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I’m having a crisis of conscience today. Recently, a publishing company I have always very much admired posted an actual job opening for an editor. Not an intern, not an assistant, not a publicist, but an editor. This is very rare indeed.

Of course, I applied. I worked for days on a completely new cover letter – normally, I just mix’n’match from old letters and send them in. Anyway, because I recently made a couple of contacts within the company (and because of the stellar, typo-free experience that was the application), I have been called for an interview. And now I am worried.

The rub is that I am currently working part-time, on a freelance basis with a magazine, and I really enjoy it. There is lots of opportunity there for more work, and the editor and the whole editorial team have gone out of their way to make me feel like a part of things. Hell, I was all ready to give up on writing/editing before getting this gig. I feel very warmly towards them, and would be committed even if there was no formal contract.

The publisher would be a prestigious one to have on my resume. The question is – can or should I ask for flexibility to still meet the commitments of my current gig if I get this job? (The magazine editing involves a couple meetings a month, with the rest of the work done from my home, on my own time; the book editing job would be full-time and on-site.)

The book publishing job would be great experience, and I would hope it might lead to freelance work in the future, after the contract is up. On the other hand though, I have worked for two other book publishers in the past, and neither of those jobs have led to one single hour of billable freelance time. So I should not count on that happening here, either.

I’m just really happy with the way things are – working freelance for appreciative clients, etc. – and would like to build on what I have rather than give things up for one job, even if it’s my “dream job.” Yes, I want to fit it all in and make everyone happy, including myself. What would you do?

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Have you ever worked in an office with a filthy kitchen and a fridge with all of last year’s lunches oozing out of it? Was there a sign above the sink reading “Your mother doesn’t work here” or “BYO Maid” and suchlike? Then check out the Passive-Aggressive Notes blog – especially if you hate people who resort to passive-aggressive behaviours instead of saving everyone time and aggravation by coming out and saying what they want. I love all the notes – and responses – from people for whom directness is NOT a way of life.

If punctuation abuse is more what gets your blood boiling – i.e. you nodded in sympathy on every page of Eats, Shoots & Leaves – there are two blogs that feel your pain (both found via the aforementioned P-A blog):

I especially liked the post on picking apart the unnecessary use of quotation marks by Truamn Capote (!) in In Cold Blood. I myself am a recovering quotation mark and unnecessary brackets abuser.

As an afterthought, I wonder if I am being passive-aggressive about my issues with passive-aggressiveness by writing this post to encourage others to recognize it and stop doing it. Man, do I ever hate indirectness and veiled commands. So just don’t do that, please.

Colour me stumped – so I do the nerdiest thing possible: go online and shop for dictionaries. And style guides. Oh my!

In the course of that shopping, I came across this review for the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

This book has got me stumped. Being a huge Webster fan I couldn’t be more disappointed. Not a single picture of my little man. The book doesn’t even talk about him. No pictures – nothing. Not even a mention Alex Karras (George). “Merriam Webster”?? What’s that? Is it like some caveman speak for “Webster’s happy”? And what does he have to be happy about? – he’s surely gets minimal exposure from this publication.

Apart from my initial disappointment this book doesn’t even make sense. I couldn’t follow the plot and trying to read all the many sub-chapters aloud is a futile exercise in alliteration.

Sold. It’s the dictionary review Ed might have written.

The Vancouver Public Library has just announced their pick for the 2007 edition of One Book One Vancouver: My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. I read this book on a friend’s recommendation a few years ago, and I even campaigned for it as a selection for our own little book club (currently on hiatus).

My initial reaction to the news was “Isn’t it supposed be a book about Vancouver in some way?” But I’m swallowing my parochialism. Everyone should read this book. It’s a slim, funny, and occasionally unsettling novel that takes on big themes: Japan-America cross-cultural relations, violence against women, genetically modified foods, and industrial meat production.

Read the rest of this entry »

Five weeks to go and counting: I am almost finished my term in Print Futures. I’ve been so busy with both projects and job applications that I never looked at the Big Bad Book Blog, which was sent my way by a friend nearly two weeks ago.

Boy am I glad I finally did look at this site. It’s packed with great information on every aspect of modern writing, editing, and publishing, easy to navigate, and clearly written. I especially like the writing and editing section, which contains answers to some of the most pressing grammar and usage questions we’ve heard coming up time and time again over the past two years.

I encourage any would-be authors to look through the publishing and marketing & publicity pages before sending off that proposal or manuscript to a publisher or agent. For those on the other side of the desk, the news section contains daily link roundups to all the latest publishing news. Did I mention the fresh lime green + grey colour scheme?

