Jul 23, 2008

Another literary casualty

I finished my copy edits and my manuscript is off to the typesetter. Woo! Copy Editors correct punctuation and facts, and hopefully don't turn your literary elan into something you'd hope only to find in an IT training manual. Well, the copy editor did a great job. She didn't get slap-happy with the semicolons or correct sentence fragments when they were meant to be short. You know, short. Dramatic. For a reason. She fixed some of my bad punctuation. She caught an incomplete sentence I knew I had to correct, and she did a better job than I would have. She even caught a typo in my gibberish!! Yyyyou’re my one desire (pronounced dee-ZYE-YUHHz)! She spotted the errant z at the end of that. Good call!!

But. My publisher follows the Chicago Manual of Style. The CMS has some bizarre rules about compound words. Like, every instance of 'back yard' in my book was changed to 'backyard.' Even though both are acceptable in a dictionary, the CMS makes them one word. To me, backyard is an adjective. "backyard politics, backyard deals, etc. But according to CMS it's one word.

But what really baffled me were CMS rules on numerals. Just about every number is spelled out. Eight thousand. Seven hundred and seventy three. Two thirteenths. Or ages. So say you find a man who's 1,267 years old. Alright, no one would unless they were an archaeologist. So say my mom was 79 1/2 years old and 2% Danish. According to the CMS, I would have to write it as such: My seventy-seven-and-a-half-year-old mom is 2 percent Danish. Right. Spell out her age with words and hyphens, but use the numeral 2. Oh but not 2%. 2 percent. Those Chi-town editors are not Y2K compliant. But that's what my editors use, so I must be CMS-compliant. Oh well, we must all suffer for our art.

There was one literary nugget I was sad to lose. I had was describing my own fear of people who weren't like me. I had heard Stalin could only work in a study if it was built and furnished exactly the same as his study at home. SO the line went, "I heard Stalin was so paranoid that wherever he went, he had to have his study built and furnished exactly the same, down to the pencil cup. Was I doing that? Was I so paranoid that everyone had to believe exactly the same things I did?"

Neither my editor and copy editor couldn't find the fact to corroborate it. I did find it!! But it turns out that Stalin's replicated studies were all in the same dacha. He had, like, four studies in the same house, all built and furnished exactly alike. down to the eraser heads on the pencils in the pencil cup.

But it no longer worked, not if Stalin's identicaly studies were in the same dacha. It would have been one thing if his study in the Kremlin was exactly the same as his study in Odessa. Oh, the facts on the cutting room floor. But I had to agree with them. Even if they were only two percent right. Or was that 2% right? Oh forget it. They did a fantastic job.

Now I just hope they don't use Comic Sans for the typeface.

Jul 16, 2008

Here's Your Pool Genie!

You made some good guesses on what a pool genie is. Pool-naïf Bryan said, even if you didn’t know what a pool genie was, the line worked in context. I expected most people to know what a pool genie was, but I grew up in Orange County, near the beach, in a suburban neighborhood of the pool-haves and the pool-have-nots. But, far be it from me to create a literary stumbling block. (I used the word politesse twice in the manuscript and I got called out for that).

Yes, a Pool Genie is an automatic pool filter. The official Aqua Genie™ is built into the wall of your pool at waterline. However, I was referencing the portable filter that motors about the surface of the pool, vacuuming leaves and bugs and turds. Like an aquatic roomba.

When I was young, my friend Julia's pool skimmer looked like the SS Enterprise.

Today you can find a plethora of kid-friendly skimmers online.

Which I guess makes sense: if you’re a child, you could easily be terrified by the idea of Klingons trolling your pool.

Then again, maybe your child should have a healthy dread of the appliance. If it's powerful enough to suck up leaves, bugs and turds, it might inhale your bathing suit if you get too close.

These Dolphin brand skimmers look more like Panzer tanks. Notice the curious evolution of color: from Mac Classic taupe, to Trojan Pride, to Miami Vice, to the Miami Dolphins-sponsored Dolphin Deluxe.

Pool Skimming is Fun!
At least that’s what the makers of this pool bot boasted. Notice mom and dad lounging contentedly, working on their skin cancer, while their Jonas Brothers son plays with what looks a robot catamaran."Go on honey, pretend you're James Bond and vacuum those ... (what are those floating in the pool Chocolate chip cookies?)

The most peculiar image I discovered while researching pool skimmers was this one.

It looks like something fished out of a camp lake in the Catskills.

But back to the book. The copy editor changed ‘pool genie’ to “automatic pool skimmer.” So the paragraph read, "Their front yards were fenced in and private, and when you walked past, you could hear the faint whisper of automatic pool skimmers and clinking highballs and success."

To me the change felt cumbersome and slowed down the line. It also took away the specificity of “genie.” For me a specific or brand name is much more evocative than a generic:
a) “You’ve got discharge on your shirt. Do you need a disposable handkerchief?’
b) “You’ve got boogers on your button-down, need a Puffs?’

