SD/PEN Member Profile: Camille Cloutier

Each month, SD/PEN selects one of its members at random to profile his or her background and experience. This month we are featuring Camille Cloutier, a copyeditor and proofreader and a longtime SD/PEN member.

Camile CloutierHow do you describe what you do to someone whom you’ve just met at a networking function?

I tell them that I work independently as a copyeditor, and as a proofreader at times. When queried about the kinds of subject matter, I respond that I have worked on a variety of books (both fiction and nonfiction), which include biographies, coffee table books, art books, social studies texts, cook books, business reports, training manuals, brochures, advertising, and other print materials.

What made you decide to become a professional editor?

In Vancouver, I first worked as a typesetter/paste-up artist. As a typesetter, I was always correcting the text whenever I found errors. I left that job after five years and started working for a city magazine as a typesetter/proofreader, and after two years, moved to a publishing company that published social studies textbooks, K-grade 6. I joined the Freelance Editors Association of Canada (FEAC) and started taking the editing courses that were offered. I eventually bought a computer and started my own business called Word Processing Plus. I moved with my husband to Toronto and worked independently as a copyeditor/proofreader for three years. From there we moved to Paris, Windsor, and then to Carlsbad. I took the copyediting program at UCSD and have continued working independently in this milieu.

What accomplishment are you most proud of professionally?

I am proud of the variety of books on which I have worked, and that for each of them, I worked hard to do the best job I possibly could.

What do you enjoy most about being a member of SD/PEN?

I enjoy our meetings; they are always interesting and pertinent. It is a good opportunity to network and meet other like-minded people.

Which quality or qualities would you most like your clients or professional colleagues to remember you for?

That I am a perfectionist and like to follow rules when it comes to copyediting.

Tell us about a book you recently read that you would recommend.

I read Martin Amis’s The Zone of Interest, concerning the Holocaust, and found it fascinating.

Where would you like to go on your next vacation and why?

I would like to return to Paris (and am thinking of doing so during the late summer). I lived there for several years during the nineties and try to return whenever possible for a visit.

What is your favorite or least favorite word and why?

I seem to use the word “tedious” frequently, according to my special fellow.

Describe one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.

I do not kill insects if I find them in my flat but catch them in a jar and place them outside.

Three Things I’ve Learned Since Publishing ‘The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages’

Guest blog by David Wogahn*

David Wogahn_250squareAs some of you know, I had an opportunity to take over publishing of The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (BRYP) last year and recently published the ninth edition. I thought I’d share with you my top three takeaways since then—key learnings I’ve now incorporated into my own self-publishing business. I hope you find something here you can use in yours.

1. Make a habit of writing book reviews

You didn’t see that coming, did you? It may seem self-serving or obvious, but hear me out. Downsides: it takes time, and it also puts one on the spot, publicly. Yes, you must take a stand. But consider these four upsides:

  • We hear all the time that we should blog and “get out there” on social media. It’s a way to build our platform. Writing reviews accomplishes this.
  • A review can be posted in multiple places. The one thing most of us lack is time, so creating something once and using it in multiple places is a good time investment. Blog a longer review, post a version or the whole thing on Amazon and Goodreads (or similar), and post excerpts on social media. And don’t forget to email a copy to the author of the book you reviewed. Perhaps your review will be linked to or shared on social media.
  • It’s a great way to network. One December Saturday, four years ago, the then current publisher of The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages left me a voice mail. She said she read my book review and addressed all my criticisms for the next edition. Long story short, she invited me to write the BRYP foreword the following year ... and look where we are today.
  • You are the media. You’d be surprised how many bloggers in BRYP don’t have much website traffic, or large social media followings, but are still inundated with books to review. Authors are desperate for people to review their book. In fact, I was shocked, frankly, when the Boston Globe contacted me five years ago to review their multimedia ebook.

2. Get reviews before promoting

When launching a self-published book—and this is especially true for first-book authors—focus on getting reviews before promoting your new baby to the broader public. Certainly, before spending money to buy ads. I sometimes compare the experience of evaluating a book with no reviews to walking into an empty restaurant. I now believe that book launches for authors with no or very small platforms should be limited to our personal networks until we build up our book’s reviews.

