Books, Publishing, Slice of life

Midnight Musings and a Bookish Perspective

Tonight, I find my fascination turning once again to the collection of words that we call a book. This strange curation of an author’s imagination pressed in black ink upon the delicate souls of trees bound, tied together and pressed between two covers. What is it about this ordinary item that captures us, that captures me so?

At this point in my life, I’ve handled many books. I’ve rifled through 10-cent book sale bins in surplus, wandered among stacks in the basements of old bookstores, and admired crisp new hardcovers stacked high on warehouse shelves. They are common objects and yet, they are anything but ordinary.

Words on the printed page are intimate. They are chosen, crafted, built upon the geography of a page. They allow you to read someone’s thoughts in your own voice. And their poignancy deepens when met with the unique experience of each reader. For this reason, no story will ever be experienced the same way. A scene conceived in the mind of an author will take on a whole new aspect in the mind of the reader. Some book characters will be your friends, but others will most definitely be your enemies. (And not every reader will agree on who is friend or foe!)

It all depends upon your experiences, your personality, your perspective. This is not to say that the author’s vision isn’t to be considered, but we all have different lines of sight in this world. It’s important for us to consider those beyond our own, and then embrace the opportunities that new ideas present.

“In the end, we’ll all become stories.”
– Margaret Atwood

This is why the written word continues to fascinate me. Books are an eternal expression of life, and their impact resonates into our lives long after the last full stop. So I ask, dear reader… what do you bring to the bound pages of a book… and what will you take away?

Poetry, Publishing, Slice of life

Book Impressions: To Fletch from Hettie

Used books are more than collections of beat-up paperbacks and faded texts marching out from musty spines. Used books carry the weight of tearstained pages, notes scribbled in margins, the love of personal inscriptions, and the sunshine of yesterday on their faded covers. Who knows the journey a used book traversed before landing in your hand? This is the question that draws me into bookshops and libraries to search out books with their own unique histories, and I’ve found a few treasures along the way. Some of them contain mysteries that I’ve yet to figure out, but I love pouring over the clues within the pages. So, I give you the first installment of Book Impressions.

A worn book of Robert Browning's Poems.

Most of us are familiar with the English poet, Robert Browning. During the Victorian era, he wrote plays and poems with dramatic flair and married Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who was an accomplished poet in her own right. (Talk about a romance filled with poetry!) This particular book is titled, Robert Browning’s Poems and contains selections from his poetical works. It is small, almost smaller than the mass market paperbacks you see in airport gift stores. The cover, a dove grey with silver scrollwork around the edges, is faded beyond recognition, but still soft to the touch. The cover is stained, with camel-colored paint splattered across the front. Someone must have used the book to hold down a paint tarp during a home renovation project. You wonder if anybody got upset about the book damage. Maybe not. Any book collector would tell you this book isn’t worth anything, especially in its current condition. You slowly open the cover and the first two pages fall in your lap. The second one has writing on it. Three separate lines in different handwriting:

A couple of loose pages from a book, with inscriptions.

’96

F.H. Connor.

Fletch
              from

                            Hettie

Hettie’s inscription is gracefully written, simple. Fletch sounds like a nickname of sorts. Perhaps they were close. Now you get into the technical bits. You skipped over the publisher: Donohue, Henneberry & Co. located in Chicago. When was this book published? The author’s note, by the great R.B. himself, is dated May 14, 1872. But the inscription mentioned ’96, and the publisher’s history indicates a print date in the 1890s. The book is dedicated to another famous author, Alfred Tennyson. Makes sense, that these classic poets were pals. According to Browning’s dedication, Tennyson’s friendship was “noble and sincere.”

What follows is 368 pages of Browning’s poetic genius. But turn to page 112. As you read, “And yonder, at foot of the fronting ridge…” your eye catches a bit of blue at the end of the line. Resting where the page meets the cover, there is a tiny, pale blue flower, a little slip of stem peeking from underneath the preserved petals.

An open poetry book, with a small blue flower dried between the pages.

Is it a forget-me-not? It could be. We don’t know who picked the flower and nestled it safely within the pages of Browning’s poetry. Perhaps they wanted to remember line XIV from “By the Fireside.” It could have been a mindless reaction to preserve a pretty flower on a summer day. Or maybe the flower, like the book, was a gift of remembrance.

In this book, worn beyond repair by a poet lost to time, is a flower. So this book speaks about more than just poetry. It tells a story about the wear and tear of life, of painting projects, and wildflowers that grew over a hundred years ago, when Fletch got a book from Hettie.

A close up view of a page of poetry, with a dried blue flower on the page.

