Black Lives Matter

There is a lot of hand wringing about what white people can do to help dismantle white supremacy.

The first is to acknowledge that it is there. Acknowledge that every single decision your average white person makes about where to live, go to school, entertain themselves, date, etc., is affected by race and yet we don’t even acknowledge it, because whiteness is perceived as the default “normal” in our society. (Read this.)(And this.)

I’m just one white copyeditor living in seclusion. Here are some things that your average  editor can do to dismantle white supremacy:

Donate some of your hard-earned money to people who are doing work on the ground.

If you’re the (now former) New York Times opinions editor, maybe you should read your fucking controversial opinion pieces before you publish them. And maybe you shouldn’t publish editorials based on race science either. [Total aside: As an Ashkenazi Jew I found the latter article almost as offensive as the former.]

If you’re not the (now former) New York Times opinions editor, you can still do work! If you’re a craft-book editor, perhaps you should not use “flesh colored” to mean pale peachy pink. (I wish I could tell you that I haven’t seen that TWICE in my copyediting career, but I’d be lying.)

You can question if your publication uses only images of white people.

You can question whether your publication is using middle-class as a default. You may not have the power to ultimately make these changes, but you absolutely have the power to make an author think and rethink her assumptions.

You can read your work from a perspective that is different than yours in terms of race, ethnicity, class, religion, disability (pick one!) and see if that changes things. One might be tempted to praise Bon Appetit for addressing racism with an article that says “How to check in with your black friends.” And yet it assumes that the reader of Bon Appetit is white. It does not say “What to cook to take care of yourself as people who look like you and people you love are killed by the police over $20.”

You can think about various problems with having a majority white publishing industry (i.e., racism). You can think about how white supremacy is not just tiki-torch-waving assholes marching down the University of Virginia Lawn. It’s not just Klan members. It’s the fact that default normal is seen as white. It’s the fact that I can waltz into my new publishing job looking the way someone expects a copyeditor to look (white) and a black colleague might be treated with surprise at best. It’s that a black woman and a white woman of similar educations and work experiences have radically different experiences moving through our world.

If you have power in your organization you can hire, promote, and amplify the voices of people of color. If you are a regular Joe Schmo, you can still amplify the voices of people of color.

You can do something. (Another place to start.) What are you going to do?


The Perks of Being Online

Could an era be coming to an end? I just finished the second online interview for a full-time job. Could I be leaving the freelance world? I hope so.

But don’t worry. I will still be editing at home with a pile of dogs. I’ll just have more steady work, benefits, and (I hope) less formless job anxiety.

Interviewing online is much better in person. You can wear your best-looking shirt as long as it isn’t obviously dirty. You can eat hummus for breakfast and not worry about garlic breath.

And I assure you. I will still be cranky.

Besides the obvious, what is new in your worlds?

Organizing for Contrarians

I’ve been following a lot of bullet journalists on the interwebz. I have very few art skills, but I have a love of stickers and pens and the driving need to copy my to-do list over and over until it gets done. Or partially done. Week before last I spent most of my days doing the previous day’s to-do list.

I also wrote a not-to-do list. That was surprisingly effective. And fun. I recommend it.

What do I write with? Many people talk about their love of fountain pens in the world of stationery. I too fell into the morass of fountain pen love, rehabilitating a fountain pen my beloved gave to me, and buying two cheap fountain pens.

Probably I am doing something wrong, but my fountain pens don’t just wake up in the morning and write when I want them to (except for the Pilot Plaisir). Maybe I hold them wrong, or I don’t use them enough and the ink dries out. No matter why this happens, I cannot abide it. Barriers to writing are very very bad when you are a lazy, procrastinating writer. So it’s back to Pilot off-black gel pens, thank you very much. And my love affair with the Pilot very precise something or other pen in black.

Now that I’ve rejected words of the year and embraced Not-To-Do Lists and failed at fountain pens, what shall the contrarian organizer kill off next?

Modern Country Living

The life of the freelancer is not glamorous. Now that I have a steady gig again, I keep cubicle hours. I get up, I have coffee, I sit down to edit. I eat lunch, I edit some more. Round about the time my eyeballs feel like they are going to fall out my head, I take my dog for a walk in the woods. My life is simple, which is fine.

I live at the edge of what around here is called a village. (Many people would not call it a village, but rather a few houses grouped together around a convergence of waterways and an old mill. I have human neighbors on one side, and a pasture on the other. Last year, the cows were in our neighboring pasture, and mostly ignored me, except for when they were hungry and they thought I might have food. Have you ever been stared down by a cow?

