Seanan McGuire Versus A Copyeditor

A couple of months ago, Seanan McGuire live Tweeted the revision process on a new manuscript and ended up venting her spleen about the decisions her copyeditor was making. Someone originally shared this with the Editors of Earth group on Facebook, which is how I originally came across it (as opposed to in my own Twitter feed). I can only hope that WordPress won’t mangle the following Storify code:

 

I’ve actually been aware of McGuire for years, via her blog and also my friends’ taste in novels, so I know (vaguely) who she is and what she writes without actually having read a proper book by her. In other words, I had something like context for the above Tweets, as did some other members. Some of my fellow copyeditors on Facebook, however, did not instantly recognize the name. The mix of the two made the discussion interesting and I should have saved the link, as the combination of months’ worth of subsequent posts in a prolific group and Facebook’s less-than-stellar group search feature is making it hard for me to find the post again and refresh my memory.

As a whole, group members were more or less forgiving of the anonymous copyeditor in question, though there was a lively discussion about celebrity author responsibility, anonymity, and the specific changes McGuire vents her spleen about. (Merriam-Webster actually lists “chain saw” and not “chainsaw,” for example.) I’m surprised, then, that a Google search at this time doesn’t really yield any blog posts from any aforementioned group members; many of the people commenting on this Facebook post were noted copyediting rockstars (if the field has such a thing!) who blog prolifically on all things editorial. Maybe they just didn’t find it interesting? Who knows.

Sometimes bad copyedits happen. That’s just how it is. Sometimes what’s bad about a particular copyedit is subjective (differing tastes of the editor and the author and the audience), and sometimes there are objectively bad practices and/or changes (not tracking changes, introducing errors). And while some of the changes McGuire takes issue with sound like they were probably for the better (egregious abuse of synonyms for “said” is one of my pet peeves so even without context I’m pretty sure I stand with the anonymous copyeditor on this one), and I can imagine plenty of extenuating circumstances (original writing that wasn’t as awesome as McGuire would believe; idiosyncrasies of the house rules and given style sheet; etc.) for others, some of the changes she mentions on Twitter are almost definitely of the objectively bad variety—every professional I’ve spoken with has long since made peace with singular “they,” for example, so reading about that kind of change being made was genuinely surprising and also secondhand embarrassing.

Basically, some small exceptions aside, I’m willing to believe that this was not a great copyedit. Was it the worst copyedit ever? That I can’t know without access to the manuscript in question, so some mysteries will just have to remain unsolved. My point in this post is not to suggest that McGuire didn’t appreciate the genius of her copyeditor.

I think this episode touches on one of the flaws of the modern book/author/”content creator” market. Whatever your preferred form of social media, it seems to be almost mandatory for authors to double as personalities or entertainers. (There is a cynical part of me that wants to suggest this personality cult model of marketing is why so many big-name authors these days sell mind-bogglingly well despite underwhelming books, but those are thoughts for an entirely different post.) I think this model is bad news for a class of people who have felt drawn to what is a largely isolated, or at least selectively social, profession. Fame is hard to manage for anyone, but public attention and accolade is probably easier to navigate when public performances, and not relative isolation, are the meat and potatoes of your craft. In this respect, I think McGuire dropped the ball. The kind of thing you can get away with texting to a group of friends to let off steam is not the same kind of thing you should, especially as a celebrity, publicly broadcast; there should be a balance between wanting to engage with your fans on a personal and/or funny level and realizing how you come off.

(I admit to a predisposition to be biased in favor of the anonymous copyeditor, for fairly obvious reasons.)

I don’t think a single lousy copyedit deserves the “point and laugh” Twitter treatment. A lousy copyedit isn’t really deserving of any commentary at all, unless it points to larger socio-linguistic trends or cultural norms. I’d rather read a single thoughtful blog post on a wide-ranging and pervasive issue from a general perspective, maybe like the publishing industry’s reluctance to embrace singular “they,” than a scattershot of complaints ranging from valid to trifling quibbles about a specific person’s work in between reaction gifs and pictures of cats.

This is the kind of thing that reads as acceptable because McGuire is an established author of no small amount of acclaim. Now imagine a Twitter account with only a handful of followers and a janky, amateur banner promoting a self-published  book with equally janky and amateur cover art giving that same rant. If it didn’t just get lost in the thoughtstream void that is Twitter, it might help propel sales and establish the writer’s career. Might. It might also turn off any prospective copyediting clients the author would like to hire in the future, because who wants to work for someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate the training or nuance behind the work that you do?

