ] She tells him if it works, if it doesn’t and why it’s right or wrong. She makes suggestions to make it better.

The Book Designer has five tips for working with Beta Readers. I believe in all of them, so I’m sharing what they said:

  1. Don’t Give Them a Draft Your beta reader is still a reader — a reader who might tell other readers about your book. It’s important to treat your beta readers right, and that begins with what you ask them to read. Don’t give them your first draft. In fact, be sure that what you give them is the very best writing you can produce on your own. Write your draft and set it aside for at least a week. Go back to it and rewrite it if you need to. Then set it aside for another week — again. Revise, revise, revise, until it isn’t remotely possible for you to do any better.
  2. Your Manuscript, Their Way Before you send your manuscript to your beta readers, ask them what format they’d like it in. Beta readers might want to print your manuscript or read it on a Kindle. If they prefer the latter option, send them instructions for how to get your manuscript on an e-reader. Do whatever you can to remove any obstacles that will prevent your beta reader from carving out time to read your book.
  1. Give Them Guidance Let your beta reader know what kind of feedback you’d like from them. Develop a checklist with questions you’d like answers to. Do you want readers to comment on the strength of a character, or the organization of a concept? If you create a specific list of questions around content, beta readers won’t spend their time punctuating sentences. Adapt your revision checklist to meet the needs of each book your write.
  2. Don’t Take it Personally Remember, it takes a great deal of time to read and respond to a book. And your beta readers will have opinions that might sting a little. Be gracious for any feedback a beta reader gives you, even if you don’t agree with it. Ask yourself, “Will addressing this comment make for a better book?” If so, take their advice and apply it to your next revision. If not, whatever you do, don’t defend yourself. Your beta reader already knows your position (you’ve done as you’ve seen fit, as evidenced by your manuscript) but they don’t agree. Thank them for their comments and move on.
  3. Return the Favour Remember, you’re not paying your beta readers to read your book. They’re offering feedback because they want to help or they’re interested in your book’s premise or topic. If your beta reader asks you to be a beta reader in future, seriously consider returning the favour. And when it comes time to publish your book, give them a mention in your acknowledgements. Everyone likes to see their name in “print.”

 

Still confused as to why you need one, or what they are? Read on… 

What is a Beta Reader, and why do I need one?

http://www.smallbluedog.com/what-is-a-beta-reader-and-why-do-i-need-one.html

What makes a good beta reader?

http://www.smallbluedog.com/what-makes-a-good-beta-reader.html

The few, the proud, the beta readers

http://fiona-skye.com/the-few-the-proud-the-beta-readers/

Honestly, I’d tell you that you need a beta reader to help you revise your manuscript before you go looking for an editor. If you need one, I think I can point you in the right direction for that editor.

Note: beta reader featured image from Fiona Skye

 

Posted in From The Editor's Desk

Martin Luther King Jr.~2017~ ‘I Have A Dream’

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.”* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

 

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

 

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

 

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Resources:

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Photo courtesy of International Business Times
Note: Featured image from ABCNews

 

Posted in From The Editor's Desk

Roadmapping 2017

What’s on the calendar? Here’s a sneak peek

You can look forward to lots of projects from Edward J. Branley — the Talents Universe is doing great stuff, with some cool ideas for branching out the world and the characters into different formats.  Hint: If you liked the cover of Hidden Talents, done by Wendy Warrelmann, you should check out her page, and maybe figure out what’s coming. You will definitely see Talents book 2 – Trusted Talents out this year.

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Ren Thumbnail © Wendy Warrelmann

Another Dragons YA novel is in process to finish the trilogy, or it might be a tetralogy, one never knows what Eleni the dragon has in mind.

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Eleni the dragon © Elizabeth Person

Putting on his historical New Orleans hat, Edward is also writing about the Krauss Department Store in New Orleans which opened in 1903. While he’s writing, I’m helping with the research, looking at old newspaper clippings and advertisements on Newspapers.com, and doing some genealogy on Krauss family histories on ancestry.com.