This year, the cows have been mostly across the street. But today, two of them were brought into the neighboring pasture. And because I’m always on the lookout for small diversions, I called my dog outside. My dog does not look like a country dog; people have funny ideas about what poodles are like. And she is a dog that is very conscious of her own dignity or lack thereof.

But she’s learning to be a good country dog. She sits placidly in the yard while we mow or garden. She mostly does not go in the street. It turns out that although she is originally from Louisiana she loves the snow. She is acclimating. And today she stared at the cows, and the cows stared at her. One cow had clearly been in this pasture before, and tried to eat crabapples from our tree. (Sorry, too late, cow. They’re all gone.)

And I watched this species interaction, this mutual calm staring, this small desire for apples. And I cracked up to myself, wondering what the cows thought of the dog and what the dog thought of the cow. This was my morning amusement. I may have fewer human interactions, but I am not entirely without some kind of society.

Job Titles I Considered for my Business Card

Saving Your Ass for $25/hour*

(*The Spouse came up with that one to describe my previous jobs.)

Writing Nudge

(This one requires a Yiddish pronunciation, “noodge.”)

Comma Slinger

Ask me about components of a doi!

(I can also explain ISBNs. It’s a two-fer!)

Defender of the Serial Comma

Will Write Poetry for Food.

Explaining the distinction between em and en dashes and then reassuring you that you don’t have to worry about them and I’ll take care of it since 2004.

Hello, Marketing

I started this blog as an anti-marketing and self-promotion blog. I wanted to cuss, make shit up, and tell stories about the perils of copyediting in a highly exaggerated, not-well-modulated manner. And I love my indulgent, grungy little blog thing and all you enablers who laugh at my jokes.

But work slowdowns happen, moves happen, independent bookstores looking for booksellers don’t return my calls, and I need more freelance work. So I’ve been reading about marketing and shit. Don’t worry, there will be no actual marketing here. However the real-life persona (hereafter, RLP) behind Indy Clause has a placeholder portfolio website for lack of a better phrase.

There a person can find a few pics of the elusive RLP, links to her actual published work, and a blog. A what? I know, I know. But it turns out I can write about some serious editorial topics without cussing. Not only can I talk about writing and editing without cussing, I can also write interesting content that is not directly self-promotional. Holy shit! I don’t hate myself even a little!*

*(This is a total lie. I still hate myself, but not about my non-Indy blog.)

I’m gonna shine that RLP blog up and add some content about writing coaching and start producing (I think) regular helpful blog posts about writing and editing. I’m going to have to buy a domain, as soon as I figure out what exactly that entails. But the minute I turn every single thing that has happened to me into a business lesson or resort to shitty stock photos at every turn (I fucking hate stock photos), I’m going to commit hari kari on my (should-be-coming-today Bali citrus Platinum Plaisir medium nib—I’m yelling at you Economical Penster in case you were wondering—) fountain pen. You have my word.

Marketing: bullshit or helpful? Discuss.


Classical vs. Classic

Hey folks, Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition is live. Holy shit! I just got it yesterday, and so have not fully explored all that is new and excited about our favorite orange (then blue, and now orange and blue) book.

I have grand plans of skimming the book cover to cover because I have forgotten many things over the years, and I’m afraid I also rely on old knowledge. However, today’s post is brought to you by a targeted strike.

I have always thought (snobbily) that “classical” should be reserved for music or Greeks. So when today’s author said, “blah blah blah classical tea-cozy weaving,” I said, not so fast. Then I remembered my resolution to be more in touch with my inner Chicago 17 and said, OK, OK, I’ll look it up.

Is the drama killing you yet? Is it a tragedy of epic proportions (also a mixed metaphor I am sure)? Have you gone on to other blogs because you don’t give a fuck about style and usage?

I thought not. It turns out you use classic to mean a seminal or authoritative work, and classical to mean something traditional in a field of art or literature.

For example, “Patricia Briggs’ novels are a classic example of urban fantasy, or what my spouse calls Vampire Lesbians in the Mist.” But “Let’s go back to the classical methods of forging iron rather than buying cheap molded iron from China.”

Any other questions?


A few weeks ago I met a man who said he could identify 18 generations to the village in the Middle Eastern country where he grew up. He now lives in the bucolic northeast, where I have recently moved. He has a masters degree, but works as a day laborer. I don’t know his story, but he moved our boxes, got all my jokes, and talked me through a recipe for stuffed grape leaves.

