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

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.