And if the specific is too obscure, you lose the reader. I am considering a compromise: drop I “automatic” to speed up the line so it will read, “you could hear the faint whisper of pool skimmers and clinking highballs and success."

But now, if you read “pool skimmer do you think of this?

Or if you’re a guy, do you think of this?

At issue is either 1) literary integrity: should I dumb down my voice? Or 2) literary humility: Not everyone knows what a pool genie is Susan!! They’re certainly not going to abide reading “Politesse” twice. (I changed the second instance to etiquette.) I am leaning toward "pool skimmer." Or maybe Jennifer's idea: a pool sweeper thingy.

If someone thinks of a pool boy, that’s the copy editor’s fault. I’m glad the copy editor didn’t change clinking highballs to “noisy alcoholic-beverage containers.”

And as for the roomba. I sorta knew what they were. Then I heard a podcast in which the speaker mentioned his roomba to a large audience and it got a huge laugh. Which meant that the Roomba has reached the Tipping Point. But Pool Genie may have jumped the shark.

Jul 15, 2008

What's A Pool Genie?

Do you know what a pool genie is? My copy editor doesn't think so. Please give your answer. Or I may be reduced to a long-winded generic definition.

Jul 14, 2008

Devil's Haircut on my mind

Larry's new groovy haircut made my gratitude list. Some of Larry's friends and family were overwhelmed with curiosity and hope and asked to see photos.
So without further ado...

Okay so that's silly. I'm sure you want to see what his haircut really looks like. Here it is. Minus the mohawk.

Jul 11, 2008

Gratitude List

What a difference a mood makes. And a blog comment with a simple suggestion: write a Gratitude List. (thank you, Jennifer!) When I was going through my dark night of the soul, my sponsor made me write one every day: list every item in my life I was (or needed to be) grateful for. Sometimes there wasn’t much on the list. “Right number of arms and legs. No viruses. My cat. My dinky studio apartment over a garage that gets light on all four sides.”

But having to write one every day, I became more aware of how many good things I did have in my life. Like a survival job, great friends, creative energy, and the cat. And the apartment that did, after all, get light on all four sides. It was still true that the majority of my friends were married, and/or had their dream jobs, and/or owned houses that got light on all four sides. But writing the gratitude list made me feel better, if not euphoric. You can call it the power of positive thinking, or spend lots of money on “The Secret” seminars, or you can read the old proverbs: ‘as a man thinks is his heart, so is he.’ It does work.

But oh, how easily one forgets those soul-saving disciplines after one’s soul feels saved or at least out of danger. How quickly I stop praying for help, or believing I needed it. And so I put the gratitude list away and coasted. So no surprise when life took a seeming downturn I found myself braying like Eyeore the ass.

So upon Jennifer’s suggestion, I wrote a gratitude list. Well the first night I thought about it. And the next morning I wrote one.

  • Larry.
  • Friends.
  • Great house with great views. Despite the horrifying sound of gunfire last night. And the night before (we live near Glassell Park, home of the Avenue Gang).
  • My cat "Honey."
  • My current temp assignment that hasn’t been so bad after all.
  • Larry’s new groovy hair cut.
  • My mom is still alive despite her stroke-fragmented speech.
  • My brothers and sister.
  • My sister’s wonderful children whom I love being auntie to.
  • Dark 84% chocolate.
  • PG Tips Tea. And Barry’s Tea
  • Going to the gym. Or as they say, ‘having gone to the gym.’
  • Climbing the long flight of stairs up to our house to see Larry sitting there waiting, with the cat in his lap.
  • The smell of Coppertone that makes me think of summer.
  • The feeling of sleep before it overwhelms you.
  • The kindness that falls like a blanket when I finally sit down and let God in. I can feel the stress unwind and my heart split open like a ripe watermelon and I rarely don’t cry.
  • The palm trees in the neighbor’s yard that look like they’ve got birds of paradise sticking out of them. I’d never noticed them before. But there they are, poking out of the fronds like some bizarre skin graft.
  • The view from our back deck. (not in the direction of the Avenue Gang)
  • Getting to live the rest of my life with the cutest, biggest hearted, person on the planet. Larry again. Did I mention he got his hair cut. Yea, hooray.
  • Riding our bikes on Fourth of July and stopping on the Colorado Blvd bridge to watch Rose Bowl fireworks. The rest of the ride home downhill, riding down streets on a summer night that made me feel like I was eight years old again.
  • Blogging. All the wonderful people I’ve met by blogging: people who read my blogs and comment, who I then get to read their blogs; and the network of cyberfriends whose lives I feel privileged to peek into and they into mine. I suspect that heaven will be the place where we all live on the same street and can actually witness each other day to day. As long as we keep blogging.
  • Live music: Mim and I heard Bill Malonee do a house concert at my friend Adam’s house. You forget how stunning live music is if you only listen to iTunes.
  • 30 Rock. I haven’t watched TV in yonks, except for renting Extras or The BBC Office through netflix. I didn’t realize I had a 30 Rock at the top of my netflix queue, but whwen it arrived I was totally entertained. Larry had to come into the living room to find out what was making me laugh out loud.
  • Jane Eyre, the recent BBC production with smokin hot Toby Stevens.
  • Walking through Larry’s room and seeing him typing on his computer. He’s writing a terrific screenplay and I’m so proud of him.
  • John Cusak’s Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire: which included the following:
    Q: Who are your heroes in real life? A: Let’s go with Jesus. Not the gay-hating, war-making political tool of the right, but the outcast, subversive, supreme adept who preferred the freaks and lepers and despised and doomed to the rich and powerful. The man Garry Wills describes “with the future in his eyes … paradoxically calming and provoking,” and whom Flannery O’Connor saw as “the ragged figure who moves from tree to tree in the back of [one’s] mind.”
    This made me love John Cusack, and strive to write as well as Flannery O'Connor.
  • My brother Jim’s girlfriend. He finally fell in love with the RIGHT WOMAN. Yea. And she’s coming over for dinner tonight. Which is pretty cool since she lives in Zurich.

