Auto Draft

A funny thing happened on the way to my blog last Thursday. I got in a rotten foul mood and I went on a writer’s strike.

On second thought, that’s not so funny.

Thursday’s the day that I do my Friday post. It was raining heavily, and it was cold, as cold and rainy as it’s been since freaking January around here. So I made a cup of tea and I started loading up my pictures and dreading the moment when I’d have to start writing something down because I’ve been feeling like the world’s least appreciated writer lately (usual story: huge ego, no self-esteem) and there was a power surge and a loud clap of thunder and when the computer screen went blank I just said Oh, the hell with it

I got the last round of edits for the Damn France Bookmanuscript this week, the copy edit; the one that catches every single flaw of grammar, typography, logic, consistency, and style. This copy editor is very, very persnickety and, truth to tell, by the third page a little testyabout my quirky punctuation and use of italics. She caught a lot of embarrassing mistakes (for instance, I wrote the name of Victorian lady traveler Lillias Campbell Davidson as Isabel Davidson, for some reason) but I could live without her snide notes: Use a semi-colon here, OK? And, Spell as in Webster’s OK? (I hate Webster’s Dictionary. I’m an  old 1970s-era American Heritage girl myself.)

And, in the closing paragraph of her three-page cover letter describing my many many many writing sins, she writes: It’s too bad that the author didn’t think about typography the way a book designer does before she went so far with this project.

And: I can’t predict how the author will react to my suggestions. She must at least correct the errors: with matters of style, I conclude that this project will not be completely consistent.

First of all, the Damn France Book is a hand made book, just like When Wanderers Cease to Roam. The typography is unique, the design is all original, and the reading experience of the sum of its parts  is totally unlike what a reader would find in a typical book-type-book. Which means that  quirks and inconsistencies are part of the immediacy of my writing style (I’m very proud of having come up with this defense, by the way).

(But still. I must be one damn lousy writer after all.  Don’t I have the copy editor’s notes to prove it?)

And Second of all, I don’t even understand that last shot. Of course I must correct the errors (depending on whether or not I agree with the copy editor’s definition of “error”) . But everything after the colon is incomprehensible to me, as a sentence. Although, by the time I get to the period, I’m wonder who the hell made her the New York Review of Books.

And the  letter ends: But in the end, the clever text and charming illustrations make for a good book!

Bloomsbury has already paid me in full for the delivery of the manuscript (known as the advance), so whether or not the copy editor liked the Damn France Book is irrelevant, although it was nice of her to call it “clever’ and “charming”. Although I am not fooled. I know she’s just throwing me a bone.

So reading this letter, and getting a load of the thousands of “errors” in my manuscript, did not make me happy. I was not my usual perky, friendly, fun-loving, cute-as-a-button self. So that’s why there was no post on Friday. I was fed up with the whole writing biz, fed up with all the time and effort — years of sitting at my desk, growing old and cranky and disappointed — it takes to get stuff down on paper.  Only to be told that all those words and ideas and paragraphs and lovingly crafted chapters are a mockery of consistency. Or something like that.

But friends, we all know that the Universe is a loving, wonderful presence.

Because just as I was  about to give up on ever writing anything useful, beautiful, or merely informative ever again, which was last Thursday’s crisis (in case your mind has wandered about 500 words ago), I got another letter in the mail.

On Friday, I got a letter from an author whose books I adore, whose writing is sentence-by-sentence exquisite, whose work has been an inspiration to me. This is a writer I do not know personally, a writer whose cats I have never fed,  whose Xmas card I have never painted a house portrait or specially-commissioned Winter scene for, a writer who’s never asked me to use my connections to get her close to Neil deGrasse Tyson.  A writer who does not owe me a damn thing in the world.

And she read the exact same crap-fest of a manuscript  as the copy editor did (above) and she wrote me a hand-lettered note with very kind comments about my writing…and she wrote me a dream-come-true blurb for my Damn France Book. 





And I’m sorry, but I’m putting that beauteous blurb right on the front cover.

Note to new reader Dana: I know I told you that today’s post would be some tips on how to teach yourself to paint but I got side-tracked here. I’ll put that info up on Friday.

And the COUNTDOWN begins! 28 days until I’m in Seattle!

28 days from now on May 17 I’ll be at Wide World Books and Maps,  in Seattle doing my talk about Questing for Creativity. I’ll be giving away some of my art note cards at each of my Seattle and Portland events, and I’d love it if all youse North Western types would stop by to visit.

(And now that I’ve re-read this post, I think that copy editor is right. Nobody uses more bold print than I. It does get kind of annoying.)