Oooh, controversy. It seems that Douglas Coupland has written a rant on the “grimness” of CanLit for the New York Times. I would like to be able to read it, probably because I will agree 100% that most Canadian novels are about as exciting as gum disease. Unfortunately, Coupland’s article is in a walled-off area of the nytimes.com site that requires a subscription. According to a Toronto Star piece on Coupland’s so-called rant, the piece railed against the focus on authors who suck up grant money and attention and who tend to write books about the immigrant experience and life in small towns. He also directed ire at the grant-supported system of writing and publishing that tends to support such stories.
I’ve been railing about the generally stinky storytelling in CanLit for years. There are many Canadian books I like – Margaret Atwood comes to mind – but on the whole, I am not interested in “dense multilayed narratives”; I like stories. I don’t want to read about the reminisciences of some broad looking back on her life whilst in a cabin on the Prairies; I want a plot, characters, and dialogue that moves the story along.
Story. Tell one. I don’t care how well you write, oh Writer.
Since I can’t read the Coupland rant, the next bestest thing is the chapter sending up CanLit in Will and Ian Ferguson’s book How to Be Canadian. Here’s their take on a page from the average Canadian novel:

She looked back at the house. It was a good house. Not a great house. But still, not bad. As far as houses went.
The seagulls were staying close to shore. Seven generations of McGoogles had lived here. Seven generations. Their dreams were etched onto the rocks as surely as the lines of time were etched onto her face. She touched the bruise on her cheek.
‘That bastard!’ said Shane. He lifted the bottle to his lips. He drank. Then he stopped.
‘They will be here soon,’ she said. ‘They will be coming down Cape Breton Road. Unless we’re in Newfoundland.’

The Ferguson’s aren’t far off the mark. I’m a modern, urban girl who is not yet staring down middle age, and all I ask is for Canada to get busy publishing some books that entertain me.

Our book club just had it’s third meeting, where we discussed the book for August, A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. Hornby is one of those writers I’d like to like, but I just can’t. His other books, About a Boy and High Fidelity were fabulous as movies, but when it comes to the words on the page, the writing is just too clever and self-referential to be enjoyed.
A Long Way Down is about four people who run into into each other when they all go to the same building to leap to their splattery deaths. Then they all start talking and realize how much they are really alike. If this set up sounds familiar, it’s because The Breakfast Club with suicide instead of Saturday detention as the crux of the meeting.
Unfortunately, Hornby also borrows another cute Hughes-ian device – the aside to the reader/viewer (Ferris Bueller mugged to the camera a lot, fer instance) – and makes his characters mainly talk to the reader instead of each other. He uses a “telling the story from each character’s point of view” narrative style, which starts to seem like it’s just a way of avoiding writing dialogue.
I can’t comment too much on the story, since I was terribly late in picking up the book and only read the first hundred pages or so. The others did soldier through the whole thing – I told them not to worry about spoiling the ending for me – but I’m not sure anyone thought it was a smash hit or future favourite book. We discussed briefly the casting of the rumoured upcoming movie – will Johnny Depp play the Hornby alter-ego character JJ?
We set the bar pretty high at our inaugural meeting, where we discussed Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman and then made a cake. This meeting, there wasn’t much to tie in with a suicide theme, save the fact that my apartment building is near the Pattullo Bridge, a popular spot for jumpers and car crashes. (A distant cousin jumped there many years ago; I didn’t know him.)
This month’s book selection is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, chosen because it is often used in high school English classes (theme #1: back to school), and has also been banned in schools (theme #2). If you feel like reading up and joining us at a yet to be decided location for discussion and activities, please email me: maikopunk at yahoo.com.

I slammed out of the house on Saturday morning. I didn’t really know why I was so angry. Aside from the usual irritations of living with my family – slob uncle, living in one room with clutter everywhere, the endless waiting to get the hell out – there was realy nothing that should have been making me so mad. It was exactly what Holly Golightly called “the mean reds.”
The rain and low, claustrophobic clouds did not help my mood. I defiantly refused to carry a brolly.
So as I’m speeding away from the neighbourhood on the bus, I get to thinking “Why am I so pissed off?” And it came to me – it’s a direct effect of a bad, stupid book. Characters that are annoying, a story going nowhere, and a writer whose paragraphing habits, once noticed, are working my nerves.
Why not just say what you have to say in one paragraph?
Are you trying to stretch out this book?
I think that is the idea.
And so forth.
I recognize the effect that Watermelon by Marian Keyes is having on me now, because I remember how reading The Devil Wears Prada a long way back made me tense and irritable too. I went around for a week after reading it with a complex of insecurity and hostility. The insecurity came from reading designer names on every other page and endless descriptions of what people were wearing. The hostility came from the meanness of the Anna Wintour character and the utter stupidity of the whatever-her-name-was assistant main character. By the end of the book, I really hated them all and all their bloody clothes.
Same with Watermelon, which concerns the tedious travails of main character Claire. The hook is her husband leaving her just after she gives birth to their baby. She flees London for the bosom of her wacky Irish family. Oh, they’re so wacky. The meat of the plot concerns Claire’s recovery from the blow of abandonment and her tentative romance with some studmuffin named Adam. I really hated everyone in this book. Claire is kind of a gormless character – we don’t really get a get a handle on her as the book “develops”. Her lover Adam is oddly hostile for fling material. And when the husband, an accountant named James, wanders back into the plotline, he is so indifferent and uninteresting that I couldn’t help by wonder why he was there. Romantic tension? Hardly.
I think this book was written to antagonize me. Personally.
I finished it, though – and I want my damned $12.99 back. But alas, it would probably fetch 50 cents at a thrift shop.
But, I don’t want to write off Ms. Keyes completely – Rachel’s Holiday was quite good (and is about the same family!), and so was what I read of Sushi For Beginners. It’s chick lit for sure, but Irish so characters have names like Clodagh and Fintan. So that’s okay.

