Behind the Book: All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows by Ramez Qureshi (Part 2)

This is the second in a two-part series. if you missed part 1, click here!

Welcome back! Last month I promised I’d get down and dirty with prepress details and insights when working with traditional print houses. Depending on your book, it may make more sense for you to self-publish and use a print-on-demand service like Lulu, or Amazon’s CreateSpace, but for the first editions of All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows, we were on a mission to create a limited release hardcover that felt unique and had character, an artifact that Ramez’s family, friends, and readers could treasure forever. Whether you have written a book and are thinking about self-publishing, or if you are operating an independent publisher, I hope this clarifies some of the mystery behind bringing a book into the world.

As you may recall, we had a last minute print house swap, which led to some cover measurement readjustments. Now this was not only an issue we had to shovel onto our brave jacket designer, Jason Yocum, but I also had to retool the file for the foil stamping on the spine behind the jacket. Fortunately, we only went with a single hit of foil, but if you add stamping to the front cover, be mindful of additional costs.

Foil stamping on the book spine

While we’re on additional costs, are you ready for the big one? Our primary financial surprise came in the form of shipping charges for proofs. Due to some color matching issues, we had to get a second proof of the jacket. Two jacket proofs and one text proof cost a mere $5 less than we paid to ship the entire order of finished books! We were aware of the base price for proofs, but we did not know that the shipping would be expedited and the additional cost would be added to our invoice. If you’re on a budget and not crunched for time, you’d be wise to ask for more shipping options on your proofs.

Jacket Proofs
The difference is so slight, yet so critical!

Another thing to remember is that proofs are the very last line of defense, so do your side-by-side comparisons and knock out all those edits before you send those final files to the printers! We’ll be happy to take care of this for you—our rates are right there on our homepage. This is an important detail, because both printers and eBook converters will charge for additional edits, and those rates are nowhere near as reasonable as ours!

Digital editions are somewhat less complicated during these stages, but that doesn’t mean they require less attention. What’s that? Did I just hear you say, “But Josh, I’m not going to release an eBook?” Let me stop you right there. I don’t care how much of a physical book purist you are, you aren’t the one who will be buying all of your books (I hope), so offer eBooks to your readers. Still not convinced? Digital books are a necessity for a lot of people with disabilities, and are significantly cheaper, which is great for folks with limited incomes. Even if you’re a heartless bastard, you can’t deny that a bigger audience pool equals more potential readers, and why publish if you don’t want readers?

If that last part applies, maybe we can work on you being less of a heartless bastard in a future post…

Until then, BACK TO EBOOKS! There are several DIY options for eBook conversion, such as Calibre, but these programs are notorious for their steep learning curves, so don’t even click that link if you struggle with everyday apps. If you’re feeling bold and have a simple layout, Bookow has an automated eBook layout program that appears easier to navigate than most, but if you have any specific layout elements in mind, you’ll want some human input. Fortunately, you can get an eBook conversion done for as low as $200, just make sure you’re getting both .mobi and .epub formats. Remember Bookow? They offer custom formatting from $250, but ultimately we went with Bookmobile because of the relatively complex nature of poetry formatting. Hot tip—poetry eBook conversions cost more due to this complexity. Our eBooks came out slick thanks to Arna & the crew at Bookmobile, and I fully endorse both their work and their customer service!

As soon as you have a manuscript that’s ready to publish, it’s time to also start thinking about high-resolution file formatting for both print and digital. Once  you are in contact with your printer and eBook converter, start asking questions about files. If you’re not familiar with the deep and varied range of options available within PDF files, brace yourself, because both formats require specific types of PDFs with fonts embedded. Get measurements for EVERYTHING. Find out what file types each company needs for images and text. Our eBook cover had to be at least 300 dpi and a minimum height of 2560 pixels, so keep this in mind when you’re sourcing cover art as well! If you haven’t had any experience with digital design, you might be better off hiring someone to handle this for you.

At the very least, I absolutely recommend hiring a designer for the cover. This is one of the most discussed topics I’ve ever seen in the worlds of self and indie publishing, and while anyone can slap a title and author name on a stunning piece of art, that usually doesn’t make for a great book cover. Design as a trade has been so diminished by the wide availability of programs like Photoshop and even the MS Office Suite, that anyone who can navigate a computer thinks it’s as simple as stacking the required layers and making the text readable. I assure you, fellow do-it-yourselfer, that a trained designer has an understanding of how and why visual elements work that most of us couldn’t hope to grasp. Give them your money, it will absolutely help you sell books. The same suggestion applies to cover artwork. Self-publishing is plagued by bad book covers, and I’m willing to bet more than a few outstanding authors have missed their shot because despite what we’re taught, we judge books by their covers.