This seems to be a one-off incident; I don’t think McGuire is famously egotistical about her own work or derisive of all of the people who work on a manuscript to bring it to book life. But it still chafes a bit. I guess this whole post was a lot of words to say: I didn’t think this thing was funny that a lot of other thought was funny.

Greek and Latin Prefixes: R and S

I don’t know why it’s been so long since my last prefix post! Things have been happening here. But let’s continue with our tour of classically derived morphemes!

There aren’t any Greek- or Latin-derived prefixes in English beginning with “Q,” so we’re skipping ahead a bit here (again) to “R” and “S.”

Reminder: prefixes are morphemes that you can attach to word stems. (You can browse that link for previous posts on classically derived word stems.) Generally speaking, prefix changes word meaning, not word function.

Here are previous entries in this series on prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example
re back, again repel, revise
se aside, apart secession
su(b) below, under, up from under submarine, suffer, suppose
super, sur on top of, over, above supersede, surreal

Friday 5: Bizarro Cliche

 

The Magic Word is “please,” but what’s the magic gesture?

Well, hm, I think we can just let this one go without comment . . .

“Big D” is Dallas, but where is Big G?

I guess as a Swede, I’m obligated to say Göteberg, but it seems a little odd to hype a city I haven’t visited (yet). I’m trying to think of places I’ve at least visited that begin with G, but I’m coming up blank.

Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll, but who’s the king of your personal music collection?

Here’s a question I can answer! I think Ben Folds is probably forever the king of my music library. Even when I don’t love every single one of his songs (I like the more pop-oriented ones than the ballad-y or story ones, because I am a basic bitch), the ones I do love are some of my favorites. He’s also a whip-smart lyricist, too, which I value in an artist.

The motherland is wherever you consider your family’s origins, but what’s the cousinland?

Any language-adjacent country or one with a similar history. Given the reputation for drinking and recent history of being oppressed by a neighboring island, for example, I think Korea and Ireland could be considered cousinlands.


CBS calls itself the Tiffany Network, but what would you call the Walmart Network?

I realize that calling itself “the Tiffany Network” is supposed to be a comment on their quality, but for me all I think about is Trump’s least-favorite child. (Poor Tiffany . . . )

But moving on to the actual question: CNN? It’s everywhere, it’s open 24 hours, it’s got the basics but nothing high-end or specialized.

Book Review: Bad Bye, Good Bye

I am long overdue for a review of this sweet little picture book! Here are my thoughts on Bad Bye, Good Bye.

Author: Deborah Underwood

Illustrator: Jonathan Bean

My GoodReads rating: 4 stars

Average Goodreads rating: 3.91 stars

Language scaling: A1+

Recommended audience: Children struggling with a move to a new home.

Cover of "Bad Bye, Good Bye" by Deborah underwood and Jonathan Bean
Image courtesy HMH Books For Young Readers

In-depth thoughts: The simple language Underwood uses makes Bad Bye, Good Bye an excellent choice for new learners and new readers, regardless of first language. The fact that Underwood s able to use such simple language to encapsulate all the stress of moving to a new home is a testament to her storytelling abilities. This would be a great addition to any classroom, as every teacher will encounter a “new kid” or two who still has anxieties and stress over their recent move (or a departing student who’s nervous about an upcoming relocation).

Underwood has a number of picture books under her belt in addition to Bad Bye, Good Bye. She’s also the author of The Quiet Book and its companion The Loud Book!, as well as the Here Comes Cat series, Part-Time Princess, and Interstellar Cinderella (perhaps better suited for slightly more advanced readers).

Bean’s art is also charming, with a blocky, collage-y feel that reminds me a lot of Eric Carle and Ezra Jack Keats. You can see more of Bean’s work on his website, which includes illustrations for the EmmyRunaway, and Mokie & Bik series. He is also both author and illustrator for This is My Home, This is My School, a picture book introduction to homeschooling.

Overall, I think Bad Bye, Good Bye is a great addition to any teacher’s library. Lots of kid lit ink has been spilled on the topic of moving, but sometimes the simplest story is the most effective one.