Read my guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog where I go into detail about why and how to do this.

3. Quality is underrated

BookReviewerYellowPagesMany of you are editors, and it is unthinkable for you to consider publishing a poorly edited book. It’s also important that this attention to quality extends to other production steps, such as the cover, design, layout, the functionality of ebooks, and metadata.

There is a popular book out now about writing where the author openly questions the value of a final edit. He found skipping this didn’t seem to hurt sales, plus he saved money and got the book published faster. He says worst case, pick a new pen name and give it another go.

Part of me sees the logic, but I still find it difficult to swallow. You need to ask yourself, or your client, What is your goal? I imagine most of us believe quality is critical. I can tell you that quality is important to the 250 reviewers in BRYP. In fact, each year there are popular bloggers who get fed up with investing their time to read poorly edited self-published books and drop out of the directory. Overall quality is also a key consideration for paid reviewers.

Reviewers look for a reason to say no. There are just too many books for them to choose from. Side story: this year’s directory was expertly edited by SD/PEN’s own Katie Barry. However, I asked her not to edit the “From the reviewer” bios submitted by the 200 book bloggers, many in slapdash fashion. And guess what? Here is what one reviewer wrote: “There were some editing issues ...” (I plan to copyedit the bios in the next edition or drop them altogether.)

Works for you?

The good news is that our little corner of the publishing world seems to be coming into its own. As opportunities expand, we need to be prepared.

  • Writing reviews brings us into contact with other authors and brings awareness to us as professionals.
  • We can’t do it all. So, taking time to lay a foundation (reviews) before rushing pell-mell to “sell a million copies” is good for the book, and our wallet.
  • As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” We are known by the quality of the work we produce.

Whatever your publishing pursuits may be, I wish you luck in 2018!

David Wogahn is the publisher of The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages, published annually since 2009, and the president of AuthorImprints.com. He is also the author of Register Your Book and a Lynda.com publishing course, and a past instructor for the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Publishing University. You can connect with David at DavidWogahn.com.


* We’ve invited recent SD/PEN program presenter David Wogahn of AuthorImprints.com to share some insights from his wealth of publishing experience.

Tips for Joining a Professional Organization

By Katie Barry

Networking Event 2016_convo group1Being a member of a professional or industry organization lends credibility to your reputation and can offer access to training, mentorship, and networking. But there are numerous reasons that an individual may wish to join one organization rather than another—no matter the group’s community reputation. A great way to get started is by getting references from colleagues in your field of expertise. You can find out which groups they belong to and why, and which organizations they are most keen to renew each year.

In no particular order, the following are some important points to consider when selecting the appropriate organization(s) to join:

  • Jobs. Do they offer a jobs board? Are the listings organization-specific or culled from other sources to make searching easier?
  • Cost. How much does membership cost? Is it a calendar-year membership program or 12 months from whenever you renew? What is included? Are there levels of membership? If you’re a student, do you get a discount?
  • Mentor. Some organizations offer mentorship programs. If you’re new (or newish) to the industry, this can be a great opportunity to receive guidance as you build and expand your skills and/or business.
  • Training/educational events. Does the group offer meetings with guest speakers? Do they offer workshops or webinars? What about an annual conference? What is the difference in fees for members versus nonmembers?
  • Discussion groups/social media accessibility/networking. Does the group have a place to ask your colleagues questions online? Are there in-person activities for networking? Is the group active on social media? Follow their accounts before joining to get a feel for their “personalities.”
  • Directory listing. Some organizations offer member directory listings as part of their membership packages; some require an extra fee. Are the listings online and/or in print? Are they publicly available/searchable? Is the directory designed to attract potential clients and enable you to highlight your skills and specialties?
  • Local, national, or international. What’s the primary reach of the organization? Are you seeking work/professional development in your local geographic area, beyond or both?
  • Longevity and organization structure. How long has the organization been around? Is it an established nonprofit with name recognition or is it a startup business enterprise?

