concept to publication

Month: July 2009

Publishers Weekly for sale

pw cover

Here’s your chance to prove your commitment to print. Purchase (the increasingly pointless) Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, or School Library Journal, all of which are on the block. Pay no mind to the fact that the information these magazines contain is now largely available on the internet.

Details at

“In a related announcement, Tad Smith, CEO of RBI US, has resigned.”

First library building

Readers of this blog are probably tired of this topic, but I have been spending a lot of time on this project, so it occupies my attention. I’ll try to restrain myself in the future, I promise (sure I will). This is the first building nearly complete, though still wanting siding. The second building is now almost as far along, though as yet without books since I haven’t installed doors.


A role for the copy editor

Some authors rail against copy editors, and, sadly, the editors sometimes bring the enmity upon themselves. The latest author with a copy editor horror story is George Lakoff, who reports that his classic Metaphors We Live By would have been called Metaphors By Which We Live if his University of Chicago Press copy editor had his way.

According to Language Log

Lakoff wrote a 23-page single-spaced blast against this man’s recommendations, showing in detail and with clear arguments the nature of the hole up which the editor’s head was. And then unusually it turned out to be all happy endings: the linguists won, the editor resigned from the project, the editing changes were not made, the title was kept, and the book was a huge hit.

Is a happy ending from editing so unusual? Is there then no useful role for the copy editor? Of course there is. These folks can and often are quite helpful — even to nonprescriptive linguists — but they need to bring the proper attitude to the job. (It shouldn’t be necessary to say this.) Rather than seeing their role as grammar dominatrices they need to recognize that their assignment is to help authors realize their goals according to the strategies implicit in their works.

Years ago one of my favorite free-lance editors was an aspiring actress. Working with her I realized that copy editors are not unlike actors. Both are trying to immerse themselves in and in effect embody an author’s words. Copy editors need to be flexible, let go of their own voice, and adapt to the author’s individual style. Each edit should be a collaboration between the author and the editor, a unique work of art.

Some editors, though, can’t let go in that way — they stick to their guns come hell or high water. But don’t damn the whole profession because of them.


image via


Friday roundup

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil


Topicality in literary writing, and its implications for web search optimization

Many years ago, as a graduate student in comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a focus in part on the linguistic model in literary criticism, I turned my attention to beyond-the-sentence topicality. Scholars have parsed the sentence since ancient time, but they have paid less attention to the way sentences connect to each other.

One of the applications of this line of research is for machine translation. How does the translation engine determine, for example, whether the word lead in a text refers to the heavy metal or to the concept of leadership?


“You must be here for the rebranding project.”


(Submit your own here.)



moonlight illuninates
pillow shoulder sheet
monkey mind racing

Friday roundup

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

Duly quoted

  • “I found out that all serious literary fiction MUST be written in the continuous historic present. Throughout the whole story, nothing must happen – in fact there must be no story at all – and the whole thing must be written in a tone of unremitting gloom. My book isn’t like that. It’s got a beginning, a middle and an end and everything.” — Andrew Nicoll
  • “She didn’t finish her term as mayor, stepping down to run for Lt. Governor. She didn’t finish her term on the petroleum board ethics panel, she resigned in protest and then ran for Governor. She doesn’t want the office, she just likes running for office.” — Alaska Girl
  • “The world is literally her oyster.” — Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton


Library expansion

I’m back from my short vacation, which was spent not being a tourist somewhere but rather working on my second library building. Even though I didn’t go away I found the computer did not call to me. I enjoyed working outdoors and not sitting in front of a screen.

Below you can see progress on the second building, looking through eastward to the first, which is mostly completed except for the siding and finishing up the roof fascia.

On vacation

Right Reading is on a short summer vacation. (I might do some posting just the same, depending on how things go.)


Overwrought openings

Many great books begin on a quiet note — think of Tolstoy’s “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” or Ford’s “This is the saddest story I have ever heard,” for example.

But some writers take the opposite tack. I just encountered this extraordinary opening sentence to chapter one of The Perenial Garden by Jeff and Marilyn Cox:

When the dynosaurs shrieked in the primordial night, and the world’s highest law was to eat or be eaten, there were no flowers.

You won’t find a sentence like that in many gardening books (he shrieked).


Breaking news in typography

Right Reading was pleased to receive the following news brief via inter office mail from bittermelon:

Extra-Slanty Italics Introduced for Extremely Important Words

NEW HOPE, MN—In an attempt to address writers’ ever-growing word-emphasis needs, Minnesota-based Pica Foundry has developed a new, extra-slanty italic font, design director Jordan Soderblum announced Monday.

“When writing important words, authors too often bypass regular italics in favor of all capital letters, which not only look awkward but also disrupt the flow of the text,” said Soderblum, whose new italics design is slanted at a more acute 60-degree angle instead of the normal 75. “We believe that the additional 15 degrees of slant will allow authors to create a much more intense and immediate reading experience.”

Soderblum said that his design team is currently developing a demi-semibold typeface for writers who “kind of, but not really” want to accentuate subheadings.

The Onion, June 16, 2009


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