Archive for the 'Editing' Category

Should I or Shouldn’t I Recommend THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG?

Dear Reader,

I’m stumped by how to review Muriel Barbery’s novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog. For the most part, I found it boring, but my sister-n-law recommended it, so I forced myself to read the whole thing. Nothing much happens besides a middle-aged well read concierge and a bright twelve-year-old girl’s toughts while they narrate their own chapters. (Some reviewers said the narrators were pretentious. Which is what people who don’t understand people like these two would naturally say.)  I often thought what they said could have been condensed; but, at the same time, they seemed to be journal entries, which are prone to long windedness and frequent sections of little point. It’s clear the novel wasn’t plot driven; but then it wasn’t so much character driven either.

For the lesser part–or is it the greater?–Barbery wrote several things that I just had to record so I could savor them later. For example:

  • “Art is life, playing to other rhythms.”
  • “As for me, I implore fate to give me the chance to see beyond myself and truly meet someone.”
  • “… the capacity to do harm is often and item of family capital.”
  • “Apparently, now and again adults take the time to sit down and contemplate what a disaster their life is. They complain without understanding and, like flies constantly banging against the same old windowpane, they buzz around, suffer, waste away, get depressed then wonder how they got caught up in this spiral that is taking them where they don’t want to go. The most intelligent among them turn their malaise into a religion…” 

But do a few memorable lines negate a lot of unmemorable ones? Or the other way around? I don’t know. Do I have to give this book a grade, a # of stars?

What do you think?




Why I Like Jon Krakauer’s Writing Style

Dear Reader,

I like Jon Krakauer’s writing style in UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN: A STORY OF VIOLENT FAITH, just as I did in his books INTO THIN AIR and INTO THE WILD. He starts with a single event, in this case a murder, diverges, diverges some more, then returns to the murder and asks the reader to look at it through a variety of lenses (defined by me): insanity, fanaticism, passion, stupidy, belief, and more. He explores the history of Mormonism, but he could just as well have focused on Christianity or Islam–with a great deal more difficulty, of course, as they are centuries old, compared with Mormonism, which is still in its infancy–and how easily people hijack religion to further their non-spiritual agendas. Krakauer’s style leaves room for readers to develop their own questions and draw their own conclusions, which is much better than putting up with a didactic author. I picked up this book because the title intrigued me, and because I wanted to learn a bit about the history of the Mormon faith and, thereby, something about the religion as it is practiced today. I learned enough about the history to know there’s a lot more to learn, and very little about the practice of Mormonism, which is really okay, by me; that would require serious study. (It’s interesting that as I reread the subtitle of the book I realized I’d repeatedly thought it said “A Story of ‘A’ Violent Faith,” which states that Mormanism is violent. Take out “A” and it refers to any faith, as an act.)

What Backstreet Boys, Joe Cocker, and Justin Timberlake Do to Me

Dear Reader,

I have to tell you what’s going on right now. I’m supposed to be writing a direct mail letter, but I can’t focus because I’m listening to my 22-year-old daughter sing the Backstreet Boys’ song “Everybody” (Denniz PoP, Max Martin, 1997) while she paints my bathroom. I’m wriggling in my seat as she bellows, “Everybody, rock your body. Everybody, rock your body right. Backstreet’s back, alright.” My daughter’s happy again. Happy. She’s back in 7th grade, crushing over Nick Carter, and prodding her dad and me to take her to Florida so she can bump into him on the street. Like a coupon fiend, she’s cutting photos of the boys. “If you want it to be good, girl, get yourself a… bad boy.”

Now I’m YouTubing Joe Cocker singing “Cry Me a River” during his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. “Now you said that you love me after being so untrue. I want you to cry (cry me a river). I want you to cry (cry me a river) … Oh, I cried a river over you.” (Arthur Hamilton, 1953) Unlike “Everybody,” “Cry Me a River” doesn’t send me to the past, as I have no past with it. But Joe Cocker’s performance makes me want. Now! I want his shredded voice as my passion, his syncopation as the force that jars my poems from complacency, and his spark as a trigger that mushrooms my poetic courage.

My daughter has finished with the bathroom and has begun to paint her former bedroom. I’m back to wriggling in my seat, this time to Justin Timberlake singing, “I’m bringing sexy back. Them other boys don’t know how to act. I think it’s special what’s behind your back. So turn around and I’ll pick up the slack.” (Nathaniel Hills, Tim Mosley, Justin Timberlake, 2002) I’m happy too!

Respectfully Yours,

The Editor

Create a Vacation with Heart: Use The Workbook MAPPING YOUR VOLUNTEER VACATION

Dear Reader,

I’m proud to announce that my client Jane Stanfield’s new travel workbook, Mapping Your Volunteer Vacation, is now in real and virtual bookstores. I suggest you use it to plan your volunteer vacation, because with it you’re guaranteed to experience fewer planning headaches than you would otherwise. And Jane knows headaches. She’s had plenty.