This Seven Things list came to me via Breadchick, who I have only become acquainted with via the parallel universe that is blogging. The Blogiverse. The Blearth. And similar takes on combining blog and words denoting some sort of terrain, landscape or life-supporting bubble. On with it, then:

Seven Things To Do Before I Die

1. See Paris. And ride Vespas through Rome. Your basic Continent-with-steamer-trunks fantasy.

2. Drive the Alaska Highway.
3. Get a Masters Degree In either Creative Writing or World Literature.
4. Convince the world to stop needing so much Stuff.
5. Save the glaciers.
6. Make someone happy.
7. Buy a Showtime Rotisserie, Ronco Food Dehydrator, Magic Bullet, and whichever Abercizer strikes my fancy at 2 am in the morning.

Seven Things I Can’t Do
1. Play dumb.
2. Shop for clothes.
3. Tolerate engineers of any stripe. We are different species, the engineers and I.
4. Sit next to persons who are chewing gum without smacking them.
5. Paint.
6. Play musical instruments.
7. Wait.

Seven Things That Attract Me To Blogging
1. Me. Me. Me. I fascinate you, don’t I?
2. The chance to imitate my brilliant friend who showed me the way of the blog.
3. Keeping up with friends, both the ones I can’t get away from and the ones I’ve never met.
4. The way it forces me to write even when I don’t want to, just to keep up appearances.
5. Looking all cool and techno-savvy.
6. Writing and stuff.
7. Sharing my interests and obsessions and discovering new ones along the way.

Seven Things I Say Most Often
1. Where are my keys?
2. Sugar! (as in Shit!)
3. Anal (Car Name)
4. Sh’up.
5. Am I rambling?
6. Never put off til tomorrow what you can put off forever.
7. I can’t sleep. / I’m hungry.

Seven Books That I Love
1. The Great Gatsby
2. Pride and Prejudice
3. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
4. The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean (the basis for the movie Adaptation)
5. Morning, Noon and Night by Sidney Sheldon
6. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
7. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Seven Movies I Watch Again and Again
1. Office Space
2. Sixteen Candles/Pretty in Pink/The Breakfast Club
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
4. Election
5. Grease/Saturday Night Fever
6. Little Shop of Horrors
7. Goodfellas

Seven People I Want To Join In Too
I guess this is where I do my little shout-out that makes you feel all special and glowy inside. Fine.
1. Maktaaq
2. Biscuit Whore
3. Vulture
4. Meladuck
5. Imogene
6. Leanne
7. Oh yeah, and you too, James.

I read a review of this book a few weeks ago and thought it would be a perfect gift for the husband. He’s all about recognizing the little-known, underappreciated actors who appear in actual movies and not just tabloids. Except Donovan seems to know the names of all these people, the movies they’ve been in, and assorted anecdotes about their careers. We’ll be watching something like A Night at the Roxbury and making comments like “Hey, isn’t that Jennifer Coolidge playing the cop?” (You may know her as “Stifler’s Mom”), “Dan Hedaya just kills me,” or “Lochlyn Munro seems to get more roles than anyone else who was on Northwood, doesn’t he?”
Of course, when I gave him the book, Donovan thanked me, then looked at me real hard and asked “But this is really for you isn’t it?” And I must admit that I do have a thing for the anonymous yet hard-working actors of the movie world. I have a crush on Steve Buscemi, for gawd sake. (He gets a two-page spread in the book.) Character actors rarely hit that Big Box Office status (Philip Seymour Hoffman, congrats on your ascendancy), but they fill in the colour of celluloid action and often do very interesting work while they’re at it.
Hey! It’s That Guy! draws mostly on its website content to profile character actors. It organizes the people by the movie habitats in which they are found, such as Army, Office, Suburbs, the Backwoods, and The Hideout. Plus, for the true character actor groupie, there is an interview with Stephen “Ned! Ryerson!” Tobolowsky and a page anointing the late J.T. Walsh as The Patron Saint of Character Actors Everywhere.
Yes, that’s right, I have a crush on Steve Buscemi.
However, since I wondered why some of my favourites – such as Christopher McDonald of Grease 2 and Happy Gilmore and everything in between fame – were not in the book, I visited Fametracker.com. Despite some of the content being pretty old in some places, the site has some good snarky fun writing. I especially dug the Fame Audit and Celebrity vs. Thing sections.
It’s so much fun just watching movies at home. You can spew all kinds of useless trivia, drink $2 beers instead of $5 pops, and dissect inane plotlines to your heart’s content.
I am feeling wistful, yet depressed. There’s been another delay on the apartment front and we may be here for a few weeks more. I think my movies must miss me too….

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