Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Outside My Window

Anyone who works from home is familiar with the perks: flexible hours, the ability to arrange one's office to one's own tastes, complete control over the soundtrack of one's working day (and no headphones!), and generally better comestibles than most publishing offices offer. Of course, all this freedom and flexibility do come at a the cost of, in my case, much less security, and an office that doubles as the cats' bathroom, but in an imperfect world, this strugging freelancer can rarely achieve perfection (though she strives for it in her work, at least).

This week, the home office has also brought me endless entertainment via my office window. My street is busier than one might expect it to be, given that it's a small, tree-lined street populated by houses, low-rise apartment buildings, a church, a stealth synogogue, and a park, but I don't generally look over bustling downtown scenes, or tableaux o mayhem and destruction. Generally, the odd car putters up the street, children play in the park, parents watch them and chat, older kids pass on their way to and from school, the odd jogger jogs by.

Friday, I awoke to screaming and yelling. Thinking it was a domestic argument among the downstairs neighbours (who sometimes have rather noisy altercations, though generally late on Saturday night rather than early Friday morning), I rolled over. Until it penetrated my consciousness that the individual outside my window had been shrieking the same phrase, over and over again, with the odd pause, for about 20 minutes.

At this point I figured it could be one of two things: a film or a crazy person.

So I dragged my naked butt out of bed and over to the casement window to peer down the street.

Then I found my glasses, which greatly facilitated the peering.

And lo, outside the side door to the church, I saw clustered a babe in a suede bikini and high-heeled furry boots; two individuals in black coats with gothy haircuts; and a fellow in green spandex tights, green and white striped tube socks, and a green cape of the "I found a rectangle of fabric and tied it around my neck" variety. I think he might also have had goggles and a swimming cap on. Of course, they were surrounded by a camera, a person with a mister-bottle full of water, a person with a boom, and other film-type personnel.

The suede-bikini'd babe brandished her spear at the goth-types, screaming "Get your hands off my spear!" then stabbed one of them. Then she did it again. And again. And .... well, you get the idea.

Since Friday, this apparently low-budget film has involved another superhero, in a costume without tube socks (maybe this is the real hero, and the other is only a LARPer?), a big, shiny robot, and two dudes in suits. They've filmed outside the church door at the front of the church in the park, and are now congregating in front of the door to the church hall. So far it's only techies and minions, but wondering which cut-rate characters are going to enact their dramas across the street is keeping me amused.

This never happened in-house.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Freelance Life, Again, and an Instructive Abomination

Alas, my time managing the editorial department at the Little Shop of Textbooks has come to an end, rather sooner than I should have preferred. When publishers want editors to do acquisitions, they should either have an established acquisitions procedure, or hire people who have done acquisitions before. At the very least, they should be prepared to tell the inexperienced editor how they'd like things to be done. Hiring a managing editor to manage your acquisitions process, when you don't have an acquisitions process, is not a recipe for a successful acqusitions programme.

And that is all I shall say about that here, at least for now.

So I'm freelancing again, and embarking on New Literary Adventures!

Among these is my latest assignment corrupting the innocent teaching at one of the local colleges' editing programmes. I'll be teaching Grammar for Editors and I'm really quite happy.

For my first class, I'm supposed to introduce the course, familiarize students with the college's policies, and then cover the topics: What is Grammar? Why is Grammar Important? and Review of Parts of Speech. The short version of this is "Why are you here?"

Rather than beginning with a paen to clarity, correctness, and grace in written language, I thought it might be both fun and instructive to start with a paragraph full of all the common errors that cause would-be grammarians to write in to publishers.

So I wrote an Abominable Paragraph. I'm going to ask students to circle every error of style, grammar, and usage, just to see which ones they notice.

Here it is. It's dreadful, I know. Anyone want to suggest any other common errors? Remember, I'm going for the kinds of errors that even fluent writers make, that editors need to know how to identify and correct.

Welcome to Grammar for Editors! The goal if this course is to enable you guys to function competently as editors. Hopefully you will find it an interesting and rewarding experience, due to both the fascinating nature of the material and your instructor’s charm and wit.

Hopefully, you will be able to come to all classes. If you cannot come to a class, due to illness or other commitments, please contact myself or a classmate to find out what you missed, and make sure that you obtain a copy of any handouts. There will be a large amount of handouts, and material from the handouts will be on the tests.

The handouts and the texts contain many exercises on grammar, usage, punctuation, and style. We will refer to them frequently, but I will only mark the tests. For the exercises which you will be asked to complete everyone will be responsible to check their own work and asking about anything that confuses you in class. If you share your questions with your classmates and I, together we can help sort things out.

I look forward very much to exploring the ins and outs of grammar with you.

My goal was to fit as many of the common errors, gremlins, and hobgoblins of grammar and usage as I could into a short paragraph, using only those errors that are generally acceptable in informal speech and writing. I'd like to get my students talking and thinking about how the etiquette of written prose is different from that of informal writing or speech.

What do you think?