Welcome to another fun-filled glimpse into the fabulous life of the copyeditor. Today’s anecdote is brought to you by procrastination, Chicago, and a blatant disregard for deadlines.
I’m editing a book about calligraphy. And my Jewish New Years resolutions (do Jews do that? [Ed. Note: Indy Clause is a Bad Jew.]) is to always check the Chicago Manual of Style rather than pretending that I know what I’m talking about. So when I come across the phrase, “the letter j is the prettiest letter in the alphabet” [not the actual quote], I have to figure out what the hell to do.
Well, Chicago says that I should italicize that shit. “The letter j is the prettiest letter in the alphabet.” But in a rare moment of independent thinking, I disagreed. The actual sentence in question said something about the shape of the letter. And if I italicized the letter the shape would be different, which would be misleading for the reader.
The copyeditor’s mandate is not to confuse the reader anymore than necessary. So in the spirit of not confusing our dear reader, who will buy our books and thus keep me in business, I left the letters in roman.
Any burning copyeditorial questions? Leave them in the comments below.
Ed. Note: The author of this post apologizes for the breathtaking privilege it displays.
There I was in my Dr. Who pajama pants and (fortunately) a thick sweatshirt when I noticed there was a truck in my driveway that was not mine. Wha? My last remaining dog (RIP my best little man) barked her fool head off and then wagged at the electrician, hoping for head scratches. Which she received. (Turns out there had been a miscommunication about which day the electrician was coming. I blame The Spouse.)
Drilling ensued. Our copyeditor skeddaddled. Nobody should have to edit a book about creating faux floral arrangements from backyard weeds (not its real subject) while listening to someone drill holes into her walls.
The coffeeshop was great, but I got restless. The library was loud. I briefly parked in a scenic location and tried to work in my car. But I felt like a creeper and moved on. (I did watch a woman sell some tires to strangers, so I wasn’t the only person who used the scenic location’s generous parking lot for things other than seeing the scenery.)
What I really wanted was a couch, my couch, in a quiet house. But the couch is in storage until people finish drilling holes in the walls. I was on the verge of apologizing to the electrician for the complete chaos that was my house when he intercepted me. He said his brother was both living in and renovating his own house but with a toddler and an infant. Good lord.
So I like my new digs, but I’m tired of only half living in the house. I miss my little dog man. And it’s raining and snowing pretty much at the same time. Fortunately my locale is pretty even in the rain/snow. My office is somewhat assembled. And no one is drilling holes in my walls. Today.
How are you folks doing?
My new office looks out over my rural yard. When I hear a new noise outside I always try to identify its source. I’ve identified new birds (wood thrush), recognized familiar ones (you’re a loud thing, chickadee), and had a sighting of the neighbor’s terrier. (What new beast is—-never mind, classic fluffy dog, size medium-to-small.)
I found a walk through some fields that I can take with my dog without either of us being mistaken for deer by zealous hunters. I’ve also established a new rule of country living: Always check your towel for bugs/arachnids/other small horrors before taking a shower.
I am subject to more than one prime directive when I wake up in the morning, which is confusing. Paint, write, live in your new place. This sounds like I’m an artist living on air, but in fact the painting is of a more domestic kind. Gotta put a second coat of paint on the bedroom and then (because I live in a farmhouse) paint the damn floor.
I have to finish chapter 11, half-ass chapter 12, and revise in
13 12 days to send my MS to an actual editor. No problem, right? Right?? Maybe it’s write in the morning, paint in the afternoon. Live in between the two. It sounds idyllic, but it’s actually a pain in the ass. And my car needs an inspection. But it beats working in a cubicle farm or a chicken farm, which is what this old house used to be.
(Also happy coming out day! I came out so long ago that I was bi. Now I think pansexual is more the term of choice for me because it includes nonbinary folks. Although it’s all pretty theoretical as I’m all settled down with Mr. Spouse.)
How is your October?
Back in my bookselling days, there were two kinds of booksellers. Those who kept their collections alphabetical and those who would rather stick forks in their eyes than alphabetize on their off hours. It should surprise no one that I was in the latter camp.
The other night I had a restless night and did a lot of thinking. It’s important not to do serious thinking when you’re up in the middle of the night, but practical thinking sometimes is soothing. The next morning I told my spouse, “I have a confession to make.”
Spouse and I are melodramatic people. As such, he was pretty sure I wasn’t going to confess to sleeping with a mysterious stranger.
I couldn’t say it out loud. I had to whisper. “I think I’m going to have to alphabetize my poetry books.” There was a long silence, one that I babbled to fill.
“Not all my books! Just my poetry books!! I’m having a hard time finding books I know I have.”
The silence continued. Finally he said, “I won’t tell a soul.”
And that, my friends, is love.
It turns out that potato chips are not a good breakfast. I’ve been out of bread for weeks, and I packed half my cooking utensils by mistake. But it’s morning and I’m hungry. What to do?
Enter the baked egg dish.
Find a small oven-proof dish. Pour a little olive oil at the bottom for good measure. Never pack your olive oil before your actual move.
Line the bottom of the dish with the base. This could be a stale, but not moldy, heel of bread, an English muffin, a tortilla (shredded), fresh spinach or other hardy green.
Add your fixins. This could be bacon, leftover refried beans, a bit of grain, leftover or parboiled potatoes (note: parboiling potatoes requires actual work).
Crack one or two eggs into the dish.
Add cheese and salsa if you’re going the tortilla/leftover beans route like I did.
Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes or until the egg is not gross and runny.
Eat carefully from the dish and try not to burn your freelancing fingers. That shit’s hot.
Don’t ask me how I know that.
How do you keep yourself from the brink of starvation?
More often than not, I work from my couch. But periodically, for example, when I’m about to move, I start thinking about office design. My current office design, and the office/bedroom designs of my past, can be best described as “how can I pack the most books into this space?” When I lived with roommates, my bedroom was jokingly called the library.
But one of my favorite distractions is to read dumb design articles and think about how I could or could not function in the space. The chairs in fancy design magazine home offices all look hideously uncomfortable. The addition of cowhide (fake or real) does not help, and does not fit house style (and I don’t mean Chicago). That said, I would love more stained glass windows, a window seat, and possibly even a ladder.
Before I worked at home, and before I worked in publishing houses, I worked in bookstores. (Ed. note: Bookstores and Indy Clause have the same aesthetic: Fit in as many books as possible.) The joke was that there are two kinds of booksellers. Those who alphabetized their books and those who spent so much time humming the alphabet song under their breaths at work that they felt no compunction to do so at home.
We all made fun of people who arranged book by color. They were Not Real Book People. But today I found the worst in anti-book sociopathy. Scroll down until you see the photo where the designer wrapped each book in brown paper for consistency. Words cannot express my horror. I am clutching my pearls. It Cannot Be Borne.
What drives you to capital letters?