These are just some of the points you may wish to track when deciding how best to spend your membership dollars.

What other points have you used as differentiators? What groups do you belong to and why? Share your comments below!

Full disclosure: I have been a member of SD/PEN for about five years and am on my second stint as a board member. I am also a member of the Editorial Freelancer’s Association (EFA), San Diego Writers/Editors Guild (SDW/EG), and American Medical Writers Association (AMWA).

6 Tips for Attending a Writer’s Conference as a Freelance Editor

By Shana Baldassari

LJWC_classroom_cropIn October, I attended the La Jolla Writer’s Conference (LJWC) for two reasons: as an aspiring author hoping to learn more about the craft and, more importantly, as an editor hoping to learn more about my client base and the industry. It was my first writer’s conference, and I was excited to experience what it was all about.

I originally had heard about the LJWC at SD/PEN’s September program meeting, where Jared Kuritz, director of the LJWC, discussed the different publishing options available. I was so impressed by Jared’s ability to clarify such a complex topic—all in 90 minutes—that when he mentioned he did a more in-depth presentation on this topic and others at the LJWC, my interest was piqued.

When I think of conferences, my mind is filled with images of huge convention halls packed with thousands of people (an overwhelming thought for most introverts), but this was not the case for the LJWC. In fact, it was quite the opposite—the LJWC was an interactive and intimate three-day conference dedicated to teaching writers about the art, craft, and business of writing.

Registration to the event granted me access to

  • Lecture classes
  • Workshops—read and critiques
  • Cocktail receptions and keynote addresses
  • Signed books and merchandise

As a first-timer, I wanted to attend as many lecture courses as I could rather than the workshops (I didn’t have a manuscript in hand for the read and critiques). The topics ranged from genre-specific lectures (thriller, comedy, sci-fi/fantasy, memoir, etc.) to big-picture discussions on writing skills/tips (the publishing process, the author-agent relationship, how to market yourself, etc.).

Like the conference itself, the classes were designed to be intimate and interactive, which I found to be a great environment to facilitate learning. All the presenters were published authors, or had a strong footing in the publishing industry, and encouraged questions from the class to drive the conversation. I walked away from each class feeling inspired and more knowledgeable.

The majority of the conference attendees were writers, but there were a handful of agents, publishers, and editors as well. Even though I was attending each of the classes with an editor’s (rather than a writer’s) mindset, I found the conference to be a fun and rewarding experience.

For those considering attending a writer’s conference as an editor, here are some tips to get the most out of the experience.

  1. Market yourself to potential clients (writers). This sounds obvious, but where else can you meet a handful of potential clients? They may be at various stages in their book development, but at some point, all authors will need their manuscript edited. Making an effort to introduce yourself and offer your services is a great way to market yourself. (Don’t forget to bring business cards!)
  1. Learn as much as you can during the lectures. You might attend a lecture on how to create a website, how to choose the right publishing option, or how to write strong plots. Even though these lectures are geared toward writers, it is a great idea to know what they know—and then some. This will help make you a more capable editor.
  1. Listen to what writers are struggling with the most. The LJWC did a great job at opening up the lectures to be more of a Q/A discussion. This gave me numerous opportunities to hear the writers’ questions or concerns. Pay attention to what is brought up and the answers that are given—you may find that your client has asked or will ask you a similar question.
  1. Allow yourself to get energized by the excitement. There’s nothing more infectious than a bunch of people excited about the same thing. Feed off the energy of everyone working toward the same goal—to publish a book. When you’re around other people who are passionate about publishing, you may find yourself inspired to be a better editor.
  1. Take classes on different genres. Just because you have never edited a screenplay or memoir doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Explore the different genres being taught and see if anything piques your interest. You may find you want to expand your editing expertise to include other genres.
  1. Write off the conference on your income tax as a business expense. If you’re a professional editor, you can get a tax break for attending editing-related conferences, so don’t forget to keep your receipts.

A writer’s conference is not cheap, so it’s important to get the most out of what you paid for. The next time you are considering attending one, remember these tips. You may find that you walk away from it a more skilled and inspired editor.