May 17 in Seattle at Wide World Books and Maps,4411 Wallingford Ave., in Seattle.

May 18 in Seattle, at the Teacup, 2128 Queen Anne Ave. N,  for an early evening talk about creating a new American tea culture.

May 21 at the Langley Libraryon Whidbey Island, 104 2nd Street, for a morning workshop on how to make the most of your journal writing.

May 22, at Cannon Beach Book Co. , Cannon Beach OR from 12 – 2; and then to the Seaside Library (15 miles up the coast) from 3-4.

May 24, at Broadway Books, 1714 Northeast Broadway in Portland, OR at 7PM for a lovely evening get together — we’ll talk about creativity and travel and finding the true stuff you were meant to write.

18 comments to How Publishing Really Works, Part Four

  • Elizabeth

    l’m really looking forward to the publication of your new book!

    l love the fact that ‘Damn France’, will be in the same “handmade” style as ‘When Wanderers Cease to Roam’. This charming style of design, is initially what attracted me to the book. l enjoy reading all your hand-written notes and ideas. It’s simply a lovely style of presentation.

  • Sally

    Congratulations, Vivian, on landing a big fish blurb-er. I can’t wait to find out who it is, and if it turns out I’ve never read her books, her good taste will cause me to give her books a try.

    I just HAVE to mention that the photo of the lady with the pearls is the perfect illustration of the word “supercilious,” literally, “over the eyelid.”

    Your editor’s “OK’s” may be less snide than a convention to invite the author to argue her way out of the change. (Just trying to put a positive spin on this).

  • Deborah

    I did miss having a Friday entry to read (I kept checking: maybe now? now? or…now?), but I also found myself appreciating that you didn’t feel compelled to do an entry — because you have a life. I mean, having a life is what makes you an exquisite writer. I imagined said life another pie-eating trip, though, so I’m sorry to hear it wasn’t such a pleasurable life experience.

    I know it’s bordering on cliche, but I can’t help thinking of Whitman: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” (or something like that). I don’t think I’ve ever read a book and said, “Wow! That was one consistently punctuated story!” But I read your quirkily punctuated, italicized, bold-faced writing, and I think. It makes me think. And revel in beauty of your paintings and of life.

  • Thank goodness. Now I KNOW why Friday started off wrong. I didn’t get to read your blog all day. Like Deborah, I kept checking, so I knew something catastrophic went wrong, and hoped it wasn’t something happening to you or
    Top Cat or the furries in your house and yard.

    Worth waiting for. Thank you.

    But you do have a life. Sometimes you just have to bag it, and take a few days off. We’ll live.
    AND you’ll tell us all about it when you do come back on. We’ll wait, Vivian.

  • Jacquelyn

    If I were a kitty I would crawl up in your lap and lick your cheeks.

  • Carol

    Congratulations Vivian on receiving a grand review at such an opportune time!
    Proof that as we all spoke about in an earlier post,you can’t make all the people happy all the time. You did make the right person happy this time, great job!

  • Susie

    Congrats!!! for getting your Dream. Come. True. blurb, all of your readers/fans are sooo happy for you! Nyah Nyah to that unimaginative editor, her life must be hell. And I bet she doesn’t like cats, either….
    Now we can’t wait even more for The Damn France Book, to see your on-the-front-cover blurb.

    Glad to know you guys are safe, sound, OK after not reading about your life last week…..

    The topics you’ll cover on your West Coast travels, like getting the most from your journal writing, creativity and travel, makes me seriously think about taking my first ever plane trip from New York to see you at each and every spot you’ll visit! Or rent a car and start out tomorrow to be there in time…Or maybe you could do a book about all that?

  • JOAN

    Just who does this editor, this LaTeeDah person think she is? Her snide remarks are uncalled for. Her opinion is not called for…what did her comments change other than punctuation and/or spelling. Does she have a book ready for publication? Did she get an advance? I don’t think so. So screw her.

    The very reason I bought WWCTR was for the Quirkiness, for the hand written text, for the lovely little paintings. Do you hear that Editor Schmeditor????? Inconsistent? I don’t get that at all. I’m delighted this Damn France Book will be loaded with those things…precisely why I can’t wait to get my hands on the new book. I’m mad as hell that I can’t be in Seattle.

    I’m glad that Friday was a personal “bad hair day” and not something dire. That you even care to visit with us twice a week is an incredibly loyal, caring commitment. I don’t know that I’d be able to be as CONSISTENT with a blog as you are. So tell that witchy woman editor to put THAT in her pipe and smoke it.