In 2005, she decided to undertake a yearlong international volunteer vacation, and she took a year to plan for it. She knew this would require she gather lots of information, but she didn’t know she’d have to dig through hundreds of books, place zillions of phone calls, and perform endless Internet loop-de-loops. (Exaggerations inserted by me.) She’ll tell you her efforts were worth the trouble, especially since she wound up tending orphaned kangaroos in Australia, feeding baby baboons in South Africa, and participating in an archeological dig in Thailand, but she’ll admit it was often difficult to see her future adventure from the drudgery. She wished she could have had one good source to help her plan, so when she returned to the US she started to write this book.

And it’s a thorough yet concise, easy-to-follow guide/map for new and experienced travelers who dream of creating “a vacation with heart.”

Note: This book oozes “buy appeal.” Its cover compels you not only to pick it up, but also to read it. And to do this, you don’t even have to be the least bit interested in volunteering or vacationing. Its design is that good!

Note Note: Jane is available to speak about her volunteer experiences.



Dear Reader,

In Unpolished Gem, author Alice Pung successfully describes what it means to be sentenced to be a first-generation daughter born to Chinese immigrants in Australia. But, given the similarities of her experiences to, say, the protagonist’s in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, she could just as well been born in the United States. As in The Joy Luck Club, Pung is expected to adhere to traditional Chinese customs without benefit of being surrounded by Chinese culture.  She clearly relates the turmoil, guilt, and depression this causes her.  She also  shares her relatives’ expressions and behavior–endearingly so.

Pung less successfully ties her life to her mother and grandmother’s lives, to their upbringing and experiences in China and war ravaged Cambodia. Her intellectual connection to them comes through, her emotional/heart connection does not. Her youth may be responsible for this lack; she was born in 1980. (Youth is not a criticism.)

I encourage Pang to revisit this story ten years from now. I suspect she will see greater opportunities to polish her story, opportunities she can’t possibly imagine now. I look forward to seeing what she writes then.

Do I suggest you read Unpolished Gem? For entertainment? Sure. As an example of a well developed memoir? No.


What’s Left This Editor’s Desk

Dear Reader,

I wrote my November 25th, 2008 post, entitled “What’s On This Editor’s Desk,” as a way to come to terms with the scary stack of books I’d promised myself to attend to. I write this post to assure myself I’ve “accomplished things” over the last few months. Here’s my updated list:

· Kissing Doorknobs, (1998), a Young Adult book by Terry Spencer Hesser: Read it, reviewed it, posted the review on, returned it to the library.

· A postcard of a black and white photo of a yawning Abyssinian cat sitting on a bookshelf. Found this in a book I was shelving for the Friends of Westminster Library Used Book Shop, where I volunteer and find lots of cool books: Sent card to one or another friend.

· SCBWI 2008 Publication Guide to Writing & Illustrating for Children: Ummm… still on my desk.

· Transcending Grief – A Journal of Love and Healing, (2001), written by Sylvia Browne and Nancy Dufresne. It’s a guided journal for people who are grieving. Note to self: study how they’ve set up the journal. Is it easy to write on its high gloss pages? Will ink easily smear? I thought it contained too much writing by the authors and not enough room for me to write, plus, I didn’t like the glossy paper. Gave to the library used book shop. Got sold to a friend of mine, who is experiencing grief.

· I Found All the Parts: Healing the Soul Through Rock ’n’ Roll (Nov.11, 2008). A spiritual memoir that’s waiting for me to post an review about it: Good book. Review written and posted.

· Course booklet, How to Sell on, by Judy Murdoch and Mary Walewski: I’ve posted my poetry book Scarf Dancer on

· Third Thursday Poetry Open Mic signup sheet with notes scribbled on it: “Get Studs Terkel quote from J.D.” Gotten.

· Backstreet Quarterly, #5, Ray Foreman, Editor. Tell my friend Victoria about it: Done. And she’s already submitted to this journal.

· Grammar Done Right, by Karen L. Reddick, (2008). Never leaves my desk. Still there.

· Colorado Symphony Orchestra program from 11-22-08. I’ve started an article about my minute music listening vocabulary, prompted by the way my attention flickered while I listened to the orchestra perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major, Opus 100. Perhaps there’ll be another article prompted by a post-performance comment made by one of the violinists: “Some of us have decided that if we were going to be stranded on an island and could only take one CD, we’d take Prokofiev.” And maybe another article about how stupid I should feel for never having heard of Prokofiev prior to that night: Not written. Oh well.

· My journal. (Duh, of course) Double duh.

· Never Summer: Poems From Thin Air, by Chris Ransick. (2005) Find out what the Denver Poet Laureate writes about: Still doing this.

· A Dream Decoder: Eight pages with dials to line up 800 keywords and their associations. Why? Because it’s pretty: Plan to use in free writes.