Are you forgetting anything?

Did you buy ISBN’s? You’ll need these before you can finish your cover and your title page, so get these early. You can only get them from Bowker and they’re not cheap. Buy a pack if you can, because your eBook will need its own number as well.

Did you get a barcode? There are lots of options out there, but I’ll mention Bookow again because we used their killer barcode generator. These barcodes meet all retailer requirements, are high-resolution, and the generator is free! Once I tested ours out, I made a donation because Steve at Bookow was super helpful when I inquired about poetry formatting, and this utility is just so good, you’ll feel like you’re stealing if you get these barcodes for free!

Want your book in the Library of Congress? Of course you do! You’ll need to submit some information to their website before you send your final files to your printer and digital converter, as your PCN number will go on the publication data page. It’s a little confusing, but read the instructions carefully and you’ll have it in no time.

There’s a lot to this process, so if you have any additional questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments!

Now that you know all the details that made this book a reality, get a copy for yourself!

Buy direct from Bedlam Publishing
or
Buy on Amazon

The Great Copy Editing Cheat Sheet

We’ve all been there: we’re reading someone’s Facebook post when we’re confronted with that most annoying of offenses: someone who uses your when they meant you’re. “I’d never do that!” you think, reveling in the self-righteous glory that comes from someone who knows a possessive from a contraction. You may be right; you’re probably the sort of person who double checks your texts to make sure that they don’t autocorrect to the wrong their/there/they’re, and you might even know your who from your whom. But even the most seasoned grammarian has a weak spot; the following are a list of common words that might make you think twice, even if you’d rather not admit it. Remember: there’s no honor lost in having to pull out your dictionary to double check a phrase once in awhile, especially if you edit a lot. Editing tends to loosen our moorings. When we see something wrong on the page enough times, it starts to look right after awhile. Even if you aren’t an editor by trade, there are some words or phrases that may just have an evil hold on you (in the interest of full disclosure: I still question how to spell privilege each and every day). Check this out and see if there’s something on this list that you struggle with, too:

lay vs. lie

Perhaps the most complicated pair on the list (at least for me!), lay and lie are deceptive in that they are easy to understand at first. They are both verbs. Lay means to place an object down. Lie mean to recline or to be placed.

Ex.:

Lay the hat on the table.

Lie down on the bed.

It becomes confusing when you consider the past tenses. The past tense of lay is laid. The past tense of lie is lay.

Ex.:

The hat was laid on the table yesterday.

You lay in bed last night.

The past participle of lie is lain. The past participle of lay is laid.

Ex.:

They have laid many hats on this table before.

You could have lain in bed for days.

Layed is a common misspelling and does not exist. Use laid.

may vs. can

These two words may take you back to your childhood. May simply refers to a possibility and can to an ability. In speech, there is a somewhat formal-sounding tone to ask “may”, and many people forgo it for the less-formal can, (similar to the way should has replaced shall) however, there is still a place for may. When we consider the question “May I go to the bathroom?” vs. “Can I go to the bathroom?” the questioner is asking permission, but in using can it sounds as if he is asking if he is able to go instead of if he is allowed to go. Thus, may still retains value and should be considered.

may vs. might

Many people use these two words interchangeably, but there are two important distinctions between the two. Let’s tackle the first thing you need to know. May refers to situations that are factual and possible, whereas might is used when the possibility is less remote or hypothetical.

Ex.:

I may go to the movies later.

I might buy a boat if I win the lottery.

May gives a sense that things could happen, and might is for more speculative situations.

The second thing to know about these words is that might is the past tense of may. The only time when one would use may have would be when one is asking for permission, as in the previous section (May I have another slice of cake?). Otherwise, it would only makes sense to write might have.

Ex.: I might have driven around the accident if I had known about it.