  • Sandy

    YEAH on getting the Blurb of your Dreams. Yeah on your upcoming trip to Seattle. and YUCK on the coldest Satureday EVER on the shore of CT. You Long Islanders did not buffer much of that cold wind/rain for us ;-)

  • Tracey

    You have one passive-agressive editor. However, Seattle will make up for it.

    When I lived in Seattle, I used to go to this tea house at least once a week:
    It is a block away from Wild World Books. You should go and have a pot while you are there.

  • Deborah cracked me up with her, “I don’t think I’ve ever read a book and said, ‘Wow! That was one consistently punctuated story!’”

    So true.

    Vivian, don’t you DARE become consistent and correct. Into our overly spell-checked and copy-set worlds you’ve blown in – handmade, hand lettered with cats, tea, travel, delightfully snarky comments, astute observations, incredible insights, and gorgeous art. You are an original and you will continue to catch the eye of book lovers everywhere.

    Keep being you and those Dream Come True blurbs will keep coming. Of course, you should put the blurb on the cover – you EARNED it! Plus, as Sally said, that blurb may earn the author a few new readers from your people.

    Your NW fan base is looking forward to seeing you next month!

  • Wow. I wish I lived in the North West. I’d be there.
    I’ll wait to hear all about it when you get home.
    Wishing you a good trip and talks. Sell lots of WWCTR’s.
    Is Top Cat going?

  • Ann

    Catching up on some past posts, I’m still laughing over the ants mis-translation. Eons ago when I was a college student and felt a bit down, I’d go to the library (are you seeing a thorough-going geek here?) and thumb through the final pages of The New Yorker where, at the end of columns toward the back of each issue, they’d reprint errors made in all sorts of publications. I’d laugh until I cried.
    And I ordered the Highland sketch book (forget the exact title) through Amazon UK. Very satisfying.

  • Sandy

    YEAH on your dream come true of a blurb!!! Yeah on your upcoming trip to Seattle. and YUCK, it was the coldest EVER this Saturday on the shore of CT, You LI

  • Jeannie

    While I don’t agree with the editor, I do wish she would come and read proof for the Weekly Reader of a newspaper we have here. LOL! Your writing style is unique to you. If I wanted to read “proper” English, I would dig out the old Nathaniel Hawthorne or some other ancient book and fall asleep after 3 pages. You will be visiting two of my favorite places in the Northwest – the Cannon Beach Bookstore
    and Teacup in Seattle. Be sure to look at the wood carvings on the library across the street from the Cannon Beach store. It is a wonderful, large carving of books on a bookshelf. Have fun and I wish I could join you. And I am sticking my tongue out at the copy editor (childish, I know but it made me feel better) ;)

  • Nadine

    Maybe the copy editor has Asperger’s Syndrome and knows the ins and outs of punctuation but knows nothing about proper social comportment. Persnickety jobs are just what an Asperger’s would seek. I’m not being facetious. I think all the programmers I’ve ever worked with had borderline Asperger’s.

    I want to defend proper punctuation. Punctuation sends signals to the reader add another layer to the text’s message. The difference between “I saw my sister, Ann, yesterday” and “I saw my sister Ann yesterday” and I saw my Sister Ann yesterday” are distinct and useful when you know what the commas and capitalization imply. The difference between an N Dash and an M Dash matter to me, as does the proper use of a semi-colon or a colon. All that kind of stuff matters to me. Seeing erroneous punctuation makes my eyes hurt.

  • I have had to work with people like your copy-editor (unfortunately). While their skills have their uses (we don’t *really* want to have errors — as long as we agree with their definition of “error”!), it seems to me that those people have terrible “missing the forest for the trees” issues.

    They often get all wound up in minutia (inevitable, I suppose, given the fact that they want that sort of job), and miss the *point*……..

    As for the snottiness, you are the Author, and she is only the staff. Strongly suspecting jealousy issues……..

    I wonder if she wishes she could write, instead of only picking apart other people’s writing. In fact, I bet she does, and I bet she has, and I bet no one has any interest in publishing it, ergo………………..

    Were I to receive a communication like that, I think I would send a copy to her boss, just to make sure the publishing company is down with all that attitude. If I were that boss, I might tolerate it, *if* the person were absolutely tops at their job. And if I were tolerating it for that reason, I might warn my Authors and apologize in advance………..

  • So exciting about the blurb, I’m dying to find out who it is!!! As for the copy editor, what’s she got waiting to be published? NOTHING BABY!!! Rock it out sister…


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