Anki Vocabulary Decks: “Do” and “Make” Phrasal Verbs

I’ve made it clear that I’m a big fan of Anki, but I’ll be the first to admit that the process of creating new decks can be tedious, especially if you’re a busy person. That’s why I’m here!

Here’s the first volume in my intermittent series of Anki decks for English phrasal verbs: “do” and “make.” Both decks include basic definitions as well as cloze exercises for each given meaning of a phrasal verb to provide an in-context usage example. My earlier decks include a pronunciation deck for initial “h” and a cloze practice deck for English participial adjectives.

All of the above decks are available to anyone who wants them. They are also all monolingual (English-only). Once you add them to your Anki library, feel free to edit or add to them as much as you like: add definitions in your native language, add pictures, add sound files, whatever! If you don’t know how to add shared decks to your personal Anki library, or how to edit cards, there are detailed instructions in a variety of languages here.

More decks are on the way, so keep an eye out! And if my humble decks were of any help to you, consider rating them? Thank you!

Friday 5: Shhhhh!

What’s something sneaky you’ve recently done?

I’m not really good at being sneaky. It’s hard to answer this one!

Who or what do you feel the need to tiptoe around?

Facebook and politics has become an interesting place since the election. And by “interesting place,” I mean, “barren wasteland bereft of hope or goodwill.”

What’s the dirty secret about the field in which you work?

When it comes to editing, the truth is that none of us know everything. There are loads of words that I have to look up every. single. time. I see them. Some of my more elegant solutions in a project have been crowdsourced from the copyediting hivemind. We all do it!

As for teaching, I’d say that a lot of times the teacher is just as nervous as the student. When it comes to language study with native speaker tutors, students assume that we’re sitting there judging you, or that it’s at least a low-stakes environment for us. False! Even with students I’ve had for years, I still get nervous anytime I’m debuting a new lesson or I have to tackle a tricky concept. You never know if the lesson plan or explanation you thought up in theory will work out in practicality.

What was the subject of your last whispered conversation?

I’m not much of a whisperer. When that happens, I’m usually just talking to myself. “Talking through a process,” I mean. Not “having a conversation.”

What’s recently snuck up on you?

It’s tax season, y’all! In two countries!

As always, questions taken from The Friday 5.

Tea, Cultures, and Guests

The thought occurred to me that tea is something like the common denominator in my tutoring life. Across a variety of cultures and economic backgrounds, I’ve been offered a lot of tea.

None of these observations should be taken as being inherently meaningful or indicative of any large-scale cultural norms. This is a pitifully small sample size. I just got to thinking about this as I added a splash of lemon juice to my morning Earl Grey the other day, and thought it would make for a nice peek into my daily life.

First of all, there’s the choice of coffee or tea. I still haven’t developed a taste for coffee (my mom told me it would happen while I was in college—not true), so tea it is. In that respect, I’m a poor Swede.

Most of the time, it’s black tea. I’m fine with this; I still have the palate of a small child, so green tea is far too bitter for me. Once in a great while (usually in families where there is a contraindiction against caffeine for health reasons), the tea of choice is rooibos. This is fine with me, too.

I made a note a while ago about DuoLingo and whether the exercises should be literal translations or localized ones, given the case of the “glass of tea” answer. I’ve noticed that I generally get tea in glasses (though, with handles) rather than cups from my Persian and Saudi students. In Turkey this seems to be connected to honesty—glasses allow the guest to see exactly strong the tea is—and maybe it’s the same reason with my Persian students. A moot point here, when the tea comes in bags and guests can decide for themselves how strong (or weak) they want their cuppa to be.

When it comes to the things you can add to your tea, the students I’ve had from Iran and Saudi Arabia also don’t seem to take as much sugar or milk as some of my other students. Sometimes they catch themselves and ask me if I want any, but usually not; it seems to be an afterthought. The one exception is nabaat, Persian sugar infused with mint or other herbs that looks exactly like rock candy I had as a kid. Again, fine with me: I find milk in tea to be kind of repulsive, and I can live without sweetener, though I enjoy the nabaat when it comes out.

Nabaat usually isn’t brightly colored, but you get the picture.