One would never have an occasion to write may have, since may is the present tense.

further vs. farther

This is pretty easy. Further refers to anything metaphysical and farther to strictly distance. Thus, I wish to take my career further, and I will be willing to drive farther to do so. While this rule of grammar has fallen out of favor somewhat in recent years and it is more permissible to use these terms interchangeably, it is still good to know the difference and to apply them when possible.

issue vs. problem

The rampant misuse of these terms have become a widespread problem in recent years. We don’t tend to see people writing much formally about the words problems and issues, but it is spoken about and thus it crops up in informal writing, such as texts and in emails. Many people are not aware that there is a difference in the terms, and they use the word issue to mean problem, believing it to have a less … problematic sounding tone. Perhaps it sounds more official. Whatever the recent shift to issue, this is an incorrect word to substitute when one really means problem. A problem is something with a solution. An issue is a debatable topic. Examples of problems would include broken computers, a hardware malfunction, a measles outbreak, “Houston, we have a” … any number of things that trouble us because they are pressing matters and they have gone wrong and need fixing. Examples of issues are political debates such as Roe vs. Wade, gun rights, civil liberties, etc. Issues may also be problems, but problems are not usually issues.

i.e. vs. e.g.

These Latin abbreviations are often misused. It isn’t much of a problem, since the point of language is for us to understand each other and communicate our intentions. As long as we all understand each other, that’s what matters. Still, you’ll impress others if you are in the minority of people who know difference between these abbreviations and how to apply each of them correctly!

i.e. stands for id est and means “that is” or “in other words.” It is often used erroneously to list things out. The correct use for this is when you need to clarify something, use a metaphor or restate it more simply.

e.g. stands for exempli gratia and means “for example.” This is when a list can and should be used.

wherein vs. whereby

Wherein means “in which” and whereby means “by which.”

was vs. were

Was and were are both used in the past tense. Was is used in the first and third person singular past, and were is used in the second person singular and plural and first and third person plural. Was is used for statements of fact only. Were is used in the subjunctive mood to indicate unreal or hypothetical statements (The words if and wish usually indicate the subjunctive mood.)

Ex.:

When I was a child, I was very short.

If I were rich, I’d buy a mansion.

Hopefully, you’ll find some of these distinctions useful. If you’re like me, you’ll have to keep looking up one or two even after many years. Good luck, and happy editing!

August Events

July has ended, which means that it’s time for a new events article! If you’re bored or just looking for some inspiration to get started writing again, these 10 FREE events in Michigan are perfect for you! The events picked each month cover a variety of different topics, all centered around writing! From book clubs to writing workshops, author meet-and-greets,  book signings, and much more, you’ll always find something interesting to do!

August 4th – Goodrich – Local Authors Tent

A variety of local authors will be available for discussions, book signings, and questions. This is also a family friendly event! Definitely a great day trip to take with the family!   Visit their Facebook page for more information!

https://m.facebook.com/events/460588177722160/?utm_source=booksigningevent.com&utm_medium=content

August 7th – Nagaunee – Sunburns to Snowstorms: Upper Michigan Weather in Pictures and Stories

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum presents meteorologist Karl Bohnak and photographer and photo collector Jack Deo. They will be discussing their new book, and will be available to sign copies after their presentation. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn about an interesting topic! Visit the website below for more info!

https://www.michigan.org/event/sunburns-snowstorms-upper-michigan-weather-pictures-and-stories

August 9th – Escanaba – Local Author Fair

Local authors from Escanaba gather to take part in this Author Fair! The festivities include complimentary concessions, meet-and-greets with the authors, and book signings! Click on the link below for more information!

Local Author Fair

August 10th – Ann Arbor –  Rhys Bowen & Susan Elia MacNeal

The Ann Arbor District Library is holding an interview with Rhys Bowen and Susan Ella MacNeal about their latest published books! Thsi is sure to be an interesting activity for all book lovers! Visit The Ann Arbor District Library’s website to learn more!

https://aadl.org/node/373384

August 16th – Romeo – Romeo Writer’s Group

A great writing group situated in Romeo, Michigan that encourages and supports writers. Share your writing and listen to others at this month’s meeting! More information is provided through the link!

http://www.myrecordnewspaper.com/?tribe_events=romeo-writers-group-2-2018-08-16&eventDate=2018-08-16

August 18th –  Lansing – “Dyed in the Wool” Book Signing 

Dr. Linda Lee Tarver’s book, “Dyed in the Wool” is a bestseller on Amazon, and she will be holding a book signing at The Barnes and Nobles book store at The Lansing Mall! Don’t miss this chance to meet her! Click the link for more info!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dyed-in-the-wool-book-signing-tickets-48506534350

August 21st – Rochester Hills – Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group

While most writing groups focus on writing skills and critiquing  their fellow writers work, this group is all about the business side of being a writer. Perfect for writers interested in getting published, thinking about self-publishing, and being a professional writer in general! Don’t miss out on learning some very valuable information! Check out the link for more details!