· Notes from Dan Poynter’s October presentation at Colorado Independent Publishers Association: Ideas implemented.

· Field Guide to Gestures: How to Identify and Interpret Virtually Every Gesture Known to Man, (2003), by Nancy Armstrong and Melissa Wagner. I’m wondering if it’s shelved under humor. Read it to find out: Read and reviewed on, blog posted in Letters From the Editor.

· Ticket stub from Secret Life of Bees movie. There’s a note to myself on it: “Owe Krista.” Ticket is taped in my journal.

· Note on paper: “The guy in the real estate office across the hall from me is singing a song about qualifying buyers before selling them a home.” OMG! Same paper: “A squirrel just bumped into my window. Write about the Italian guy and the squirrel in La Crosse, WI. Write about the squirrel on Sherman Terrace in Madison, WI.” Still in my mind.

· Photo: I’m standing at a blackboard in a college chemistry classroom pretending I’ve written all the equations that cover it. I bought a chemistry textbook three days ago.

· The One Minute Manager, (1983), Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson, M.D. Find out why this book was a “runaway #1 National Bestseller!” Find out why people still copy its hokey story-telling style. More important, why they read it: Read it. Hated it. Reviewed it. Got rid of it.

· Bipolar Disorder: Insights for Recovery and Beyond Bipolar: 7 Steps to Wellness, both written by Jane Mountain, MD. Read again then post a review about them: Read, reviewed, and given to a psychotherapist who has an office in my building.

· Across the High Divide: Poetry, (2006), Laurie Wagner Buyer. Find the lines I misread while I recorded for RFB&D. I said “incontinent” when the word was “continent,” and it appeared during a love scene. Eww. I reread this four times! Could NOT find “incontinent.” Only “content.” I must have read from an early printing that was later corrected.

· My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile, (2003), Isabel Allende. She talks about testosterone in Chile’s air. Write about that: Read the book, reviewed the book, but haven’t written about testosterone.

· How To Really Know Yourself Through Your Handwriting, (1973), Shirl Solomon. This is the book that will not die. I’m probably its 8th owner. Comment on what she says makes up wit: Not commented on yet, but read and passed off to a friend.

What’s new on my desk?

  • Acres of Diamonds, by Russell H. Conwell. I’m told it’s one of those inspirational books lots of business people read.
  • The Nature of Music: Beauty, Sound, and Healing, by Maureen McCarthy Draper. Explore music versus words.
  • Notes from two teleseminars about web site and Twitter presence. Follow up.
  • Middle grade fantasy manuscript. Waiting for author’s approval so I can start to edit it.
  • A client’s personal narrative about facing the wilds of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Continue to edit it.
  • Oh yeah, a huge box of tissues. Why? My winter cold.



Get More Attention for Your Writing: Boost Depressed Emotional Marketing Values

“Communication is the key of effective marketing. And the key to communication is being able to reach the client at an emotional level, involving them in your copy, and invoking their deeper thoughts.” – The Advanced Marketing Institute

Dear Reader,

Do your titles and marketing headlines to sell your writing receive enough attention? If not, perhaps they lack Emotional Marketing Value (EMV), a problem you can diagnose with the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Headline Analyzer devised by The Advanced Marketing Institute. Through research, The Institute has assigned emotional value to words and then determined if they incite intellectual, empathetic, and/or spiritual emotions. It’s believed higher EMV stimulate higher reader response.

The Institute has made this analyzer available to everyone; all you have to do is go to, type in your headline, and “pop” you have a score. If you have a low EMV headline, replace a weak word(s)with more potent words, and again put the headline through the analyzer. Continue until you’re satisfied with the score. (Most professional copywriters ―advertising/marketing writers ― tend to write headlines utilizing 30 to 40 percent EMV words. The most gifted copywriters lean toward 50 to 75 percent EMV words.)

I pitted potential headlines/titles for this article against the Headline Analyzer, and here are my EMVs:

  • Writing with Higher Emotional Marketing Values (50%)
  • Bolster Your Emotional Marketing Values (60%)
  • Fire Up Emotional Marketing Values (60%)
  • Beef Up Your Emotional Marketing Values (66.67%)
  • Depressing Emotional Marketing Values? (75%)
  • Depressed Emotional Marketing Values? (75%)
  • Measuring Emotional Marketing Values (75%)
  • Tackle Emotional Marketing Values (75%)
  • Build Emotional Marketing Values (75%)
  • Boost Depressed Emotional Marketing Values (80%)
  • Emotional Marketing Values (100%)

I could have used the 100-percent headline/title, “Emotional Marketing Values,” but I wanted to add movement with a verb, so I picked “Boost Depressed Emotional Marketing Values.” Note: The more descriptive verbs tend to boost the score. I suggest you use this tool to boost your depressed Emotional Marketing Values, and while you’re at it, boost your readers’ attention.