It’s Called a Style Sheet

Yesterday I learned something new. When you copyedit for a publisher, they want you to create something called a Style Sheet as you read. I’ve never done that in the past, not with all the books I’ve edited. At least not officially.

A style sheet is a guide for the proofreader and the editor, listing all of the punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation, and miscellaneous stylistic elements of the book. It also contains a long list of words used in the book, especially foreign words and names, for consistency of spelling.

I’ve kept lists like this when I edit, for my own sanity and edification (especially when I edited the book on Greek history), but never realized that such a thing would be useful to others along the publishing cycle. So, it’s an easy element for me to incorporate into my routine…but why had I never heard of it before?

I sit with the Chicago Manual of Style by my side as I edit because, though my brain is a treasury of grammar and punctuation rules, I sometimes double-think myself and have to verify what I already know.

It’s amazing how organized I feel now that I know about style sheets. I’ll use them for all of my clients now, for their own use and for them to pass along to their publishers.

Learn something new every day.

Excellence in Writing

I just finished two books over the weekend: Greg Hurwitz’s Crimewriter and Brett Battles’ The Cleaner. Both were gripping and, most importantly, well written. Too often, I find good stories that are poorly written. This seems to be especially common now that publish-on-demand (POD) is so easily available.

I won’t name names, but there are books being sold today that would likely not have seen the light of day had it not been for POD. One of the first giveaways to bad writing for me can be found in most of these books….the self-description by the narrator. These are typically so bad, so “I’ve got to tell them what this character looks like,” that I want to throw the book across the room. Of course, POD authors are not the only ones who are lame at this. Take Dan Brown’s description of Robert Langdon in Angels and Demons. That almost got me to throw the book, but I was laughing so hard I simply dropped it. Pathetic. The guy tells a fun story but he is not a good writer!

That’s the difference with Hurwitz and Battles. Both write extremely well. I was a bit put off by the beginning of Hurwitz’s book. In fact, I put it down for a couple of months before getting back to it. It was a case of “look how well I write,” for me at least. I was too aware of him patting himself on his own back, admiring his description of Los Angeles. I’m glad I worked past that though, because it was an excellent book once I read further. Great story idea and well plotted.

I was hooked on Battles’ book from the first moment: the Cleaner, who goes and cleans up crime scenes for “the Office.” Unique idea and tightly plotted and written.

Both of these authors represent excellence in writing as far as I am concerned. I devoured both books and looked up for more, sateless. Next, however, must be Laurie R. King’s latest book, God of the Hives, and Meg Gardiner’s latest, Liar’s Lullaby. Held off reading King’s book, making myself savor the wait. Now is the time. And as soon as Gardiner’s book arrives, all else must wait.

In Awe

I am in awe of Anthony Horowitz. This man writes some of the most varied and interesting works, from a teenage spy (Alex Rider) to a historical drama (“Foyle’s War”) to modern murder mysteries (“Midsomer Murders”). But it’s not just the variety, it’s what he includes in each of these. It’s the side stories that make me marvel.

For example, in the latest “Foyle’s War,” which, if you haven’t watched them, I highly recommend you add them to your must-see list, the story is about a young man accused of treason during WWII. All well and good, but he is accused of treason for having joined other British soldiers who accepted Hitler’s offer to get out of a prison camp, don the German uniform, and fight against the Russians in the British Free Corps.

There isn’t a great deal said about the British Free Corps, but that is Horowitz’s way. He whets the appetite and it is up to us to read more, to do the research that he has done but which he chooses only to allude to in his story. This isn’t the first time he has done this to me, either. I am forever researching something after I watch one of his shows. That’s what I love about his writing.

Now I am researching the Special Operations Executive and the women spies of WWII. That started because of something Horowitz mentioned about cryptography in one of the shows, which led me to the first digital telephone, used during WWII between Whitehall and the Pentagon, which then led me to the SOE.

My style is to write about what I know. Horowitz’s style is to leak a little about what he knows and then drive us to further research.

If you don’t know his work, I highly recommend him. He has written several children’s books (Alex Rider mysteries among them, written for a woefully under-represented age group), about 50 novels, and numerous television shows. But I warn you, you can’t just read his work and walk away. He WILL challenge you to read more.

Long-Term Clients

Back in 2007, I was asked by a client to help edit her Masters in Nursing paper. At the time she contacted me, Maria typed on the computer as though using a typewriter, with a carriage return at the end of each line of text. Fixing that alone took a great deal of time, but it was necessary before I could even get to editing the meat of her paper.

We finished the project and her paper was accepted, and we ended our client relationship on excellent terms. Two years later, who appears again but Maria, with Doctoral proposal in hand (figuratively speaking, since we have never actually met face to face). By this time, fortunately, she had learned the fundamentals of computers and I could jump right in to the editing. There was a great deal of give and take on this project, as is to be expected when dealing with mentors and a review board, and the dissertation was finally accepted. Again, we parted on excellent terms.