Freelance Marketplace Writers’ Group

Tuesday, Aug 21, 2018, 7:30 PM

Barnes & Noble
2800 S Rochester Rd Rochester Hills, MI

2 Rochester Writers Attending

This Rochester based group is open to all new, working, and published writers, photographers, and illustrators. All genres welcome and free to attend. We are NOT a critique group – we discuss the business of writing. We meet the third Tuesday of the month* – come once, once in a while, or every time – hope you can join us.Our meeting could be anyw…

Check out this Meetup →

 

August 22nd – Muskegon – Left to Write – Creative Writing Group

Open to writers of all ages, this writing group focuses on making connections to other writers and using writing exercises to help facilitate growth! A perfect group for any writer to join! Don’t miss it! More information provided through the link!

https://www.hackleylibrary.org/events/locally-hosted-events/hpl/32280-left-to-write-2

August 23rd – Kalamazoo – RAWK READS: Summer Writing Students Read Selected Work

A great event that supports young writers! Come and listen to the participating students read their works and celebrate the wonders of writing! Definitely an event you don’t want to miss! Check out the link for more info!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rawk-reads-summer-writing-students-read-selected-work-tickets-48237928944

August 28th – Ferndale – Book Club: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

A book club that focuses on personal growth through reading. Their book this month is ‘All the Ugly and Wonderful Things’ by Bryn Greenwood! Don’t forget to read it before attending the meeting! Check out the link below!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/book-club-all-the-ugly-and-wonderful-things-tickets-48316099755

There are some amazing events this month! Don’t forget to tag us when you tell everyone what an awesome time you had! Have a great August everybody!

 

 

 

Behind the Book: All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows by Ramez Qureshi (Part 1)

We at The LetterWorks were recently involved in the publication of the first book by Bedlam Publishing, an indie publisher and sister company to TLW. (Full disclosure: I’m the Editor-in-Chief over there!) That book is Ramez Qureshi’s All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Collected Poems, and I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss some of the behind-the-scenes action that we don’t often consider when reading, writing, or even editing these wondrous little artifacts we call books.

It all started with the pitch. Bedlam doesn’t typically consider book pitches, as we are a tiny, D.I.Y. operation with a budget equivalent to the contents of the space beneath your couch cushions. Under normal circumstances, we can’t afford the cost of printing … but this was no normal circumstance. Writer, modern thinker, and all around top-notch individual, Ali Eteraz (whom we published in the first issue of our digital art/lit magazine, Loud Zoo in 2014), reached out to us with a poet, a vision, and a budget. We were definitely interested, and once he told us about Ramez and sent us a selection of his work, we were on board.

Ramez Qureshi
Ramez Qureshi

Ramez Qureshi was an astounding person. Both brilliant and compassionate, he earned his master’s degree at the age of 19 from the University of Pennsylvania and tutored underprivileged children in the area while in school. He was an avid reader and loved the arts profoundly. In addition to poetry, he wrote and published several critiques of books and gallery shows. Shortly after his college graduation, he was diagnosed with bipolar schizoaffective disorder, and spent time in and out of institutions. Through his struggles, Ramez held tight to his love of poetry, and those closest to him have stated that poetry and the poets he befriended through his online and local communities kept him alive for a number of years. The world lost Ramez in March of 2001, a victim of suicide spurred by his illness.

Ramez’s family made attempts to publish his work over the years, and though progress was made, nothing quite panned out. When Ramez’s sister, Sofia,  met Ali, the gears began to turn once more. In the original plan, Ali was to act as the editor, making final decisions on selections and order, as well as writing the introduction. Unfortunately, just as the book was picking up steam, he was sidelined by personal projects and responsibilities, and had to walk away. After discussion with Ramez’s family, it was decided that we would proceed and I would take on a more active role. Nikki Moen and Catherine Foster (who pulls double-duty, working at Bedlam and The LetterWorks) jumped in to read through the thousands of pieces and start deciding which ones would make the cut.

