The Year in Review: 2012

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In the past twelve months, I have edited 46 academic books and works of fiction, drafted a book on racial profiling, co-authored a children’s book, and coached three new writers. Not bad, considering I also moved to the Southern Hemisphere and turned my life, literally, upside down.

My academic editing was for several well-known academic publishers, and I edited manuscripts for several repeat clients, helping them with books that are to be published in numerous countries. That’s the fun of having a world-wide clientele.

My academic editing included subjects as diverse as Christ among the messiahs, realpolitiks, DIY style in Indonesia, Muslim women’s memoirs from across the diaspora, healing of children after sexual abuse, independent film, love’s subtle magic, and workplace bullying in higher education. As I like to say, I’m getting a PhD in Everythingology, and the list of subjects I edited this year gives credence to that belief.

Aside from my academic editing, I also edited two textbooks (math and biology)…which is what most people assume “academic editing” means. Not so. They are two distinct endeavors.

I also worked with three new writers, who are writing a memoir of reincarnation, a series of theological tomes, and an urban novel. Again, extremely diverse subjects. I particularly enjoy working with new writers, helping them to discover their strengths, their voice, and the story they wish to tell.

I miss teaching fiction writing at UCSB Extension, but this is the next best thing. Truth be told, I might enjoy it more than teaching in a classroom, though I do miss the face-to-face interaction.

Simply put, I love my job. Here’s to a similarly challenging 2013, and unexpected growth and new avenues of endeavor.

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The Dark Ages: Before Google

What did writers (and editors) do before Google? I am constantly looking up information on Google as I edit academic books, verifying the spelling of names, dates, events, and any number of items which I, as editor, must ascertain are correct.

And I can do so by simply typing in the Google search box. Question on the Kosovo conflict? Thousands of hits at my fingertips. Uncertain about how Kafka viewed the unconscious, more hits. Need the names of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations? Voilá. And what is the difference between a barque and a junk? No problem, and here are photos to clarify further.

How did editors do this before now? Did they spend all of their time in academic libraries, scanning volumes and journals? I simply don’t know. Perhaps there were fact verifiers in addition to copyeditors, whose job it was to check this sort of information. I’ll have to ask someone who’s been in this business longer than I have. Meanwhile, it falls to me to check, and so I do. With gusto, and with the sense that I learn something with every mini-hunt I pursue. With each search, I push my own personal Dark Ages a bit further behind me, opening the doors to Enlightenment.

I feel my knowledge increasing on a daily basis, as I learn multitudes of new facts while scanning the Internet. As a friend said, I’m pursuing a PhD in Everythingology in my current career. And it’s all free (barring the Internet fee I pay to my provider). May it ever remain so!

Via Lucis Press: books, etc.

As Editor of Via Lucis Press, I spoke with the three other principals in the group (Dennis Aubrey, PJ McKey, and Tom Hanson) this weekend about our immediate plans for Via Lucis Press and our progress on the high-end photography  books we will publish. Dennis and PJ have now taken several tens of thousands of photographs of Romanesque churches in France and Spain, and it is time to begin writing the text that will accompany the photographs (http://www.vialucis.us)  in preparation for publication of our first book.

The first step is to write an article about the Unknown Renaissance, the age of the Romanesque, during which all of the experiments that later led to Gothic art and architecture were made. This is a fascinating subject, as unknown architects and artisans from an unknown era pushed the boundaries of building and art, making those discoveries that later led to the renowned accomplishments of the Renaissance, including the expansion of stone arches and the buttressing of high vaults.

“… the ‘why’ of it all is hard to answer,” writes Dennis in one blog. “I’m not religious, although I think I have a deep streak of the need to believe, which takes expression in artistic work. I first fell in love with Romanesque architecture because of its beauty, durability, and variety. But over the years studying these buildings, I have come to believe that they are some of the most perfect expressions of faith that architecture has ever produced. Our Greek ancestors, with their temples, the Egyptians with theirs, the Chinese, Japanese, so many others have all found unique and powerful ways to match structure and belief. But it was, not to be showing disrespect, elitist. The Romanesque and Gothic, on the other hand, were “partout,“ everywhere. … They were not just the reflection of Man and God, as are the others, but the record of an entire people. When that faith dissipated, as is inevitable in any civilization, we were left with a stone record of incredible beauty, a direct link, as it were, to the aspirations of these people.”