  • Our wonderful sometime-house mates The Rooneys, who got even more wonderful when they added Abe to their posse.

And that's my list as of Friday at 3:30. In a couple hours I'll add "quitting time." Tomorrow I hope to add new ones. But Larry will always be on the list. As well as that blanket of grace and my cat.

If you've got an item on your own Gratitude List that you'd like to share, please post!

Jul 9, 2008

Finding Faith In A Funk

I'm quite sure now I've fallen into a post-partum funk. The book is done, I'm only waiting on the copy editor to send me her share of jots and tiddles for changes. Amazing how much adrenaline and hope that the book stirred up in me. Now I'm left to think, 'This book is dookie. No one is going to want to read it! Those who do will think it's a pile of self indulgent crap! I bet I open the pages and shudder, 'did I really write that?' (I'm told these doubts are standard for even the veteran author. Yet I'm still mortified).

In the meantime, the acting business has grinded to a halt. There may be plenty of roles for kids on High School Musical or CSI: Pacioma. But not for me. And so I've gone back to ... Ta Da: TEMPING. There is nothing better to squish your ego like a roach than to go back to a temp agency.

This week I was placed in the development department of a studio that produces animation for children. What do you know, they're getting into reality TV! Because, well, it's the only thing that's profitable these days. I can only imagine the shows that will be on schedule this fall: Who wants to marry my 8 year old brat? Extreme Makeover, Grade School Edition. Survivor: Glendale Galleria.

The people I'm working for are pretty cool and creative. That being said, Most of my job is to schedule meetings with every reality show writer-producer, and you wouldn't believe the reality shows that have actually gotten made. From "Pimp My Ride" to "Thug My Boyfriend." "I Get that A Lot, Your face Or Mine, Are You Hot? The most troubling genre of reality show to emerge is the celebrity webcam, it started with The Osbournes and now has sunk to a nadir with Living Lohan: a reality show about Lindsay's mom. I also noticed a TV special: Ashlee Simpson A Retrospective. Is Ashlee old or accomplished enough to merit a retrospective?

Even if I were working for THE coolest people on the planet, and my department is pretty cool, it brings up every inkling of regret. So many of my peers went on to achieve success as TV and film writers, producers and stars. I can pinpoint the missteps and mistakes that kept me out of that league. So when I walk in every morning and sign on as "development temp assistant," it only brings it home.

For the past year and a half my husband has been toiling away at a soul-numbing job, writing boring fund raising copy, so that I could write my book. Now it's time for me to return the favor. Many nights Larry came home, angry and depressed. I told him, "it's not for forever." So the shoe is on the other foot. Or rather, we are both wearing the same soul-numbing shoe. And he's telling me the same thing: it's not forever. Still it's hard not to feel resentful at myself, for all those bone-headed moves I made, or the right moves I failed to take, that landed me as Development Temp Assistant.

I know a little bit more about the daily activity of taking up your cross and following. So many people are out there do crappy jobs to survive. And they don't have the hope of escape. So I get to be like everyone else, with nothing spectacular to offer except an eight-hour work day.

"Whatever is good, whatever is right, whatever is lovely: think on these things." "I know how to be content in seasons of abundance or scarcity: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Wow, when was the last time I really lived that??? Maybe that's the point. I have been running on my own steam, rather than God's. I've been operating on will power and hope that my book will amount to something. I've got to get back to the basics of finding joy in the smallest things. Man, they are very small these days. So all I can do now is wait. And go to work. Tom Petty was right. The waiting is the hardest part.