At this point, Catherine’s role expanded into The LetterWorks territory, as Ramez’s family had a box of handwritten pieces that they wanted transcribed and considered for the collection as well. This box of poems doubled our pool, but Catherine worked dutifully and had them transcribed before we knew it! Attention: writers who love to compose longhand, we can help with those stacks of stories you don’t know what to do with!

As things started firming up, Nikki, Catherine, Sofia, and I went on a mission to find the perfect cover art. We scoured the web, reached out to artist friends, and passed images back and forth until we saw “Cosmic Love 1” by Artem Mirolevich on the fine art website saatchiart.com. When Sofia shared a dream she had had about an “art office” that was promoting an artist who used a parachute in his work, we knew we had it. Was it meant to be? Look at this cover and tell me it wasn’t!

All of Yesterday's Tomorrows cover
All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows cover

We hired the incomparable Jason Yocum to design the jacket, and he was a joy to work with, even when we had to switch print houses at the last minute, requiring all sorts of measurement adjustments. (Thanks ‘n’ sorry, Jason!)

Wait a minute, did you just say you switched print houses … at the last minute??

That is correct. After working out the numerous details of production with [NAME REDACTED], there was a sharp and inexplicable price increase. When I politely inquired about said increase, I was met with silence. Ghosted by the print shop … So, I went back to my bookshelf and noticed that some of the best looking tomes from small presses had come from Maple Press in York, Pennsylvania. I reached out, got a quote, and we were back in business!

I highly recommend Maple Press if you’re looking to produce a book that has more character than your average print-on-demand book. Ramez’s family wanted something that looked and felt special, so we opted for a short-run of hardcovers with heavy, off-white, recycled paper with rough edges; which Maple delivered exquisitely. They were easy to work with, always friendly and professional, and, well … look at these books!!

Once we had completed two rounds of voting on which poems were most likely to make a great collection, Sofia consulted Associate Professor of Literature and Visual Studies at NYU Abu Dhabi, Shamoon Zamir. Not only did he help with the final piece selection, he ultimately developed the thematic order of the book. He also made a strong case for the title poem, which we nearly left out. “All of Yesterday’s Tomorrows” (the poem) is a forty-plus page experimental behemoth that explores Jenny Holzer’s Truisms, a Marxism conference, the Popol Vuh, statements made at the end of relationships, and somehow, quite a bit more. Ramez himself described the piece as “a philosophical meditation on the dialectics of arts and politics.” You may understand our hesitation to include such an extensive, experimental piece, but of course Shamoon was correct. We placed it at the end of the book, and while it’s not a light read, it is certainly Ramez’s most ambitious work. It evokes a tangible movement, and while you may not know where it’s taking you, its pull is undeniable.

We had a table of contents. We had a cover. We thought we were close. We had no idea…

Check in next time for Part 2, in which I get detailed about the prepress process in hopes of helping prospective publishers avoid some of the headaches and financial missteps we faced! In the meantime, you can buy Ramez’s wonderful book in the special edition hardcover (includes free eBook!), or all digital formats!

Buy direct from Bedlam Publishing
or
Buy on Amazon

Ten Minute Writing Prompts

Maybe it’s living in Michigan where the summers can be brief and the weather is unpredictable, but summers bring out the carpe diem in me. In addition to all the regular items on my to-do list, I am always snatching every chance I can to get outside in the sunshine, off to the lake, and into the woods. All this means that time is at a premium, but writing must happen regularly or I can’t call myself a writer anymore. So what’s an author to do? Even if it’s only ten minutes, if it is regular and thoughtful, it is better than nothing at all. So here are ten good ten minute prompts to get you thinking and working out your writing muscles, and still have time to enjoy summer!

