Poetry Hangover

I had a beautiful few days at a poetry festival. My panel went swimmingly. I saw a lot of people I like, a few people I love, had some gorgeous conversations about poetry, and now I want to kill people. Not my spouse anyone in particular for breathing any reason. Just because I have no inner social reserves.

I wrote up a cheery thing for my real-life persona blog, but didn’t post it. I don’t want to dwell on the fact that I heard a thousand poets, and only one dud reading. I want to growl that Dud Reader had a book and I don’t. I want to figure out why everything is so hard to do and tolerate today.

I was a total fraud, as I haven’t been writing poetry at all. I’ve been wasting my life working very hard on The Fucker. I haven’t written a new poem in over six months. I revised a poem before I read it on Sunday morning and I was surprised I still could.

I want to think about how Famous Poet said that a lot of people give up half way through a poem and take the easy way out. She read a bunch of poems by other people that did not take the easy way out, and now I hate most contemporary literature. Fucking try harder, you hacks.

What’s your hangover?


In Which I Am That Person

I very rarely point out other people’s written errors when I’m not paid to do so. I like to call it my work–life balance. (Yes, that should be an en dash. No, WordPress has never heard of an en dash. Yes, these things keep me up nights.)

Those of you who know the real-life persona behind Indy Clause might be surprised that I can keep my opinions to myself. All I can say is that it is a struggle. Your support is greatly appreciated.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on Obscure Historical Figure in order to finish The Fucker. My favorite librarian is tired of hearing from me as my book requests get more and more arcane. My overdue fines have become a dedicated income stream for my local library.

In preparation for yet another interlibrary loan request, I looked up a book description online. I just happened to notice that there were no apostrophes in the entire catalog copy description, despite four or five places where apostrophes were clearly needed. This was a university press website.

I thought about it for a few seconds. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Readers, I did. I emailed someone on the copyediting staff and said very politely that I had noticed these errors and thought they might wish to know about them.

Five minutes later I got a very polite email back saying that the backlist books had gone through various databases that had probably stripped the original copy of its apostrophes. She then (very politely) bewailed the fact that they did not have enough staff to correct all of the errors, but that she would correct the copy for that book.

I neither asked for a job nor encouraged her to exploit unpaid interns. I considered my duty discharged. I think I wasn’t an asshole. And I guess that’s good enough for today.

The Life of a Modern ADD Copyeditor

I am having a pun war about pie with my cousin on social media while editing a paper on epiegenetics epigenetics.

As a copyeditor, one looks at language very closely. “Hi word, what are you? What are you doing in this sentence? Are you spelled right? Are you placed correctly?”

As a punster and royal pain in the ass, one looks at language very closely. “Hi word, what do you rhyme with? Are you similar to related words? How can I be funnier? Will anyone in the vicinity murder me in the next ten minutes?”

I’m disgustingly pleased with myself right about now.

How’s your work day?

Copyediting Work You Can’t Stand (Behind)

I can’t complain about most of my clients. I work on science papers, which many people (myself included) find boring, but I think the mission of the journals I work for is good. I’ve worked on craft books, and although I have  no interest in crafts or even find things particularly aesthetically pleasing, I am glad other people do. Creativity and science are both good.

Then there are the outliers. I helped someone with what was supposed to be a dissertation once. It was so bad that, on the advice of Dr. Cougar, I called the ombudsman of the university the student attended. I did not give her my name but explained that I felt I was being pushed to help something through that was profoundly not worthy. She helped me figure out that no actual dishonesty occurred. But it took a half-hour conversation to determine that.

The dissertation was not even senior-level work at the nonfancy undergraduate institute that houses my Second Job. The student did not understand the necessity to cite all his references and have references for all his citations. And to make it worse, there were some university politics involved.

I did what the student paid me to do. I formatted his references and left notes where I thought he should add more or less. I corrected many of his errors. I wrote one of the weirdest notes of my professional career (minus the BJ debacle) to a committee member he had encouraged me to talk to because he didn’t understand why no one would accept his dissertation.