I don’t know for sure, but he is probably a Muslim, and I am something of a Jew. I am the kind of Jew who walked into my favorite bakery today and saw that they were selling challah loaves for Rosh Hashonah, and said to my friend, “Oh, I guess it’s Rosh Hashonah,” and then fell over laughing at my own ignorance. What else am I to do?

But let’s get back to place. I spent about 19 years in a southern state that felt very much like home, but I was constantly reminded that I was not “from here.” I was born and raised there, but my family was from the West and Midwest.

Not good enough.

When I lived in Northern City, I felt at home because I lived and worked and went to school there, and there were many transients. It was a good place to live. Lots of bookstores and writers. When I met DP (my spouse), I moved North of City, and I loved the landscape and some of the culture.

In one of my classes, I said something about cussing, and one of my students said, “You’re not from around here, are you?” No. I am not from North of City. I am from Charlottesville. And I use the word “cussing,” which I guess is Southern. And I am moving North of City to Bucolic State. I am not from Bucolic State, but its mountains remind me of the mountains from the place I was raised. The place I am from. If you look at “from” widely enough.

I am the child of academics. Academics move where the jobs are, and when I meet academics in my father’s field, I know the places they have lived. Jews are a transient people. I had a high school teacher say that she could tell where we were from by our last name. I have a very Jewish last name. I raised my hand and said, “What about [Clause]?” I knew what the answer would be.

“You are Jewish, you could be from anywhere.” And yet, I am trying to make a home in a new place. Again. I think there is worth in this. I am privileged to be able to move in a non-refugee status. I am lucky and I am mobile. I have no conclusion to this post. However, I’ve been reading and rereading nature writing, which talks about knowing the land, and a sense of place. One has to build that sense of place whether one is born to it or not.

Are you from where you live?


Don’t You Hate It When…

One of my work friends told me about the game, “Don’t you hate it when…,” that you take turns playing. This, not surprisingly, is my new favorite game.

Don’t you hate it when you click on an essay that, from the title and header, you think you’d be passionately interested in, only to find it was written by a poet who would rather hear herself put gorgeous images describing her relationship with a friend on the page rather than tell a story and explore the implication of queer women’s friendships as promised by aforementioned title and header?

Don’t you hate it when you anticipate that half your audience will roll their eyes and say, “Man, poets, what can you do?” when in fact you are a poet and you know you can do quite a bit better?

There are times when a person needs to write an essay and a time when a person needs to write a poem. An essay can use imagery and wander, but ultimately its purpose is to inform or take the reader on a journey they can follow. A poem can do all these things; it also should be about something. But the narrative, as a former poet colleague once like to say, can be a bit more buried. The journey can be a little more in the reader’s head than in the poet’s head. The two go on the same journey, but may end up in different places, and that’s okay.

What do you hate?


When I’m not delicately editing other people’s scientific articles, tearing apart my friends’ writing, or crying into my laptop as I try to write my own work, I help college kids with their writing projects. In fact, it has gotten to the point where if I hear someone say, “I’m not sure how to say/write this,” I go into full-on writing tutor mode and cannot rest until I help them come up with a viable solution. I practically have to restrain myself at coffee shops if I hear someone at the next table trying to write a paper.

Yesterday I heard a colleague tutor a woman about a creative writing project involving four alternating first-person points of view. Colleague carefully suggests that this is difficult to pull off and advises Student to differentiate the voices well. I could tell from the words Colleague used that the Student was not differentiating very well.

Colleague told the student about an acting trick where you walk across the stage in one character and then walk across the stage in the other direction as another character. (She said something about grid lines, but this poor former English major had no idea what that meant.) I recalled that during a Schlock-Novel–Writing Winter, I would walk the dog and try to see the world and comment on the world the way my character would. It seemed like good exercises to get into someone else’s head.

This past Thanksgiving week was a test of people and boundaries. My sister treats Spouse with the same lack of boundaries with which she treats me. There was a lack of empathy as some people were too busy defending their own interests to imagine what it was like to pull together a meal for 16. I had to corral my antisocial guests who were hiding to talk to the people they actually knew. I love my weird friends, but sometimes they are a pain in the ass. They couldn’t imagine what it was like to be in a different viewpoint.

And of course we are living in a time where empathy seems lacking entirely. Our new America is the same as our old America, except the masks have been ripped off. It seems like no one knows how to understand someone else’s voice, and people pride themselves on their intolerance. But it’s the writer’s job to put ourselves into each other’s heads and get the words on the page. So much of what I learned about empathy, I have learned from books. So keep writing, my friends. Write the hard stuff. That and call your state representative.

And as my dad used to say when I called home to complain about writing a college paper, “Get in there and fight.”