  1. Find a beautiful scene, and describe it through action. Use as many verbs and adverbs as you can in ten minutes.  It’s best if you can actually go out and be present in the moment there, but a photo can work, too. Imagine or observe who or what lives there. How are its actions communicating the setting? If there is a child, are they laughing and splashing through the stream? Scowling after being scolded for her muddy escapades? If it’s a bird, is it singing joyfully, or warily watching the dog napping below its tree? Beautiful places are great. What happens there is what makes writing interesting.
  2. Spend ten minutes creating a character. You may or may never use this information later, but its excellent practice. Who are they? What drives them? Who/what is stopping them from getting what they want? What do they fear? What are their ideals? What are their flaws? You only have ten minutes, so don’t filter, do not edit. Just zip it on out. Try it every day for a week. You might come up with some  interesting and quirky side characters for your next story.
  3. Brainstorm as many plots as possible in ten minutes using the following format:  [blank] discovers [blank]. The cat discovers a crayfish. The Martian discovers ice cream. The toddler discovers the camera. Use these for further writing prompts later!
  4. Expand on your discoveries.  Take one of the possible plots from number three, and expand on it. Spend just ten minutes fleshing out a vignette describing each of the more promising discoveries.
  5. Imagine a vacation gone impossibly wrong.  Take the most perfectly planned vacation. A honeymoon, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a celebration. Plan out the itinerary. Now sabotage it. At every step along the way, insert some disaster. The plane is ridiculously delayed. Or crash lands in the wrong climate. An obsessive ex happens to be staying in the hotel room next door. The bus breaks down. In drug lord territory. How bad can it get?
  6. Play the eternal optimist. Take the vacation gone impossibly wrong, and create some twists that turn each stab into a surprise win. The plane is ridiculously delayed, which means your travelers get to see an event they thought they’d miss. They crash land in the wrong climate, but that forces them to take a hilarious shopping spree. The ex next door hits it off with your new love and is finally able to let go. Get creative!
  7. Write a haiku. Or ten. Remember, five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the last. Focus on one moment. The stark collection of images can tell a provocative story.

    Haiku by Richard Wright
  8. Ten minute tabloids. Tabloids take sensationalism to the extreme. Take a political view, extravagant lifestyle, or belief and push it to the most narrow, untempered boundary. What does that look like?
  9. Write up a tourist brochure for your hometown. What are the must-see locations? What’s the best restaurant in town? Best house to stay in if they offered it on VRBO? Places/people to avoid?
  10. Ghost Story Revamp. What was your favorite (or least favorite) campfire story as a kid? Take it and change the protagonist. Change the villain. See if you can give it a twist of humor or a shake of realism. See if you can come up with something even better than the original.

The Great Copy Editing Quiz No. 2

by Catherine Foster

Do you want to be a copy editor? Maybe you just enjoy catching other people’s grammar errors and rampant punctuation mistakes. Do you think you have what it takes to find the flaw in every phrase? Take our quiz and find out!

Choose the correct sentences:

1.
A) The girl thought that all of her pudding were missing.
B) The girl thought that none of her pudding were missing.
C) The girl thought that some of her pudding were missing.
D) The girl thought that some of her pudding was missing.

2.
A) Neither Erik nor Christine have played violin.
B) Neither Erik nor Christine are playing violin.
C) Neither Erik nor Christine is playing violin.
D) Neither Erik nor Christine were playing violin.

3.
A) Either of us were capable of doing more work.
B) Either of us are capable of doing more work.
C) Either of us have been capable of doing more work.
D) Either of us is capable of doing more work.

4.
A) Some of the cookies is on the platter.
B) Some of the cookies has been on the platter.
C) Some of the cookies was on the platter.
D) Some of the cookies are on the platter.

5.
A) Here is the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
B) Here’s the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
C) Here are the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
D) Here are the box of blue ballpoint pens you requested.

Please correct the following sentences:

6. It is us whom must decide whether to eat pizza or buffalo wings.

7. Between yourself and I, this movie is boring.

8. Whom do you think you are to give me advice about the test?

9. Whomever makes up these silly games?

10. Whomever do you think should come in first place?

11. Our puppy is much more sweeter than his sister.

Answer Key:

1. Correct Answer: D The girl thought that some of her pudding was missing.
Explanation: Some is a portion word that is singular or plural depending on the object of the preposition. In this sentence, “pudding,” is the object of the preposition, so use “was.”

2. Correct Answer: C Neither Erik nor Christine is playing violin.
Explanation: when neither and nor connect two singular subjects, use a singular verb.

3. Correct Answer: D Either of us is capable of doing more work.
Explanation: “Either” is the singular subject, which requires the singular verb “is.”

4. Correct Answer: D Some of the cookies are on the platter.
Explanation: see Explanation 1.

5. Correct Answer: C Here are the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
Explanation: the subject is “pens,” so use “are.”

6. Correct Answer: It is we who must decide whether to eat pizza or buffalo wings.
Explanation: After “is,” use the subject pronoun “we” to rename the subject “It.” Also, use “who” as the subject of “must decide” because you would say “we must decide,” not “us must decide.”