Read more on this topic on our blog (http://www.vialucispress.wordpress.com).

It’s Nice to Be Appreciated

This summer, I edited two books for Christopher Kaczor, professor of philosopy at Loyola Marymount University. The first book was on the ethics of abortion, and the second was a collection of essays about Ralph McInerny, recently deceased professor of philosophy for 54 years at the University of Notre Dame.

Both books had uncharacteristically short deadlines, which I managed to meet, while greatly enjoying the books as I edited.

Today, I received a testimonial from Chris, for use on my website. I have to admit, I’m delighted with the feedback, which I will now post on http://www.annaubrey.com.

“Working with tight time constrictions, Ann Hanson delivered both of my manuscripts with detailed corrections.  She cast a legion of typos out of my books and helped correct errors that had been for me unseen.  I appreciated her professionalism and alacrity in getting my editing work done.  If I had my way, she’d work full time for my university, helping me with all my other projects as well.”

It’s nice to be appreciated.

Christian Editor Network

I am now a member of the Christian Editor Network, which connects authors with freelance editors. I found out about the group in May when I attended the Christian Writers Conference in Orange County. There is a stringent “testing” procedure, to verify that editors can perform at a certain high level. Tough tests, but I passed. Now I can advertise on the site for copyediting, substantive editing, and all other editing levels an author may require. I can also advertise my skills as a writing coach or mentor, an endeavor in which I am particularly skilled.

I currently work as a freelance editor for several publishing companies, but the CEN will connect me with individual authors as well as with publishers. I’m looking forward to a long and rewarding relationship with the group.

All writers, nascent and experienced, come one, come all. The doctor is in.

Vision Prose

I was recently talking with an author friend (Meg Gardiner) about a book I recently read, a self-published book that screamed for a proper edit. When asked about the primary problem, I said it was “visual prose.”

Too often, writers envision what they are writing, sort of like running a movie in their minds, and then write what they see. This is what I term “vision prose.” Vision prose will kill a good story.

Here’s an example (created just for this blog, not quoting anyone else’s writing): Todd pushed his chair back, got up from the chair, and grabbed his glass from the table. He looked at Nyla with hatred and then turned and walked to the door. Realizing he still had the glass in his hand, he put it on the shelf, took hold of the doorknob, and walked through the door without a backward glance.

I’m not kidding. This is the kind of writing I sometimes have to edit, and, more often, find in published works.

How would I fix it? First, I’d ask the question: what’s the main point of the scene? Answer: Todd leaves in anger or disgust. We don’t care about the glass. If you put the glass in the scene, and show us Todd placing it on the shelf, it had better figure later in the story. Otherwise, leave it out.

We also don’t need to see him push his chair back before rising from the table, unless he does it slowly, with great deliberation, his anger building with each backward inch. If there isn’t some specific meaning to his pushing back the chair, don’t write it.

…. and there’s so much more, but I’ll leave it alone after I ask: How did he manage to walk through the door? Is he only protoplasm?

My suggested edit: Todd scraped his chair backwards, glaring at Nyla, and left without a backward glance.

Okay, so I could probably improve even that, but you get the gist. We don’t need a blow-by-blow description of each of his actions. Give us the meat and leave the fixin’s out.

Next: Describing a Character: Why and How?

I’ll Say It Again

I’ll say it again…I love my job!

I’m currently editing a book recounting the lives of people who had been exiled to the Russian Gulag. Fascinating reading about a population I knew little about, except through movies and novels. As I edit, I am coming to a new understanding of man’s inhumanity to man, and the repercussions of those actions across generations.

The work also causes me to lift my head and look around me, to view the world through a different lens, and to see how our world has changed and how, frighteningly, it has stayed the same.

I begin to question. Given ample food and shelter for every human on earth, would it be enough? Or would there always be those who rise up and try to rule, to exert power over others? I suspect the latter. So much of the cruelty I am reading about is caused not by need, but by greed and by the desire to be master over another.

Okay, so working on books like these don’t make me the best dinner companion, but what an education I receive with each book I edit. Expanding my horizons and making a living by doing so. Who could ask for anything more?

Next, editing a book about the ethics of abortion. Another great opportunity for insight, and another reason to decline my dinner invitations.