Well, quite a week. Spoke to high school students, librarians, firefighters and fire inspectors, islanders, a tow truck driver, an auto mechanic, and a rental car agency. Still in the hotel hitting a magazine deadline. Then a three hour drive home, I hope in time to see tired and happy Halloween kids. Thanks for all the friendly faces, good turns, and firm handshakes. And if you do rent a car, don’t forget to fill up that gas…
I tend to write like I talk, which is closer to my boots than my brain. As such (and despite the loving care of any number of despairing editors), I tend to run afoul of grammarians now and again (sometimes two or three weeks in a row). As I am on a lifelong quest for self-improvement (an area in which I have acres of room in which to work) and also truly do want to get things right (unless I’m feeling colloquial, at which point all bets are off), I appreciate anyone who takes the time to point out errors (including those in this post).
However: tone is everything. A thoughtful word is appreciated and taken to heart–although it is no guarantee against future returns (I play by ear, and am regularly afflicted with literary tinnitus). On the other hand, exultation, hectoring, neener-neenering or the sort of correspondence highlighted below will have exactly the opposite effect and may even trigger active recalcitrance:
[YOUR] article which started—-’[BLANK] asked my wife and I’ for help “etc. Asked “I”? I read your column every week and couldn’t believe you wrote “asked my wife and I”. You surely know better than that being an ‘author”. If in doubt, take the sentence apart and ask did someone ask’ I’, or did someone ask ‘me’. Not too swift, buster…………….
The above quote also serves to remind us that anytime one fires off grammarial correctives, one does well to review one’s own prose for assorted typographical whoopsies. Neener-neener, as it were.
Oh, and beyond grammar, I’m also happy to hear about flat-out errors of fact or consistency: details here.
I just hit send on a project that was two years overdue. Or three. Maybe four? I don’t remember. I just remember being on the phone with my agent when I got the deal, and it was winter and I was in an apartment in Hayward, Wisconsin, and the band and I were getting ready for soundcheck and I thought, well this will be fun, and some of it has been. Let’s just say somewhere in New York an editor just flopped over in disbelief. Final product scheduled for Fall 2014. Now back at it. Three more deadlines this week, and no wiggle room. It’s just like logging only…OK, it’s really not like logging.
At the book tour stop in Chicago last night I was asked about my process and I got to rambling about revision. Below are some posts with photos that reveal just how ugly the whole thing is. These are mostly from when Visiting Tom was in process.
Had one of those nice impromptu drop-in, stand-around, yap-and-slap (mosquitos and some other odd hatch) sundown visit with the neighbors last night. Photo here. Looks like I was trying to raise the dead but basically I was just yammering obsessively about why it is Hollywood celebrities at news conferences act like they’ve never seen a microphone before. It is my theory that it is an attempt to convey a “simple citizen” image, often amplified by their donning bookish glasses while reading from a script like they’ve never seen one of THOSE before. Then I realized that with I’m often guilty of the roughneck equivalent of these behaviors and lately REQUIRE bookish glasses, and changed the subject. As the fingernail moon rose we discussed how to avoid hitting a deer with your Harley, the art of revision in contemporary rap music, and corn.
Came back to the desk to find this on my computer screen:
Can you guess what happened? Answer below (don’t be distracted by the smudges, they’re electronic and I put them there after the fact):
[Insert Jeopardy! theme here]
I was working on a manuscript when the pager went off. Switched from typing a story to typing an address.
It’s one of my favorite things in the world: transforming mid-word from writer guy to EMS/fire guy. Most meaningful privilege of my life, serving with my neighbors, even if only for a few calls per year.