I would like to explain how I worked with STUDENT on his thesis to illustrate my process of editing student work within academic honesty standards [THESE WORDS ARE A RED FLAG]. I pointed out places where he could add transitions, synthesize the quotes further, or reorganize for clarity. I could not write the transitions for him (as you sometimes can for other types of editing) or tell him how to reorganize. The onus of the work had to be on him. As STUDENT can attest, I asked him a ton of questions aimed at helping him think through word choice, phrases, organization, and analysis…. I did a final glance-over for formatting, but did not check to see whether all suggested changes were made.

I was lucky that my student’s committee member understood what I was saying and wrote me a nice note back. But this email was a CYA (cover your ass) way of saying exactly what part of my work I could stand behind and what part I would not stand behind. This was the same student where I had to write an email along the lines of, “I know you’re not asking me to do XX, because it is academically dishonest, but I can do YY and ZZ.”

Beginning copyeditors don’t always have the luxury to be picky about their clients. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, cover your ass, don’t do anything academically dishonest. There are a lot of rules that you can access online about what you can change and what you can’t in an academic situation. I found this resource from Editor’s Association of Canada the most helpful. Be entirely transparent about your process.

In nonacademic editing, you have a ton more leeway and can change a lot of things. You also can request to not have your name mentioned in the final document.

What was your worst editing client? What was the shadiest thing you’ve done at a job?

Africa is not a country

It turns out that it is Banned Word Week here at Fangs and Clause. I read a lot of mysteries. Some of them are amazing, but others of them are just this side of schlocktastic. But I’m beginning to understand why Paternal Clause never read fiction.

If I were more like Paternal Clause, I would have been bothered by the depiction of the hurricane bearing down on the location of my most recent mystery novel. And I was bothered, but I let it slide. But when the main character seeks help from an academic, who in various points of the book, is purported to be an anthropologist, have a degree in African American studies as well as a degree in African cultural studies, I get a little upset.

And it’s not even the dim knowledge of how academia works (that field is way too wide for one poor professor). Even that I can give a pass. It’s the idea that African cultural studies is one thing.

Africa is made up of 54 countries, its people speak a thousand languages from 15 language groups, and according to Wikipedia (I am not proud), there are also over a thousand ethnic groups on the continent. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the African diaspora that is even more relevant to the plot line.

I blame the author, but I also blame the copyeditor. The author is trying to make sure the killer is going to be caught in a reasonable matter and to juggle various points of plot, place, and character; but it’s the copyeditor who must question everything and save the freaking author from herself.

But I also blame our educational system. When I was in high school our world history class was a western civilization class. When I asked my teacher why, she said there wasn’t enough time to teach real world history, and most of the ancestry of her students were European. Which is funny, because I always thought my high school was half-white and half-black.

So, copyeditors and writers alike, beware of monolithic thinking. Africa is not a country, Southerners are not all racist (some of them are black and even *gasp* Asian), Westerners are not all cowboys. I could go on, but I’ve got paying work to do.

Another Word to Ban

I was reading a book about the North Pole by one of my (previously) favorite travel writers. Her tone is generally thoughtful, but also glib. And her topic was of great interest to me.

You know there’s a “but…” coming, right?

She’s writing about an explorer in Siberia. She says that the cold nights had him “snuggling up” to his “native boy.” She is trying to be funny, and she does lampoon the class pretensions of the explorers.

However, the “native boy” was most likely a man. He was probably a guide. He was likely not compensated properly or respected. But my main focus here is the word “boy.”

During Jim Crow times, African American men were called boys by white people. It was a way to make the African Americans seem somehow lesser than their white counterparts. It continued the perception that African Americans weren’t quite as smart or mature as white people, that they needed guidance.

Can you imagine calling a 50-year-old man a boy?

I thought not. Strike that one from the list too. And copyeditors: don’t assume “boy” means a young man. Double check every time.

Words to be banned: April 2016 edition

Curated. Not everything is a museum. Maybe a few pretty arrangements can have curated objects, but your anthology is not curated. It is edited. It is a beautiful word, but should be rare. Like in a museum.

Wearer of Multiple Hats. Bored now.

Exotic. I pick on this word on almost all of these lists. But what may be exotic to you might not be exotic to others. A mixed-race woman’s “exotic looks” is racist and lazy. Many east coast liberal elites find white Kansas farmers exotic. Be more specific.

What words do you hate today?