Publishing

A Foray into the World of Genre Fiction

I love fiction of all genres. Right now, I’m hauling a beat-up fantasy novel in my purse. I’ve read everything from Pride & Prejudice to Harry Potter, and I heartily agree with George R. R. Martin, who wrote in the introduction to Warriors, “Books should broaden us. . . expand our horizons and our way of looking at the world. Limiting your reading to a single genre defeats that. It limits us, makes us smaller.” Sure, it’s great to have a favorite genre. I naturally gravitate toward fantasy and historical fiction. But it’s also exciting to venture into undiscovered worlds of fiction.

To understand the breadth of genres, I researched and created an infographic detailing 5 main genres, and their associated sub-genres. Each word cloud contains elements of the main genre, and within each subgenre I’ve noted the various stylistic elements and publication examples. Of course, this is not a complete list. It could never be. Genres simply categorize publications, and provide basic plot ‘recipes’ to meet the expectations of readers. Many good stories are solidly planted within their genres, while others defy genre stereotypes. They all inspire the imagination. I hope this visual representation of genre styles serves as a beginner’s guide to the many genres of fiction. Happy reading!

Publishing, Slice of life

Turning the Tables: A Word Exploration

I recently completed a word-research project based upon the word table. The final product was a 1000-word argument that explored modern usage of this everyday word. Here is the abbreviated version.

. . . .

Table. The first thing that comes to mind upon hearing that word is a long, flat, wooden board, supported by four legs, standing in a dining room. It is loaded with memories of familial laughter, smells of good food, and the occasional spread of work-related papers across its surface. It is a mundane noun; the furniture that it describes exists in many forms, in many cultures, for many purposes. It is a common everyday object. And yet, it has become more.

We know words matter, but even the simplest of words can have a wide variety of meanings. 

The object this noun describes has become a gathering place. A place for discourse, learning, argument, and unity. It supports culture—that of culinary delights, entertaining games, artistic endeavors, and political debate—so much so that table has become a verb as well. We lay our thoughts on the table, and sweep them aside by tabling them. We turn the tables on our opponents and come to the table when we’re ready to participate in discussion again. Motions that are laid upon the table can also be negotiated at a metaphorical one. Even the shape of the table has historically represented social position. The legendary “knights of the round table” were each equally revered as authoritative figures, while the head of the table is still revered as a position of authority. All these meanings and nuances reside in the five letters that describe the four-legged object.

Oxford Dictionary defines table as, “A piece of furniture with a flat top and one or more legs, providing a level surface for eating, writing, or working at.” Besides this primary definition, I personally used table as a verb, meaning to delay an issue or discussion. Oxford dictionary attributes this definition to American English.

This would explain my confusion when I came across a BBC news article which used table in a completely different context. Earlier this month, the British Parliament “tabled a motion” of no confidence against UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Why would they delay a motion when they clearly meant to move forward with the vote of no confidence? This one word seemingly contradicted the point of the entire article, and dramatically hampered my understanding of it. After a quick Google search, I came across a helpful discussion post that explained the British-English definition of the word, which is to “Present formally for discussion or consideration at a meeting.”

Because words can have dramatic variations in different dialects, we must carefully consider words as they are spoken within their given contexts.

Which form of the word is correct? The answer is, both of them. It makes sense that the phrase, “tabled the issue” means to present an issue for review within British English, especially since Parliament uses table as a procedural term. “Tabling is the act of formally putting forward a question, a motion or an amendment in the Commons or the Lords.” Even Americans will occasionally refer to “laying it all on the table.” As tables have historically been a resting place for objects, it is equally understandable that the common American-English version of the word means, to postpone the review of an issue.

So what was the point of researching this common, everyday word? The usage of this table demonstrates even the simplest of words can have a wide variety of meanings across different dialects. Such word variances should not be taken for granted. It is important to maintain curiosity about language, and an awareness about the nuances of different word usages. It is a fact that one word, when heard out of context, can lead to confusion. Thus, the importance of context cannot be overstressed. To operate ethically within our world, we must carefully consider words as they are spoken within their given contexts, before jumping to misguided conclusions.

 

Publishing

An Editing Philosophy

I recently established my personal editing philosophy through free writing. What’s your writing/editing philosophy?

 

Editing is the art of shaping ideas. The art of the idea has already been produced by the author, but the editor must respectfully review the art, frame the ideas, polish the rough edges, and make the author’s voice shine.

As an editor, I am the invisible helper shining a light on the author’s story. Everyone’s voice is different. I don’t want to take over an author’s work. I want to explore the words created by unique imaginations and help them express the truth of their story without impeding. I have a deep appreciation of the written word and the plethora of ideas represented by many different authors. I revel in a well-formed sentence and equally relish the moments when the rules of grammar are cleverly broken.

I am passionate in my editorial aims for unique perfection within text. The rules of the written word are as detailed as they are evolving. My goal is to collaborate with talented authors to develop their manuscripts into polished works of art.