7. Correct Answer: Between you and me, this movie is boring.
Explanation: “Between” is a preposition and the pronouns that follow are objects of the preposition, so use “me.”

8. Correct Answer: Who do you think you are to give me advice about the test?
Explanation: despite the tricky word order, the sentence is actually asking, “Who are you, do you think, to give me advice?”

9. Correct Answer: Who makes up these silly games?
Explanation: “Who” is correct because we would say, “He makes up these games.”

10. Correct Answer: Who do you think should come in first place?
Explanation: despite the tricky word order, the sentence is actually asking, “Who should come in first place, do you think?”

11. Correct Answer: Our puppy is much sweeter than his sister.
Explanation: never use “more” with a comparative adjective (“sweeter”).

Extra Credit

As lover of language, we never tire of a good discussion on the topic. So please choose your favorite subject and tell us about it. Do oft-overlooked rules of ellipses fire you up? Should/can you use the virgule in formal writing? Do you have a stance on the Great Oxford Comma Debate? What’s your take on rampant semicolon abuse? From the differences to em-dashes, en-dashes and hyphens to the subject of adverbs, we want to know what makes you a passionate editor. Here’s your chance to shine!

July Events

Looking for something to do this July? Well you’re in luck—here’s a list of 10 events in Michigan that every writer should try to attend this month! These events vary from book fests, to author meet and greets, book signings, and even some writer’s clubs that you might not have known about near you! If you’re worrying about the price tag that most writing events have, don’t fret, all ten of these events are free to attend!

July 11th – Kinsley – You are Never too Old to Dream
This is an author visit featuring Evelyn Harper, who shares her experience of becoming a published author in her later years, a truly inspiring story. Click the link for more information!
https://www.tadl.org/event/you-are-never-too-old-to-dream/

July 12th – Kalamazoo – Author visit with Lisa Jenn Bigelow
A meet and greet with author Lisa Jenn Bigelow, who is releasing her new book, “Drum Roll, Please.” Don’t miss this opportunity to meet her!
https://www.bookbugkalamazoo.com/event/lisa-jenn-bigelow-presents-drum-roll-please

July 14th – Southfield – Book Signing; “This is Kindness”
Meet Richard Patterson, check out his new book, “This is Kindness,” and get your copy signed! See the link for more information!
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/book-signing-this-is-the-kindness-tickets-46159890475?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

July 15th – Detroit – Bookfest
Detroit’s 2nd annual festival of books! With tons of book vendors, food, and free Wi-Fi, how can you say no? An amazing event to connect with others who love reading and writing just as much as you!
http://detroitbookfest.com/event-details-facts/

July 16th – Ann Arbor – Lillian Li on Publishing Your First Novel
Lillian Li presents her experience with all the ups and downs of writing, editing, and publishing her book, “Number One Chinese Restaurant.” Find out more through the link!
https://www.meetup.com/Write-On-Ann-Arbor/events/251263341/

July 17th – Bay City – Creative Writing Workshop
Strengthen your writing using prompts and conversing with others! See The Bay Community Writing Center’s website for more information and events!
http://baycommunitywc.weebly.com/

July 18th – Dearborn – Author Talk by Suzanne Dalton
Dearborn local author Suzanne Dalton speaks about her book, “A Year Lost, a Life Gained: Fighting Breast Cancer with Wit, Humor, Friends, and a Perky Poodle.” More details through the link!
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/author-talk-by-suzanne-dalton-tickets-47125653097?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

July 25th – Battle Creek – Battle Creek’s Writer’s Block
Have your writing critiqued and discuss a variety of topics at this writing group! Click the link for more info!
https://www.meetup.com/Battle-Creek-Writers-Block-Meetup/events/252163545/

July 26th – Royal Oak – Book and Bottle Club
Looking for something different? Then maybe you should look into this book club! Besides, what goes better than books and wine? Find out more through the link!
http://detroit.carpediem.cd/events/6867846-book-bottle-club-royal-oak-at-michigan-by-the-bottle-tasting-room-royal-oak/

July 28th – Detroit – Writing Workshop Series
A great opportunity for all ages to improve their writing skills! For more information, check out their allevents.in post below!
https://allevents.in/michigan/writers-workshop/20002505899828

Don’t forget to tag us when you tell everyone what an awesome time you had! Didn’t see an event you know about near you? Comment and let us know about it! Have a great July everyone!