SD/PEN Member Profile: Adrienne Moch

Each month, SD/PEN selects one of its members at random to profile his or her background and experience. This month we are featuring Adrienne Moch, a long-time business writer and editor of Adrienne Moch Writing & Editing.

wwMoch_2015001iv_smHow do you describe what you do to someone whom you’ve just met at a networking function?

I provide writing and editing support to companies to help them ensure their copy isn’t just competent, but compelling.

What accomplishment are you most proud of professionally?

I’m proud that I’ve been able to support myself—and even put some money into savings!—by being a freelance writer/editor for the past 13 years. It was scary for me to become an entrepreneur, but I’m so glad I took that leap.

Which quality or qualities would you most like your clients or professional colleagues to remember you for?

First and foremost, I’d like to be remembered for my writing and editing skill, which I’ve used to help hundreds of clients over the years. Second and just as important, I’d like to be remembered as a professional who can be counted on to hit any deadline and will go the extra mile to delight a client. Third and also important, I’d like to be remembered as someone who’s an excellent referral—because I’m well aware of how important it is to make the referring party look good.

What is the number one item on your bucket list and why?

I don’t have a bucket list, but if I had one, I wouldn’t have dreamt of putting “see a World Series game at Wrigley Field” on it—given my beloved Cubs’ record of futility. However, I did get to attend game 3 versus Cleveland last season in Chicago with my teenage nephew. Although it was a 1-0 loss, it was a magical night—and less than a week later one of my fondest wishes came true!

Describe your ideal weekend.

My ideal weekend would involve not having to work—a rarity. It would be great to sleep late—which hasn’t happened since I adopted a dog—go out for a big breakfast, and then find a relaxing spot for reading with a water view. Finally, when I got home, someone would have cleaned my condo and done all the laundry. You did say ideal.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer! I’m one of the lucky few who knew early on what career I wanted—and I feel blessed that I’m able to earn a living doing what I love. I enjoy the creativity of writing and the opportunity to transform even poor copy into something great as an editor.

SD/PEN Member Profile: Larry Edwards

Each month, SD/PEN selects one of its members at random to profile his or her background and experience. This month we are featuring Larry Edwards, a Pulitzer Prize–nominated writer, long-time editor, and book publisher.

Larry_Edwards_2424_2How do you describe what you do to someone whom you’ve just met at a networking function?

I offer editing services that include manuscript read and critique, copyediting, content editing, developmental editing, and book proposals, as well as print book and ebook publishing consultation. I also have my own publishing imprint, Wigeon Publishing.

What accomplishment are you most proud of professionally?

Peer recognition: I have won many awards over the years as a writer and an editor. As an editor, one of the authors I worked with (as development, content, and copy editor) won the prestigious 2015 Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Gold Award. Also, as an editor, multiple authors I have worked with have taken top honors at the annual San Diego Book Awards. In addition, as an author I have taken top honors at the San Diego Book Awards three times, for both nonfiction and fiction, and I have been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. As an investigation journalist, I won Best of Show awards from the San Diego Press Club for four occasions.

Which quality or qualities would you most like your clients or professional colleagues to remember you for?

I'm easy to work with, the quality of my work is professional, and I meet my deadlines.

Tell us about a book you recently read that you would recommend.

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosely has a depth and literary quality lacking in most books of the mystery genre, yet the pace never slows below a fast trot and quickly returns to its former gallop. I pretty much read it in one day (Christmas—best present I’ve given myself in a long time). It mesmerized me to the degree that I read it again the next day—to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and to savor Mosley’s fine writing and storytelling that much longer.

What is the number one item on your bucket list and why?

I would like to visit the Grand Canyon. I have only seen it from 33,000 feet (and on the "Nature Channel").

Describe a volunteer activity or cause you are involved in.

I am involved with Survivors of Violent Loss; that is, those who have lost a loved one to murder and endure the complicated grief and bereavement that accompany such a loss while having to traverse the labyrinthine criminal justice system.

What is your favorite or least favorite word and why?