Tea from Russian students always comes with sugar cubes on the side, but lemon wedges instead of milk. I don’t usually take lemon in tea, unless I’m fighting a sore throat, but I’ve found that a splash of lemon juice is just the thing to freshen up an Earl Grey. It’s a habit I have now with my own tea consumption at home.

My Sri Lankan and Indian students ask more often about milk or sugar. Contrary to what one might expect based, they usually serve regular Earl Grey rather than chai.

With Indian, Sri Lankan, and Persian students, the offer of tea is usually coupled with a small sweet thing of some kind. Tea from my Hungarian student was always a digestif after a full-on lunch. (An accident of timing: our lessons were always right around lunch, as she was a homemaker, and lunch is the big meal in Hungary.) When timing meant there was no lunch, there was usually a small plate of home-made baked goods to go with the tea.

Beverage offers from German and French students are much more intermittent, and seem to depend on other factors: cold weather, whether the student wants some themselves, whether they were already in the middle of eating something themselves. With Swedish students it seems to be a factor of time of day: early morning lessons go along with a cup of tea or coffee, until about 10 AM. After that, it’s just down to business. Swedish friends, on the other hand, offer tea and coffee no matter what the time of day.

If the weather is warm, my European and Sri Lankan students switch to offering water (or, in some cases, homemade fruit smoothies!), but with other students it’s always tea, no matter how warm it is outside.

I would be remiss, of course, if I didn’t include myself in this. I have guests too, after all! I don’t think there is anything particular about how my sambo and I handle tea. We generally take care of boiling the water and, if a guest opts for tea instead of coffee, go digging in the tea cabinet on their behalf. But our kitchen is very self-serve otherwise; we let guests fill their own cups and add milk to their own taste. Not sugar, though. We don’t typically have cubes or other sweeteners on hand. My other Swedish friends seem similarly “help yourself” with their tea and coffee. I suspect this is the line between being a professional being paid to be in a house for whatever reason, and a friend invited over just for company’s and entertainment’s sake.

How do you take your tea? What do you usually offer guests in your home? How self-serve is your household?

Reflections on Stockholms Litteraturmässan, 2017

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you had a lovely weekend. I spent mine (at least, my Saturday) at Stockholms Litteraturmässan. Last year I went alone, but this time, I managed to bring a friend along with me. This worked out for me—she very thoughtfully dropped by the panel on translation trends that I couldn’t make and picked up their rather snazzy-looking handout, so even if I missed the discussion I still have all of their data on translated literature. Not as fun as the discussion itself, but better than nothing.

The first thing I did was to hit the book market itself. While Stockholms Litteraturmässan has featured a wide range of salient conversations and presentations two years in a row now, it’s also clear that those presentations are directly tied to the promotion of at least some of the available books. Not that I want to fault them for making money; quite the opposite, actually. I grew up on a steady diet of Borders (RIP), Barnes & Noble, The Strand, and countless independent, local used bookstores all across the US: often large and almost infinitely browseable. Even in the age of Amazon.com they were doing well, or at least hanging on. For whatever reasons (economic, social, historical, geographical), such stores don’t exist here, by and large. (The English Book Shop and SF BokHandeln are notable exceptions and they have my undying loyalty forever.) For two days a year, the Litteraturmässan manages to fill that vacuum. Both times I’ve attended I’ve found something niche and fascinating (or just hard to come by) that I have yet to find anywhere else, and for that alone the event is worth it.

What makes Stockholms Litteraturmässan stand out, though, are the accompanying promotional-ish panels. The organization seems to cultivate an outward focus towards question of cultural intersections, politics, immigration, and global interconnectedness, both in the publishers and sellers featured in the market and in the books and writers they choose to promote. On the eve of the French election in a post-Trump milieu, these kinds of questions suddenly felt extra urgent.

The two panels I attended were the interview with Marlene Streeruwitz and the interview with Irena Brežna. Unlike last year, both of the panels I attended were conducted in English. A logical choice for an Austrian and Swiss-Slovak writer (Streeruwitz and Brežna, respectively) presenting in Sweden, but I should note that I didn’t deliberately gravitate towards the English presentations. 😉 I failed to take notes, so some general impressions.

Streeruwitz and Ihmels presented Smärtans ängel within the context of their new publishing house and organization writersreadwriters, which is coming out with other work aside from Streeruwitz’s that sounds exciting and vital. Their books are definitely going on my watch list. I failed to pick up Smärtans ängel at the event, but it looks to be available from Stockholms bibliotek. Good news for me!