Because there’s so much research and information we are passing back and forth, I am utilizing my Pinterest account to split the information into chunks on the Krauss Pinterest board.

Edward is working on a couple of other ideas that are too early to say, but, I promise, when I know, you will too!

Editor’s Note: I have been saying for a while that I want to do a blog series of posts on how Pinterest works for an author and editor, and researcher collaborations. I think 2017 might be the year you see it publish.

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If you have been in Barnes and Noble lately, you may have seen Tricia Cohen and Lisa Graves‘ medieval cookbook,  A Thyme and Place: Medieval Feasts and Recipes for the Modern Table on the shelves. It was the Featured New Release in June 2016, and Top Cookbook Pick in October 2016.

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I’m so excited to be working with them on their second cookbook, focusing on early America: A Thyme to Discover.

Lisa and Tricia’s Thyme Machine Cuisine website is a great resource to follow, filled with cooking stories, illustrations, and fun facts.  Here’s a sneak peek at their latest blog post, Medieval Chickpeas, a.k.a. Virile Chickpeas.

Who knew history could taste so good? 

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If you want to see what else they do, follow Lisa’s History Witch website. Lots of history, unique stories, and wonderful illustrations! I have been honored to work with Lisa on her coloring books.

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Ryan Z. Dawson‘s Graveworld series (Part One – Death Magick and Part Two – Winter’s Bones) will be out this year. You may recall it was originally titled The Death of Alan Shade. It’s still Alan’s story, never fear. At the moment, Ryan is in the midst of writing the  latest in the series,  Ellie Nex.  I’m looking forward to continuing our collaboration, and to see how the two stories dovetail together.

Did you know I also proofread and Fact-check?

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Science Fact-checking

I wear many hats, and really enjoy the time I spend doing fact-checking and research. In 2017, I am continuing my collaboration with Genome Magazine as part of their science fact-checking team. Genome publishes quarterly, so even though it is only January, I just turned in the Spring 2017 fact-checks, and am waiting on the Summer 2017 articles. Funny how publishing is always so far ahead in the magazine business. Want to know more, go check out my bookshelf.

proofreader-dictionary-entryProofreading

I’ve just jumped onto the Colborne Communications team, proofreading an online ESL project. Thanks Greg for letting me join in. The team so far is marvelous  [Hi Holly!] and very helpful on getting up to speed quickly.

I also do legal proofreading and research, reviewing assorted legal documents for correct grammar and syntax, misspellings, punctuation, style, and formatting.

Interested in getting on the editorial calendar? Have that manuscript sitting in a drawer and want a second pair of eyes? Need a proofreader or researcher? Feel free to drop me an email at: DaraR68@gmail.com.  

As you can probably tell, there is lots to do. So until next time…

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Warmly,

Dara

Posted in From The Editor's Desk

New Year … New & Noteworthy 2017

Timeline: January 12th, 2017

Yes, I know it’s past when the ball dropped in New York’s Times Square for the beginning of 2017. I like to think of this post as the beginning of school for the kids, where if I didn’t get the best “first day of school” photo, I’d try all week until I got the one I loved. That became the memory. No one would know (except methe kids who were tired of Mom saying “just one more” … and now YOU, my readers).

Because I’m a major fan of The Sound of Music, as is my daughter (who I’ve trained well), I watch it every time it is on television and sing as loudly as I can. This is probably the one time in forever that the Sixteen going on Seventeen song sung by Liesl and Rolf will actually be applicable. So, for all of you Sound of Music Fans … here you go. Apologies if you’re not a fan, or  if you have never seen the movie … what are you waiting for? ? ?

In 2017, I want to be more organized … yes, for those of you who know me, I am a major list-maker, and try to stay on deadline. Unfortunately, things happen, and things shift, and other things fall off the radar.