Currently my least favorite word is a phrase: "reach out." The term has become a cliché and too often used (especially by broadcast media) inappropriately or repeatedly, to the point of rendering it meaningless.

On Writing: The Primrose Path to Prologue

By Larry Edwards

This article originally appeared in The Kinder Muse Newsletter, September 2017, and is posted here with the author's permission.

 

The Prologue Question: To P or not to P?

hamlet.jpgShould one choose to tread the primrose path to prologue, ’tis a dalliance I wish not to rede.*

As a judge for the San Diego Book Awards, I recently read about a dozen novels, some as published books, some as unpublished manuscripts. Most of them had prologues—and in every case of a book with a prologue I lowered the author’s score.

The problem?

These so-called prologues either were not prologues, or they were unnecessary, or they could (should) have been chapter 1, or they contained background information that could (should) have been disclosed later, in a context within the story that would have been more meaningful to the reader.

In one case, chapter 1 opened with: Three years earlier. Huh? How can the prologue be a prologue if it occurs three years after the beginning of the story? Open with Three years later maybe, but even then that’s risky. What if the reader didn’t bother with reading the prologue, as is often the case (especially if the book happens to be Russo’s Empire Falls). The reader wonders: Three years later than what?

My comments on the score sheets include:

  • Prologue pointless—not a true prologue.
  • Why have a “prologue” (it’s not) if you repeat it word-for-word in the story on page 4?
  • The prologue is unnecessary; the story would be better were it to begin with chapter 3.
  • The suspense would have been greater without the prologue, letting the readers learn the background of the sanatorium along with the characters.
  • What you have written is not a prologue. It is an excerpt from the story, well into the plot. Also, it sends the wrong signal to the reader, as if [John Doe] is the central character, but he is not.
  • Reconsider the so-called prologue. Technically speaking, this is not a prologue. Walter Mosley would call this an “Afterward” (yes, spelled correctly)—think Ptolemy Grey. Your “prologue” languishes in needless description. Reduce it to a few poignant words, as noted. Maybe it doesn’t need to be called anything.

Wearing My Editor Hat

editor_larry_edwards.jpgAs an editor, I periodically see prologues, but at that point I can intervene and the prologues can be rewritten or, more appropriately, deleted, before the book is published.

In one case, the prologue merely pulled material from chapter 81. Again, huh? How is that a prologue? That’s a marketing tool to entice the reader with a particularly dramatic scene, but it more appropriately belongs on the back cover or the flap of the dust jacket, not in a prologue.

Another author had material labeled prologue, but it waddled and quacked like chapter 1. All that author needed to do was change the heading. Problem solved.

So what? What difference does it make whether it’s called “prologue” or “chapter 1”?

For starters,

READERS, by and large, DON’T READ PROLOGUES.

They start with—here’s a concept—chapter 1.

Not Mandatory

It occurs to me that newbie writers believe that a prologue is mandatory, but they can’t figure out what to put in it. How about nothing?

Yet, why would they believe this? I wondered: Is there no guidance available to writers with regard to prologues? Turns out, there is plenty of information and advice, in print and online—some of it better than others. So, I will mention a few of these and include links to what I consider to be the more authoritative ones.

Even so, I find much of that guidance limited, and in a number of cases the adviser often draws on her or his own writing, which at times is not the most exemplary representation.

A Prologue By Any Other Name

A prologue, by definition, means “before” or “preceding” the “words.” It details events that occurred before the story begins, ofttimes decades, centuries, or even millennia earlier.

romeo_juliet.jpgGreek playwrights incorporated looooong prologues in their theatrical works, setting the stage, as it were, for the drama to follow. William Shakespeare followed suit, but he trimmed his prologues to a few minutes, and today’s directors may cut them, or eliminate them entirely. The prologue to Romeo and Juliet, for example (should I dare criticize the master?), not only explains what the cautionary tale is about (an “ancient grudge” and “star-cross’d lovers”) IT GIVES AWAY THE ENDING.

