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Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was supposed to be black

First edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Last week Roald Dahl’s widow, Felicity Dahl, revealed in a BBC interview that Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was originally a black character.

Mr. Dahl’s biographer, Donald Sturrock, elaborated on this:

“It was his agent who thought it was a bad idea when the book was first published to have a black hero,” Mr. Sturrock said. “She said people would ask why.”

Do I even need to get into the problems with lack of diversity in publishing?

The New York Times offers more details about the BBC interview in this article.

 

Today’s Google Doodle in honor of Samuel Johnson’s birthday made my morning.

He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.

~Samuel Johnson

The secret life of a book manuscript

Author Thomas E. Ricks recently penned an interesting article in The Atlantic detailing the intricacies of the author–editor relationship as he wrote Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom.

Over our Caesar salads with sliced steak, I asked Scott why he had been so rough on me the previous winter. “Sometimes my job is to be an asshole,” he explained with equanimity. I wasn’t startled at this. At one point on an earlier book, when I told him how stressed I was feeling, he had replied, a bit airily, I thought, “Oh, every good book has at least one nervous breakdown in it.”

Whether you’re familiar with the writing process or not, this piece is a great read.

The next surprise, about three weeks into this process, was coming to realize, over the days of thinking about it, that Scott’s criticisms were spot-on. I saw that if I followed his suggestions and revamped the book, with a new structure that emphasized biography and told the stories of the two men chronologically, the book would be much better. I emailed a note to Scott. “You are right,” it said. This wasn’t so much an apology as the beginning of the next phase of work.

“Only a good writer would be able to say that,” he graciously responded.

You can read the article in its entirety here.

The 17th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style is out

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition

My favorite style manual has a new edition! This is my most anticipated book release of 2017.

The publisher released the following information:

This seventeenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style has been prepared with an eye toward how we find, create, and cite information that readers are as likely to access from their pockets as from a bookshelf. It offers updated guidelines on electronic workflows and publication formats, tools for PDF annotation and citation management, web accessibility standards, and effective use of metadata, abstracts, and keywords. It recognizes the needs of those who are self-publishing or following open access or Creative Commons publishing models. The citation chapters reflect the ever-expanding universe of electronic sources—including social media posts and comments, private messages, and app content—and also offer updated guidelines on such issues as DOIs, time stamps, and e-book locators.

Other improvements are independent of technological change. The chapter on grammar and usage includes an expanded glossary of problematic words and phrases and a new section on syntax as well as updated guidance on gender-neutral pronouns and bias-free language. Key sections on punctuation and basic citation style have been reorganized and clarified. To facilitate navigation, headings and paragraph titles have been revised and clarified throughout. And the bibliography has been updated and expanded to include the latest and best resources available.

See the full press release here.

End library fines for overdue kids’ books

In a pilot program last year, Rochester got rid of overdue fees for children’s materials. The result was a “10 percent increase in library cards issued and more materials being checked out.” Imagine that.

The program is now permanent. “The idea is to remove barriers to reading. Young people no longer have to worry about losing library privileges because of overdue fees.”

Some might argue that there is a sense of responsibility being taught in late fees. However, kids are usually at the mercy of their caregivers for transportation. When a library book is returned is not up to the child.

My main happiness over this news is for the slower readers—the kids who are learning, improving, and savoring.

I hope more libraries follow suit. You can read the AP article here.

Summer reading suggestions

If you’re looking for a beach read this summer, I recommend Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller and Chemistry: A Novel by Weike Wang. I especially recommend Chemistry if you’re looking for something moving and uniquely written that won’t depress you while you’re on vacation.

How long did it take to write the world’s most popular books?

An editorial legend: Gordon Lish

A wonderful article in The Herald Scotland by Liz Thomson gives an insight into 83-year-old editor Gordon Lish. It offers great insight into Lish’s lifelong career as well as the way many great editors feel about the work they do.

“I have a gift. Or I have an opinion or I have a prejudice or a bias,” Lish explains. “Would that I were otherwise, but I’m not. I have a quick sense of the destiny of what’s before me.”

No matter how humble talented editors tend to be about their instinct for good writing and a writer’s ability to revise, the instinct is real.

“I’d get in at six in the morning. In those days I could look at a page of text and arrive at some kind of view of its qualities, its values. I can’t do that now because I’m quite impaired by macular degeneration so I can’t see enough, only a snippet.”

Although I’m a freelancer, I still get in to my home office by 6:00 a.m. It fills me with fear to think of a day when I can’t see text.

“I never felt competent to express what a book is about. It’s not about anything. Nothing but the writing.”

It’s important for writers to know how to discuss their book. I stress to my clients the need to express clearly and concisely what their book is about. Still, I feel protective of a client’s book when asked this question, wishing always that it would be sufficient to say, “Trust me. It’s good.”

“I’m comfortable with words,” Lish concludes. “I write them down psychotically. If I come upon a word I don’t know I write it down. Their effect on me is potent and delicious.”

This last quote was my favorite part of the article. To be comfortable with and psychotic about words. to find them potent and delicious, this is a good description of what it’s like being a logophile.

Read the entire article on HeraldScotland.com.

George R.R. Martin’s copy editor is too busy to edit Winds of Winter

I wasn’t able to find a non-editor in my daily life who found this funny. Maybe it requires knowledge of the way GRRM has kept us waiting for his next installment. Maybe it requires knowledge of what copy editors do. Maybe it requires knowledge of the way all editors feel about editing (hint: passionate).

So, this humor post by Tyler Schmall is primarily for editors and copy editors. Read the entire article on Mashable.

“In all honesty the book has been done for like a year now, they’re just waiting for me to look it over and edit it. And honestly I wish I could. But I am just slammed at the moment. I’m like so behind on emails, and I got like three documentary series I still gotta watch. (Don’t you even think about spoiling The Keepers for me haha.) I barely have time for anything right now, and now you want me to copy edit this mammoth of a book just because YOU want to know what happens in the next installment of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy thriller saga A Song of Ice and Fire, a book series unlike anything in the cultural zeitgeist before?

That’s kind of selfish of you, don’t you think? I’m doing my best.”

Find time to write

Use those few minutes before a meeting starts, standing in line at the supermarket, and waiting in the doctor’s office. Instead of watching TV or checking social media, write. All those micro writing sessions add up to pages, which add up to chapters.

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