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This year, I’m trying to schedule things better so I don’t feel rushed to deadline at 3 a.m. the night before something is due. [Yes, I admit it… I procrastinate… sometimes. Or is that procaffeinate ?]

As Robert Burns wrote in To a Mouse  (1785) “the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley”  [Translated as: ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.’ — Editor note: The title of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men came from the penultimate stanza of Burns’ poem].

How am I hoping to achieve my goal and keep it resolute for the new year?  It’s two-fold for me. I am working on my first quarter editing calendar now.  I’ve spoken to my wonderful current client list, and gotten their requirements for making their publishing deadlines. I’ve mapped out the busy months and open time slots on paper- here’s that old-fashioned me again with my trusty big calendar.

I’m also a fan of using digital to keep on track when I’m out with my laptop. Here’s what I’m trying for 2017, after having a long discussion with my husband, who is my tech guru. [Hi Honey!]

Trello

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I just started using Trello this week. I really like it to keep all the various deadlines and notes in one place. It’s a place for me to make that ultimate “list of lists”!  Want to learn more… take the Trello tour. Check back with me in three months to see if it works the way I want it to, and if I’m still using it, or a different version of the same type of productivity software. I am hoping to get my Trello board to look like this screenshot:

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Trello editorial board screenshot from the Trello website: https://trello.com/about/logo

Bullet Journal

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I’ve also started to use Bullet Journal to keep my todo lists from being stagnant and getting the long lists accomplished.  I think it will be a good way to visualize what I need to do and keep on track.

This image from Oak.Tree.Journaling makes me wonder if I should have a mindmap. Adding this to my list to think about. Do you have a mindmap? Or a word of the year? Or words? What are they? What do you hope to accomplish this year?

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2017 MINDMAP BY @OAK.TREE.JOURNALING

Here’s the “how to” Bullet Journal video, if you want to join me!

For more information, and a great resource with PDFs and other interesting ways to Bullet Journal, check out a Tiny Ray of Sunshine!

Let me know if you have any productivity tips that you enjoy and find useful! Good luck on your New Year’s resolutions!

Until next time,

Dara

Posted in book lists, Books, From The Editor's Desk, Writing

Umberto Eco and the Anti-library

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Umberto Eco image courtesy of Brain Pickings 

 

“The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others – a very small minority – who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an anti-library.”

― Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Fragility

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My anti-library Kindle list

Taleb’s book is part of my anti-library, ironically enough.

Taleb’s quote above fascinated me, and I bought the book to read, but with the editing business going strong and the fact-checking side of the house prepping for the next issue of Genome Magazine, it’s on my TBR pile.  The good news is, now that school has resumed, perhaps the TBR pile can be dug into, perhaps at the beach?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s  The Theory of Colours

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I have done some research on color theory and psychology, and my colors around the world blog post utilizing this as a reference. One of Goethe’s most radical points was a refutation of Newton’s ideas about the color spectrum, suggesting instead that darkness is an active ingredient rather than the mere passive absence of light.

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Light and darkness, brightness and obscurity, or if a more general expression is preferred, light and its absence, are necessary to the production of color… Color itself is a degree of darkness. 

 

Leon Leyson’s The Boy on the Wooden Box

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The Boy on the Wooden Box is on my Kindle since my son Jason went to hear Leon Leyson’s widow, Lis, speak on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Fullerton Public Library. Leon Leyson was the youngest person ever saved by Oskar Schindler.  He was #289 on Schindler’s List. Be sure to read Jason’s take on Lis Leyson’s speech.

As a history major in my undergrad days, this time period has always had a deep impact on me. I am sure it will be eye-opening and emotional.