Some writers include a prologue in books within a series to provide background information regarding the preceding book or books. That orients the reader and may serve a useful purpose. But, even then, are they wasting paper and ink? Are they wasting the reader’s time?

pride_and_prejudice.jpgJane Austen didn’t need no stinkin’ prologues—although William Dean Howells saw fit to pen a 19-page introduction to the tome in a 1918 reprint of Pride and Prejudice (maybe he saw it as an antidote to insomnia).

Others assert that a prologue can establish the mood of the story. Yawn. A well-written story will establish the mood.

tale_two_citiesThe prologue in Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities has been ballyhooed as a shining example. In case you don’t recall the opening line, it goes like this:

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

It then meanders on for a dozen or so more lines of similar nonsense. Setting aside the “wuzzies” of passive voice: It was telling. It was not showing. It was soooooo 19th century. (Maybe Chuck never bothered reading Jane.)

At least it’s short, and a few lit students might actually read beyond the first line. By comparison, the prologue in Richard Russo’s Empire Falls drones on for thirteen and a half pages of soporific pablum. Not only that, it’s in italics, making it even more challenging to read. Sheesh. Enough already. No wonder prologues get a bad rap.

As the saying goes, “Kill your darlings.”

Anyone Doing It Well?

rollins_devil_colonyJames Rollins, author of a series of historical novels, has been singled out as having effective prologues. In The Devil Colony, for example, he has a three-and-a-half page prologue (although he does not label it as such) that depicts a scene from “Autumn 1779, Kentucky Territory.” Chapter 1 begins with “Present Day,” more than 200 years later.

turlow_presumed_innocentScott Turlow, in the legal thriller Presumed Innocent, incorporates a one-and-a-half page “Opening Statement,” which serves as a prologue. But he does not use the device in all of his books.

 wambaugh_floatersJoseph Wambaugh, in Floaters, has a three-page prologue comprising a scene that lays the foundation for the story to come, similar to what Rollins does. But, like Turlow, he does not use this device in all of his books.

mosley_ptolemy_grayAs noted earlier, Walter Mosley, in The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, turns the prologue concept on its head, beginning the book with what he calls the “Afterward” (not “Afterword,” which comes at the end of a book). It’s a letter written by the central character after the story ends. Risky? Yes, but Mosley is a brilliant enough writer to pull it off. The letter raises a number of questions, which are answered by the words that follow.

Include a prologue only if there is a story reason for it.

Why Not?

elmore_ten_rulesElmore Leonard, an author I respect more than most, famously offered up his 10 Rules of Writing. Rule #2 is:

Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying. . . . A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about.

Brian A. Klems, the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine, responded to a writer who asked: When should a prologue be used?

A prologue is used when material that you want to include in the opening is out of time sequence with the rest of the story. . . . It’s used only to explain key information that doesn’t follow the time flow of the rest of your book. So if your “prologue” doesn’t fit this criterion, either cut it or change it to chapter 1.

The folks at Scribendi say:

Prologues can be boring. Also, people admit to regularly skipping the prologue. . . . However, the main reason for not writing a prologue is that, in most cases, it simply isn’t necessary.

Lital Talmor says:

Unnecessary prologues are a dangerous lot: at best they are ignored, at worst they turn the reader off.

If there is no story reason for a prologue, leave it out.

If You Do, Make It Meaningful

Soooo . . . if, after serious mulling and thoughtful consideration, you conclude that your book needs a prologue, then make it meaningful to the reader so you’re not wasting his or her time with needless self-indulgence.

What does a meaningful prologue look like? I cite the Rollins and Turlow examples, and there are others. Are they necessary? Can those stories stand alone, without the prologue? You’ll have to judge that for yourself. However, note that neither Rollins nor Turlow actually labeled those sections as prologues.

And keep it short. Please.


Links

__________

* rede, verb: to give counsel to : advise—as in Ophelia’s “primrose path” speech in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

 

Memoir Editing Job of a Lifetime . . . My Dad’s, That Is

by Diane Rush

 

Diane, about one month old, and DadI have the best editing assignment ever: I’m helping my dad write his memoir. You might think this job could be fraught with various issues, and you’d be right. Suggesting changes to a family member’s creative work can be a delicate endeavor. But obviously, both my dad and I have the same goal in mind, and with a lot of hard work and a bit of humor, we’re progressing just fine.