The Swiss embassy seems to be very involved with this event. Their cultural liaison, Benita Funke, presented Brežna this year and was also a moderator in a discussion on contemporary women’s migrant literature from last year’s Litteraturmässan. It would be great to see other embassies join this project as well. Brežna herself was a warm and charming presenter.

Both Den otacksamma främlingen and Smärtans ängel are available from Stockholms bibliotek, so I look forward to reading them. As of yet, it appears that they lack an English translation, but I hope someone will come out with one soon! My German is a bit too rusty to tackle Austrian or Swiss German myself, alas.

Stockholms Litteraturmässan, 2017

Like last year, I’ll be attending Stockholms Litteraturmässan this coming Saturday. As a guest, not as a panelist. (Not yet, anyway. #goals etc.!) Here are the discussions I’m most interested in:

Litteraturutbyte i praktiken – Ett panelsamtal om aktuella översättningstrender på den svenska litteraturmarknaden

Literature exchange in practice – a panel discussion on current translation trends in the Swedish literature market

A discussion about the spate of translations in the Swedish literature market, according to publishing statistics from the Royal Library. The panel will take up questions on translations’ meaning for the exchange of ideas across national borders.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend this one. Scheduling conflicts mean that I won’t be able to arrive until 12:30 or so. A shame, because this one sounds really interesting!

 

Feministikon och succéförfattare

Feminist icon and successful writer

Writer Marlene Streeruwitz, whose current Swedish release is Smärtans ängel (original German: Die Schmerzmacherin), speaks with culture journalist Yvonne Ihmels. Marlene Streeruwitz’s cosmopolitan characters are at home in the world’s metropolises and deliver Streeruwitz’s clear-eyed analysis of violence around the world, whether it’s terrorism or Big Brother.

Truth be told, I hadn’t heard of Streeruwitz until now, but it sounds like I need to add Smärtans ängel to my TBR list.

 

Författarfränder i världen

Writer allies in the world

A conversation about inspirations and trailblazers, and about the need for translated literature.

Basically, if it’s a conversation about translation, I want to be there.

 

Flyktingskapet och sedan – integration till varje pris?

Refugeeship and then – integration at any cost?

The writer Irena Brežna talks with Benita Funke, cultural liaison at the Swiss embassy, about her book Den otacksamma främlingen (original German: Die undankbare Fremde).

Brežna sounds like a really accomplished and well-traveled woman. Here’s her biography from GoodReads:

[B]orn in 1950 in Bratislava. In 1968, she emigrated to Switzerland with her parents. Since graduating from the Faculty of Arts at Basel University . . . in 1975, she has worked as a teacher of Russian, a translator and interpreter of Slavonic languages and for 10 years as a psychologist at psychology research institutes in Munich and Basel. . .

She continues to be actively involved in a variety of areas on a voluntary basis. For 12 years during the 1970s and 1980s she campaigned for the release of Soviet political prisoners in her role as a coordinator for the Swiss chapter of Amnesty international. She has helped those who opposed the regimes in Central and Eastern Europe (inter alia the Moscow Centre for Prison Reform) and she assisted in establishing the first Slovak feminist magazine Aspekt in Bratislava. Her other work includes fundraising for Chechen women’s projects, and collecting works of world literature for a library in Mamou, Guinea in West Africa, as well as text books for local schools.

During The First Chechen war (1994-96) and during a short period of independence there (1996-98), she visited the destroyed country several times and since then has reported in more than 80 texts on the atrocities committed in the conflict and about the freedom fight of Chechen female human rights activists.

I’d certainly like to have a beer or two with her!

You can see the rest of the program at Kulturhuset’s website. Events are actually starting literally right now, but the bulk of activities will be happening tomorrow, from 11 AM to 5 PM. In addition to the panels and discussions there will be, as you can see in the above photo, a bustling book market as well. If you see me there, feel free to say hello! I don’t bite. 😉

May Day 2017

Springtime is a riot of “red days” here in Sweden. I’m sure it’s some kind of mass psycho-cultural way to cope with the long, dark winter and springs that take a long time to get started. I have yet to attend one of the Valborg bonfires, or a socialist protest, but I hope those of you had a fun (and safe!) time out.