The Pastoral

One of the glorious things about being freelance is that you can work from anywhere that you can stand to edit. Today I write from my morning yard office under a crab apple tree. This lovely, if slightly buggy, workspace is shaded in the morning, and smells right now of overripe apples.

(My afternoon office is an arrangement of chairs across the yard that is appropriately shady at around beer o’clock. It has a view of my small neighborhood mountain. My morning office offers a more secluded view of crabapple branches, some weeds, and the compost bucket.)

My canine coworker has taken to chewing on the crab apples. Fortunately she does not appear to swallow them. Or she has an iron stomach. One or the other. It was my coworker who encouraged me to work outside this morning. She has a crush on the neighbor dog, and is hoping he will appear.

But if he doesn’t, she still will settle in the yard, first in the sun and then, panting, in the shade. She likes to smell the wind and keep an eye on the squirrels. And until the bugs drive me mad, I will too.


Late May Writing

I used to be a busier person. To be more precise, my work used to take up more time in my day. I commuted an hour by train for my bookstore shift. It was a fifteen minute walk to the train from my house, and I had an hour-long unpaid break that was necessary, but made my day longer.

Thanks to the joys of freelancing, my commute is lengthened only if I have to wait for my coffee to brew. I eat over my computer (sorry computer), and am generally one of those irritating freelancers that can be found weeding her garden at a 1 p.m. as a quick break. I apologize. I would hate me too.

Time off used to be jealously guarded. I would take my three days off (not usually a weekend, because I worked retail) and write or read until I couldn’t write or read any longer. My apartment was hot, and summer afternoons would find my roommate and me on our screen porch blissfully avoiding all other people, drinking beer in front of a fan, reading or writing in total silence.

This weekend I would like to make actual progress on my once and future career as a writing coach. What this means over the next 48 hours is that I want to write website copy in preparation to updating my grown-up blog. Also, someday, I hope to finish substantive edits to my nemesis, aka chapter 9.

What do you do on long weekends?

Eleven Things To Do During A Work Slowdown

Invoice past clients.

Paint the kitchen.

Look for more work.

Write that cover letter you have been meaning to write for weeks months.

Look at pretty pictures on Instagram.

Don’t buy anything unnecessary.*

*But I need those pens!! You don’t. I do!!! You don’t. How about that pretty pretty notebook?? Are you out of notebooks entirely? Er, no. Are you even out of pretty notebooks? Um, no. Then get the fuck off of the Internet. ok, ok.


Walk the dog.

Label all the spice jars because in the former house spice jars were on their side, but current setup has them upright in a drawer, and very few spices companies print the spice name on the cap, and you’re tired of hearing, “[last name redacted]! Where is the cumin??”

[Before you accuse my spouse of Stella’ing me, remember he is cooking me dinner.]

Read. (Toby’s Road by Pat Barker reminded me what novels could and should be. Howl’s Moving Castle is fun no matter how many times you read it. And Travels With Charley is wrapping up, which makes me sad. [library book, ancient purchase, and stolen from parents’ bookshelf years ago, respectively])

Don’t panic.

What do you do without spending money?

The Lost Copyeditorial Art of Letting Go

Copyeditors choose their jobs, in part, because they like to improve writing. We are evil repressed people who tear your darlings into a thousand little pieces because we want you to do better. We can tell you how to do better. We are not above begging you to do better. But sometimes our anguished pleas fall on deaf ears.

Someone in one of my copyediting groups posted about how she explained a very basic concept of craft in fiction to her client, and the client was not receptive at all. So she’s letting it go, or in her words, letting her standards slip in the interest of sanity. It was the right thing to do.

I have edited terrible work. I have edited work that I would not have wanted my name associated with. I once called the provost of a college to discuss whether editing one particularly terrible academic text was even within the bounds of academic honesty. It was, but I hated myself afterward. But I did get paid.

My editing is not my writing. I do not get paid a gazillion dollars for my services. I work hard on my projects (except every once in a while I phone in a paper edit, don’t tell my editorial overlords), and then I let it go.

And then sometimes I get an email from a friend whose (very good) work I edited that read, “You’re a damn genius and I love you.”


A few things

A few things have occurred that have redeemed this vast shithole of a country for at least an hour or two. (I love my country to pieces. It’s the people I hate.)

Drew fucking Magary finally published his Hater’s Guide to Williams-Sonoma. I no longer hate you, dude.

Pedophile, misogynist, and racist Roy Moore did not get elected to the senate despite the fact that white people overwhelmingly voted for him. They probably shop at Williams-Sonoma.

I work at home and my 40-lb dog has finally learned something my dearly departed, little white dog knew for years and has curled up behind my knees. Yes, editorial overlords, I will finish that paper today, because I cannot move from the couch. Perhaps ever again.

Please send bourbon.


How to set letters in text

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.

Not Working at Home

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?