Earlier this year, Maria approached me for help in turning her dissertation into a professional healthcare workbook. The result had to be a different animal from her dissertation, more user friendly and beneficial to the user. We worked long and hard on the conversion and she is close to publishing it now, after a few more tweaks.

I have been delighted to work with Maria for these projects and realize that client relationships don’t always end once a single project is completed. Good clients return, if I’ve done my job well.

Here is Maria’s testimony, written after this last project edit:

It is with great pleasure that I recommend Ann Aubrey Hanson as an editor. I have worked with Ann since 2007 as she edited several of my scholarly papers. This includes my final Masters in Nursing Project and, most recently, my Doctorate level papers and Capstone book project. Ann has always displayed a high degree of integrity, responsibility, and accessibility in helping me to accomplish my objectives. She provides thorough feedback and is organized and sensitive when providing suggestions for changes in my research papers to enhance their quality. Ann is a wonderful editor. I am happy to give her my wholehearted endorsement.”
Maria Rodriguez, RN, MSN, CNS-BC

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

Yesterday, I finished editing a dissertation into a book for Dr. Saba Soomekh of Loyola Marymount University. She had asked me to help her edit her Ph.D. dissertation into a book, which SUNY has already opted to publish.

It was an extremely interesting project, concerning three generations of Iranian Jewish women who have immigrated to Los Angeles. Fascinating reading, which was a good thing, since I had to read it, and very carefully, six or seven times. But I completed the project with time to spare and Saba was delighted with my work. In fact, she wrote a testimonial to my editing, which I shall now share here.

I cannot thank Ann Aubrey Hanson enough for all her help in editing and proofreading my manuscript. Ann took my 400-page Ph.D. dissertation and helped me turn it into a 300-page book which will be published by SUNY Press. She read my manuscript a number of times, paying attention to grammar, syntax, and content. My manuscript had a glossary of foreign words that I had defined. Ann, of course, found words in my manuscript that I myself did not realize I had missed. That shows her wonderful attention to detail. Plus, she finished editing my manuscript two weeks before the deadline I gave her. She is an excellent editor and she is incredibly efficient and professional. I wholeheartedly recommend her to everyone!”  Dr. Saba Soomekh, Theological Studies Department, Loyola Marymount University

High praise indeed and I am delighted that she was pleased with my work. This is what makes my job so entertaining and enlightening.

Vile Villains Cancel Class

Archvillain Snidely Whiplash

Well, my Vile, Evil Villains class at UCSD Extension was scheduled to begin today, but it was canceled, due to a dearth of students. I was afraid it was too soon to offer it again, and this time as a five-week course (versus three-week last July). So, it’s been postponed until the Winter session. My next classes begin in July: writing memorable characters and overcoming writer’s block. In the fall, I will teach my Writing with the Senses class again. That was a big hit last year.

It’s too bad the Villain class was postponed. I’ve been developing some great new exercises for developing evil villains and the heroes who will oppose them. I got a lot of great insight from Christopher Booker’s tome “The Seven Basic Plots.” If you’re a writer, you have to get this book. It’s joined Sol Stein’s “On Writing” as one of my favorite resources.

But no effort is ever wasted, so I can use much of what I’ve been developing in my Character class.

Meanwhile, I continue with my Memoir Writing workshops every Wednesday. My current students are on their four series of workshops. Some great writing resulting, and, as to be expected, some much-needed therapy. Writing heals.

Hey, that’s a great idea for a new course! Think I’ll go pitch it right now!

The Writer’s Life

As I meet one deadline, writing for St. Mary’s Press, Catholic textbook publishers, I turn now to several other projects that I have lined up. I’m currently editing two academic books, one on Iranian Jewish women immigrants in Los Angeles, and another concerning the women’s plight during the Holocaust, both of which are riveting topics. I am also editing a series of mysteries that take place in the fashion industry of New York City. How’s that for diversity?

Cover for "Elder Care"

I am also delighted to announce two new publications. Dr. Alex Kodiath’s just-released “Elder Care: Precious Presence,” a book about the healing power of presence in dealing with the elderly and the dying. I edited the book for him. Maria Csanadi, a Hungarian immigrant, just published her memoirs of the family’s escape from Hungary in 1956, in a book entitled “Precious Legacy.” I worked with Maria for several years to help her write the book, and then edited it for her. She is delighted to have finished the book and have it to pass along to family, other immigrants, and any university departments that might be interested in first-hand history of that time.

Cover for "Precious Legacy"

Both books are available online, simply by searching for the titles or the authors in Google.

I enjoy the projects and cannot believe how fortunate I am to earn my living as a writer and editor. The long hours are easy to accept when the work is so diverse and entertaining.