I’m reminded of Marlon Brando’s famous Playboy interview with Lawrence Grobel, in which he says that he used to read all the time, but finally stopped because information was of no use to him. Grobel interviewed him on his island in Tahiti; Brando told him that he no longer read anything except Shakespeare. Everything that was worth knowing was contained in Shakespeare. Brando said:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1I used to read an awful lot. Then I found that I had a lot of information and very little knowledge. I couldn’t learn from reading. I was doing something else by reading, just filling up this hopper full of information, but it was undigested information. I used to think the more intelligence you had, the more knowledge you had, but it’s not true. Look at Bill Buckley; he uses his intelligence to further his own prejudices. Why one reads is important. If it’s just for escape, that’s all right, it’s like taking junk, it’s meaningless. It’s kind of an insult to yourself. Like modern conversation–it’s used to keep people away from one another, because people don’t feel assaulted by conversation so much as silence. People have to make conversation in order to fill up this void. Void is terrifying to most people. We can’t have a direct confrontation with somebody in silence–because what you’re really having is a full and more meaningful confrontation.

 

Epictetus’ The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness 

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Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Epictetus‘ (c. AD 55 – 135) influential school of Stoic philosophy, stresses that human beings cannot control life, only their responses to it, keeping the focus on progress over perfection, on accomplishing what can be accomplished and abandoning unproductive worry over what cannot.

What’s on your Anti-Library List? 

Let me know either by commenting here, or on twitter @bookdoctordara.

Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Literary Arts Series, Monday Musings, Quote, Writing

Mark Twain on Writing: “Kill your adjectives”

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Mark Twain, who read widely, was passionately interested in the problems of style; the mark of the strictest literary sensibility is everywhere to be found in the prose of Huckleberry Finn . . . He is the master of the style that escapes the fixity of the printed page, that sounds in our ears with the immediacy of the heard voice, the very voice of unpretentious truth.

Lionel Trilling, “Mark Twain’s Colloquial Prose Style”, from The Liberal Imagination, 1950

Mark Twain

Twain was often asked for advice on the art and craft of writing. Sometimes he responded seriously, sometimes not.  Here’s a piece of writing advice on from a letter he wrote on 20 March 1880 to a student named D.W. Bowser:

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English—it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

I often tell my editing clients one of my favorite pieces of advice he gave. Twain famously said:

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” 


Bonus: “Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamps” information for you philatelists! 

Mark Twain 44¢
(1835-1910)
Mark Twain
Issue Date: June 25, 2011
City: Hannibal, MO
Quantity: 50,000,000

Mark Twain is the 27th honoree in the Literary Arts series. “Our literary tribute this year rightfully honors Mark Twain, author of one of the greatest novels in American literature and the man whom William Faulkner called ‘the first truly American writer,’ said Postal Service Board of Governors member James H. Bilbray. “Mark Twain was a rarity, as he was one of the first writers to exploit the vernacular voice in his books, using the speech of common Americans,” Bilbray said.

Samuel Clemens’ family moved to the banks of the mighty Mississippi River when he was just a child.  Clemens developed a love for the river that would stay with him his entire life.

As a young man, Clemens met a steamboat pilot named Horace Bixby.  That’s when he decided to learn the craft, becoming one of the best pilots on the river.

As an author, Clemens took his pen name from his experiences on the water.  The Mississippi River is difficult to navigate.  To “mark twain” meant the water had been measured and was a safe depth.  In 1863, Clemens began writing as Mark Twain.

If it had not been for the Civil War, Twain may have remained a pilot who occasionally wrote newspaper articles.  But most business travel stopped along the Mississippi during these years, so Twain went back to writing.  His humorous stories of life on the river were a hit with readers then and remain popular today.

In 2010, the first volume of Twain’s autobiography was published.  It was his wish that it not be released until 100 years after his death so that he might speak his “whole frank mind.”  The volume offers a glimpse into the real Samuel Clemens – a man with strong political and social views who nevertheless entertained millions with riveting tales of life on the Mississippi.

More on the “Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamp” Series

Dorothy Parker and John Steinbeck
Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison
James Thurber and Ogden Nash
Bonus: James Thurber Cartoon 

 

 

Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Language, Shakespeare

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.” (Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene 2)

Taking a page (see what I did there? ) from the earlier blog post this week on Shakespeare, and bringing you, the reader,  interesting information on how the characters die in Shakespearean plays, and their violent ends.