My dad begins his description of himself with “an old” and follows that with a noun that tells what his Parkinson’s and eighty-five-plus years are dishing out for the day. I explain, “No, Dad, you’re not in your older years, you’re in your wise years.” What a good time for a person to write his or her memoir. He’s easygoing and didn’t mind when I bought a copy of Memoir Writing for Dummies for us to read and told him not to take the title personally. My dad is a great writer and has always tried to stay up on the latest in the computer world.

My first lesson learned was that teaching Track Changes to someone who hasn’t used it before requires more training than I had given. I came to that conclusion when he somehow turned off Track Changes and made all the changes he wanted. Of course, I couldn’t see any of his revisions that way. He used that parental voice that says, “You can do anything you set your mind to” when he told me simply, “You can fix this.” I gained a new appreciation for the Compare function.

What worked best was for me to keep the full manuscript on my computer and for him to start a new blank Word document every day and type just that day’s work into it (he wrote about five hundred to a thousand words each day). Then he emailed me the work he did for the day, and I copied and pasted it into the master manuscript. Via speakerphone, I read the new work back to him out loud. We went over glaring issues together, and then I did the copyediting on my own. Following that same process every day for the past seven months, we came to the last line of the story and ended up with just under seventy thousand words.

High-tech as he is, my dad has a low-tech concept of what he thinks readers will do when they get to a word they don’t know. In my case, I had to wonder while working on his draft how a cog train works and what eosinophils are and who Lyle Hess is. I suggested he provide a brief explanation for words or phrases that might be unknown to the reader. He asked me, “Don’t people just look up words they don’t know?”

“They might if they’re on an e-reader,” I told him. With a little bit of convincing that it isn’t as common anymore for readers to look up new words in a dictionary, he started adding short explanations of troublesome terms.

Some of the best parts of working with him were reading my dad’s wisdom coming through in his stories, hearing his folksy expressions, and laughing at his antics, saying to him, “Dad, you didn’t really do that, did you?” Yes, he did, and to be a respected memoirist, he wrote only what was true. For the parts that taxed his memory, he asked other family members or explained in the text that the details as recounted might not be exact, but the message is correct, or we simply left that part out. We also added a note to readers at the beginning of the book saying that his memories are to the best of his recollection.

A part of the process that was therapeutic for me was the retelling of a part of my life that I missed out on: the family’s yearlong sail through the Bahamas. In my, then, 18 years of wisdom, I told my parents, “Nope, I’m going to stay home and work.” It didn’t take too long to realize that I regretted that decision. Writing that part of the story together was almost as if I got to take the trip after all, and it was one of the most satisfying parts of working on the book.

One of the more difficult aspects of reading a parent’s life story is discovering parts of his or her life you haven’t heard before, the things you didn’t know were happening because you weren’t born yet or were too young. The flip side is that all the pieces finally come together to provide the full story.

We decided that when there were accounts that could be hurtful to the person mentioned, we would change the name of that person. We did that for a few people. We also added a line in the disclaimer at the beginning that said some of the identities had been changed to protect privacy. I believe it made it easier for my dad to write the difficult parts when made-up names were used, as if he were telling someone else’s story.

It was a bit rough for me when he was outlining the last chapter of the book: I didn’t want to hear that there would be a last chapter. I wanted to slow down the process, but he wanted to speed it up. He said he didn’t want to die before the book was finished. I joked that he better not do that, because if he did, I’d have to make up things to finish off the book.

Once we had the full manuscript completed, I gave him an expanded lesson in Track Changes. At that point, I knew he needed to go back through the manuscript on his own, at his own pace, and make the changes he wanted. As he said toward the end of that process, “Well, the good thing about all this writing and rewriting is I’m really figuring out this Word 16 stuff.” And indeed he did.

After more rounds than most copy editors would provide a “regular” client, we had a finished story. Off it went to the cover designer and formatter, and now we wait for the proofs to be ready.

