Sunday, June 6, 2010

Are You Sure the Editor is the Idiot?

But Why Not?Image by Tex Batmart via Flickr
Advice for Writers: Have your tantrum. In private. Then get to work
I do some freelance editing for publishers. For one in particular, I am a rewrite editor. In this role, I work directly with writers. It's my job to get a manuscript (ms) into publishable shape. When I'm done with the ms, it goes to a copyeditor.

In other words, they don't give me an ms that simply needs a few commas tweaked and some verb tenses changed. The publisher gives me the ms because they've decided it needs substantial work. Anyway, I sent one such marked-up ms to a writer last week.

I spent a lot of time marking it up, because it has a lot of problems. I don’t want to go into much detail, because I don’t want the writer or house to be identifiable. (This is the reason I've not used a pronoun to identify the writer, either. I don't even want gender to be clear.)

And the writer turned it around in about an hour. Yeah, really. Made precisely one fix. My queries and suggestions were essentially blown off. The writer's responses ranged from "I don’t care" to "this is an unimportant detail" to "nobody will notice" to "it doesn’t matter" to  "fix it if you want." To my most significant structural notes: "I disagree." Then the writer sent it back, as if these responses took care of the issue.

As you can imagine, I wasn't thrilled.

The writer clearly thought the publication contract was the finish line. And that I was an annoyance. A buzz-kill. And that if I was ignored, I would go away.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Jose Mendoza: Part IV (final episode)

Mendoza is keeping his distance. He’s still outside a lot. He smiles at me. He watches me. But he doesn’t speak to me. When I have to walk by him on the steps, I pretend he is invisible. If I don’t see him on my way into the apartment, I look for him when I get there.

I have a new coming-home routine. I drop my keys on the stereo speaker--the place we always drop our keys, it’s just a few feet inside the door--then I reach down behind it and grab the knife I keep there. The pointy end sits in the groove, in the left corner. I want to be able to grab it without thinking. I check every room, behind doors, the closets, under the bed. Then I put the knife back and try to study.


Something wakes me up. I look at the clock. Little after midnight. I wait, breathe, try to identify what what I heard. It's hard to hear over the seashell sound in my ears. There’s movement outside my bedroom window. I sit up, then scooch closer to the edge of the bed. I put a foot on the floor, lean over, so I can look behind the curtain without moving it. Mendoza is standing outside my window.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jose Mendoza: Part III

Two uniformed officers appear. I discuss underwear, lamps, kitchen curtains. They nod and write things down. I give them a little tour, explaining the tape. At first I’m afraid they’ll think I’m nuts. In the end, I think they’re a little impressed with my scotch-tape trap.

Do I know who is doing it?

I have a suspicion. Guy who lives upstairs. I think his name is Mendoza.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Jose Mendoza: Part II

“I need to ask you a question,” I said.
“Did you take a little, um, memento of me out on the road with you?”
Silence on the other end of the phone.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“My pink bra is missing.”
“And you think I took it?”
“And the matching panties.”
“You’re losing your underwear? Sounds like I should ask what you’ve been doing.”
“Seriously, Eric. That’s the expensive stuff.”
“Seriously, Karen. Why would I do that?”
“Well, okay. I know why I might do that. But no, I don’t have it.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bird Poop on the Window and Jose Mendoza: Part I

I was feeling cosy and content last night, lying on the couch in my newly-remodeled living room, clicker in hand, when Annabel started going bonkers at the window. She'd been hanging out on her window seat, then she started jumping up and down, batting at the window.

Bug, I figured. She kept it up. But I couldn’t see a bug, then I noticed that there seemed to be a splotch on the window. Weird. So I dragged myself over there to look. Yep, bird poop. No way to clean it off, either. I live on the second floor. And it’s odd. Five years in this apartment and it's never happened before. So I looked out the window, and up, taking into consideration the gutters, then asked Annabel “How did that bird manage that, anyway?”

And I was suddenly having a flashback.

I had done a similar thing one spring night in 1988. I lived in a garden floor apartment in Des Plaines, Illinois. I was standing in the bedroom when I noticed some odd stains on the window. I went closer and looked at them, looked out, and up. Sheer brick wall. And I asked Charlie, my cat, who was sitting on the window sill, “How are those birds pooping on that window like that?”

The answer to my question was: Birds weren't. But I wouldn't know that for a couple of months. This was only the first odd thing that I noticed in a series of odd things that, together, add up to just about the scariest thing that's ever happened to me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What is the Titicut Follies/Memoir Project, Anyway?

Since I talk about this now and then, and most people have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, I thought I’d ‘splain it. A little. For anyone who is interested.

First, it helps if you know something about the film Titicut Follies (1967), directed by Sam Wiseman. It’s much easier for you to click on the link, read a little about it, then come back here. Go on. I’ll wait.

You’re back already? Good. Well, my uncle was in that film. Pretty much anyone who has ever seen the film remembers him: He is the tall, thin, Russian dude. Vladimir. He is on the left in that photo, the psychiatrist is on the right.

Vladimir wages a sort-of quest in the film, to get the psychiatrist (and the committee) to send him back to Walpole, the prison from whence he came. In fact, in almost any discussion of Titticut Follies, especially on the Interwebs, people have stuff to say about him. Pretty much all of them are wrong in their suppositions. They assume that because Bridgewater housed notorious sexual predators (like the Boston Strangler), Vladmir must have been one too. They assume that he was mentally ill when he went there, or he wouldn't have landed there.