One does not have to look far to find the central theme of Death in Shakespeare’s plays. Stabbed, poisoned, stabbed and poisoned, snakebite, beheaded, lack of sleep (Lady Macbeth), a broken heart (Lady Montague), and smothered (Desdemona), are just a few of the ways the characters have died.  There are 74 deaths in Shakespearean plays.

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Causes of Death in Shakespeare plays chart via https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CVz6SWOVEAAlsQI.png

 

Poisoning

No, no, the drink, the drink, – O my dear Hamlet,-
The drink, the drink! I am poison’d.
Queen Gertrude, Hamlet
Act V, Scene II

Arms, take your last embrace. And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death.
(kisses JULIET, takes out the poison)
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide.
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy seasick, weary bark.
Here’s to my love! (drinks the poison) O true apothecary,
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

Romeo, Romeo and Juliet
Act V, Scene III

Stabbed

Yea, noise? Then I’ll be brief. O happy dagger,
This is thy sheath. There rust and let me die.
(stabs herself with ROMEO’s dagger and dies)
Juliet,
Romeo and Juliet
Act V, Scene III

Editor’s Note: this can also double in the category of Suicide

Suicide

Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have
Immortal longings in me.
Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra
Act V, Scene II

Editor’s Note: Cleopatra puts an asp to her breast and it bites her. She dies from its venom.

…his fiend-like queen,
Who, as ’tis thought, by self and violent hands
Took off her life;
Malcolm, Macbeth
Act V, Scene VIII

Editor’s Note: Malcolm is talking about Lady Macbeth. We find out in Act V, Scene V that she is dead. In the last lines of Macbeth does the reader infer that she committed suicide.

Baked in a Pie

I think Lavinia’s death in Titus Andronicus is probably the most gruesome for me. First, she is raped by Chiron and Demetrius, then her tongue is cut out and her hands are cut off so she can’t incriminate them. Once she uses a staff in her mouth to spell out their names, her father, Titus, cuts their throats, and uses their blood in the meat pie.  Titus then kills Lavinia.

Die, die, Lavinia, and thy shame with thee;
[Kills LAVINIA]
And, with thy shame, thy father’s sorrow die!

Editor’s Note: When Titus learns that Chiron and Demetrius have raped and dismembered his daughter, he not only kills them but bakes them into a pie that he feeds to their mother, Tamora.

Why, there they are both, baked in that pie;
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
‘Tis true, ’tis true; witness my knife’s sharp point.
Titus Andronicus, Titus Andronicus
Act V, Scene III

In Twelfth Night, The FOOL sings in  Act II, Scene IV:

Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid.
Fly away, fly away breath,
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O, prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet
On my black coffin let there be strown.
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown.
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover never find my grave,

To weep there!

 

In short form, Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Everybody Dies.

Plus, the best death ever, in my opinion is the stage direction from The Winter’s Tale. [Exit, pursued by a bear], from Act III, Scene 3. 

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Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Everybody Dies graphic, original concept by Cam Magee. Design ©Caitlin S Griffin 2012. Courtesy of Flavorwire.

 

Did You Know?

Detailing all of the Bard’s 74 scripted deaths, there will be a play in May 2016 called The Complete Deaths.  Performed by just four actors, it will open at the Northampton Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton, UK before heading to the Brighton Festival for its official premiere and touring the country.

For Further Reading

Anne R. Allen’s Poisoning People for Fun and Profit — Part 1: Digitalis

Amanda Mabillard’s  Violence in Shakespeare’s Plays.

No Sweat Shakespeare’s Violence in Macbeth.

Folger Shakespeare Library’s Famous Last Words From Shakespeare.