Toward the end of our last proofreading round, before sending the manuscript off, my dad asked me whether we needed to make any more revisions. No, Dad, I thought. Don’t worry about revisions. You’ve led a great life . . . no revisions necessary.

 

SD/PEN Member Profile: Preston Hathaway

Each month, SD/PEN selects one of its members at random to profile his or her background and experience. This month we are featuring Preston Hathaway, a technical editor, storyteller, and poet.

How do you describe what you do to someone whom you’ve just met at a networking function?

I translate what engineers say about their work and products into language the target audience can understand. I bring understanding and clarity to complex, highly technical situations.

What made you decide to become a professional editor?

I found myself writing and editing a great deal during the first two or three jobs I had after I retired from the US Navy. I enjoyed it and made it a career.

Which quality or qualities would you most like your clients or professional colleagues to remember you for?

My ability to listen, joy in the work I perform, teaching, and enthusiasm for learning about new work-related topics.

Tell us about a book you recently read that you would recommend.

American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White Jr. This biography reads like a thriller and reveals the life of an American leader. As a general, the secretary of war, and eventually president, Ulysses S. Grant ensured the Union won the Civil War and slavery was abolished. He worked long and hard to uphold the civil rights amendment and protect black soldiers, their families, and former slaves from being harassed and killed by former members of the Confederacy who did not want the civil rights amendment enforced. His life story is one of continual learning, adjusting to new circumstances, and overcoming major loss—several times over.

Where would you like to go on your next vacation and why?

Our next vacation is planned. We will visit Devils Tower in Wyoming and Mount Rushmore, and then get on historic Route 66 in Carthage, Missouri, and follow it back to California. My wife and I like road trips. Route 66 is a highway that contributed greatly to migration and communication, changing various parts of the United States. We look forward to getting off the interstates and seeing new parts of the country.

Our next vacation after that: Israel and Palestine. We want to join a pilgrimage that visits historic Christian sites and places them into historical, cultural, and geographical contexts. I am writing historical fiction that takes place during the time of Christ, so this pilgrimage would contribute to story backgrounds.

 

SD/PEN Member Profile: Mika Ono

Each month, SD/PEN selects one of its members at random to profile his or her background and experience. This month we are featuring Mika Ono, editorial director at the University of Redlands.

Mika_Ono_headshotHow do you describe what you do to someone whom you’ve just met at a networking function?

I’m a terrible networker, so I’d probably say, “I put out the alumni magazine for the University of Redlands.” I’m actually involved in many projects in addition to the magazine, including executive communications, web content, brochures, and social media. In the time I’ve been at the University of Redlands, I’ve found it to be a real gem—offering a genuinely warm community and commitment to personalized, student-centered education.

What made you decide to become a professional editor?

I love working with words. Text is like a puzzle that can be taken apart and put together again in just the right way to make a piece strong and meaningful.

What accomplishment are you most proud of professionally?

I try to be most proud of whatever project I’m working on at the moment—currently, the next issue of the University of Redlands alumni magazine, which explores how technology is reshaping so many areas of our lives, including politics, education, mapping, pop culture, and music.

I’ve also found my book projects particularly rewarding. I co-authored San Diego Book Award-winner Ancient Wisdom Modern Kitchen: Recipes from the East for Health, Healing, and Long Life (Da Capo Press) and worked on memoirs with some remarkable individuals, including a former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist minister who spent his career serving communities throughout California.

Tell us about a book you recently read that you would recommend.

I recently finished The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (Cornerstone Publishers), which chronicles a conversation over five days between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I not only appreciated the two men’s insights on the human condition, but also the way their conversation illustrated commonalities between Christianity and Buddhism.

Another book I enjoyed was Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta (Simon and Schuster) by Richard Grant. This delightful chronicle tells of the writer’s experience moving from New York City to the Mississippi Delta, describing the culture, challenges, and people of this part of the South with fresh eyes.

Describe one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.

I’m a morning person with a vengeance. My most productive hours are between 5:00 and 9:00 a.m.

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