The Dead and the Dying make for Live! Theater

Posted in From The Editor's Desk, Language, Word Wednesday

Guinness World Records Words

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Guinness World Records 
Words

 

Note From the Editor’s Desk:

I enjoyed researching this so much that I decided to give you, the readers, a Word Wednesday Lagniappe.

 

Longest English word consisting of only vowels

Euouae — Medieval musical term which indicates the vowels of the syllables of “seculorum Amen,” which ends the “Gloria Patri.”

Longest English word with letters arranged in alphabetical order

Aegilops —  1) A genus of goatgrass;  2) Stye in inner corner of eye

Shortest word in the English language that contains all five vowels

Eunoia — “beautiful thinking” or denotes a normal mental state.

Longest English word consisting strictly of alternating consonants and vowels

Honorificabilitudinitatibus —“With honorableness” (a nonsense word from medieval literature).

Longest English word in which each letter occurs at least twice

Unprosperousness — The state or condition of being unprosperous.

Longest English word with only one vowel

Strengths — The quality or state of being strong, in particular.

Longest English word with letters arranged in reverse alphabetical order

Spoonfeed — Feed (someone) by using a spoon, or provide (someone) with so much help or information that they do not need to think for themselves.

Guinness World Records and image ©Guiness World Records
Posted in From The Editor's Desk, punctuation

Punctilious Punctuation: Single or Double Quotation Marks

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I wear many hats when I’m editing, including switching between American English (AmE) and British English (BrE), depending on what manuscript I am working on.  Did you know that there are different grammatical conventions depending on which side of the pond you are on?

British English prefers the term Inverted Commas when they talk about speech marks or quotation marks. Do you know when to use them, and whether to use single or double?

British English prefers single inverted commas, while American English prefers double.

Ronald B. McKerrow states, “Inverted commas were, until late in the seventeenth century, frequently used at the beginnings of lines to call attention to sententious remarks….They were not especially associated with quotations until the eighteenth century.”

The Oxford Dictionary ruling says,

“There’s no rule about which to use but you should stick to one or the other throughout a piece of writing. Single inverted commas are generally more common in British English while American English tends to prefer double ones.

If you find that you need to enclose quoted material within direct speech or another quotation, use the style you haven’t used already. So, if you’ve been using single inverted commas, put any further quoted material within double ones and vice versa.”

 

Rules of Quotation Marks / Inverted Commas:
American English vs. British English

American style uses double quotes (“) for initial quotations, then single quotes (‘) for quotations within the initial quotation.

“Economic systems,” according to Professor White, “are an inevitable byproduct of civilization, and are, as John Doe said, ‘with us whether we want them or not.’”

British style uses single quotes (‘) for initial quotations, then double quotes (“) for quotations within the initial quotation.

 ‘Economic systems’, according to Professor White, ‘are an inevitable byproduct of civilization, and are, as John Doe said, “with us whether we want them or not”’.

The above examples also show that the American style places commas and periods inside the quotation marks, even if they are not in the original material. British style (more sensibly) places unquoted periods and commas outside the quotation marks. For all other punctuation, the British and American styles are in agreement: unless the punctuation is part of the quoted material, it goes outside the quotation marks.

 

From The Punctuation Guide. This is one of my go-to references, when I am wearing many hats and working in British English.

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For Further Reading:

“British versus American style.” The Punctuation Guide. http://www.thepunctuationguide.com/british-versus-american-style.html

Fowler, H.W.  “Chapter IV: Punctuation. Quotation Marks.” The King’s English, 2nd edition. 1908. http://www.bartleby.com/116/406.html

Garber, Marjorie. “” ” (quotation Marks)”. Critical Inquiry 25.4 (1999): 653–679.

Heisel, Andrew. “Single Quotes or Double Quotes? It’s Really Quite Simple.” Slate Magazine. October 21, 2014.   http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2014/10/21/single_quotes_or_double_quotes_it_s_really_quite_simple.html

McKerrow, Ronald B. An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students. Oxford, 1927. page 316.
Man with many hats image courtesy of Maggie Summers