The Ruthless Side of Storytelling

Ira Glass is one of the most recognized voices in radio. He’s the man behind This American Life, which has landed no fewer than six Peabody Awards, among other accolades and nominations. Glass has spent the last 30 years of his career as reporter and host for numerous NPR programs and was nominated for an Emmy in Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. He is known for his thoughtful, relatable stories and was acknowledged for setting the aesthetic standard for nonfiction programming in both radio and television when awarded the Edward R. Murrow award. What is it about Glass that captivates audiences so effectively? Let’s take a look at two undervalued bits of wisdom from this four-part interview shared on YouTube.

1.      Finding the Right Story

 

“Often the amount of time finding the decent story is more than the amount of time it takes to produce the story… if someone wants to do creative work, you have to set aside just as much time for the looking for stories.”

–Ira Glass

 

Did you hear that? Just as much time needs to be set aside for finding the story for TV or radio. Maybe not in exactly the same ratio, but this counsel is so relevant and necessary in the lives of so many writers, both fiction and nonfiction. It takes time to really find the right story to tell, and it’s important not to be discouraged every time you hit a dead end. That’s just the way this works! Ira admits, “between  half to one-third of everything we try, we go out, we get the tape, and then we kill it…I think that not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.” I’d like to add that this time spent on odds and ends that don’t pan out is not time wasted. All of that work, every interview, paragraph, and character sketch is just making you better at what you do. It’s an essential part of the creative process.

 

“… failure is a big part of success… you’re going to run into a ton of stuff and it’s going to go nowhere, and you should be happy about that.”

–Ira Glass

 

Why would we be happy about that? Because it means we’re doing it right. You have this lightning bolt idea, but toss it around, do the research, spend some time on it, and ultimately realize there are some key flaws and it’s not going to take shape the way you need it to. It’s okay to let that idea die! There’s a reason the age-old adage, “kill your darlings,” never goes away. It’s just a fact of creating good art. The key is knowing when to quit. Stop shoving effort into a blah story. Be encouraged by those discarded scraps of Not Quite. They are freeing you up to pursue something much better. Just keep looking, keep showing up and doing the work and you will be on the road to creating something special.

 

“You will be fierce. You will be a warrior. And you will make things you know in your heart aren’t as good as you want them to be. And you will just make one after the other.”

–Ira Glass

 

2.     Ruthless Editing

 

“You have to be, like a killer about getting rid of the boring parts and getting right to the parts that are getting to your heart, and you have to be, you know, just ruthless if anything is going to be good.”

– Ira Glass

 

You’ve found the right story to tell? Fantastic! Don’t hang up your machete. The savage work has just begun. Create and stitch and solder together your anecdotes, reflections, and revelations. Then get brutal. You will have to make tough choices about what needs to be there, and what is a distraction.

 

“Things that are really good are good because people are being really, really tough, and you’re going to be really tough.”

–Ira Glass

 

Evaluate the purpose and power of each part of your manuscript, and if in doubt, cut it out. Read it again. Does something new stand out? It is surprising how much impact is made when you’ve left only what’s most meaningful. If it’s causing your work to lose focus or spin off kilter, it’s got to go. It can be hard to see your work objectively, which is why I recommend letting it rest before diving in with the carving knife. If despite all this you know you’ve got a story, you’ve cut what you could but still aren’t satisfied; consider hiring an editor to point out the areas that need work.

 

“You don’t want to be making mediocre stuff… that’s not why anyone gets into this. The only reason why you want to do this is because you want to make something that’s really memorable…”

–Ira Glass

 

Author Spotlight: Brett Petersen (Video)

Brett Petersen was our very first client here at The LetterWorks, and fourteen of the pieces we’ve edited for him have been published or accepted for publication as of this posting! In addition to being a writer, he is also a musician and visual artist.

Brett and Josh sat down for a freewheeling conversation about what inspires him, his process and artistic hierarchy, goals, Star Wars, and… Hanson? Watch now, and scroll down for links to his stories and music!

Short Fiction:

CAVO
The Parasite From Proto-Space
Friday Tradition
A Free Ride to Pleroma
Inanimate Object Fibromatosis & Asbestos Leprosy
The Epic Quest of the Three ARMS
The Light in the Sky
Billy-Sally
The Summoning of the Memory Eaters
The Funeral Machine
The Walrus Who Touched the Sun
Ca-Caw
Sleep is One of Those Luxuries
Crystal Donut World
Cats and Dogs: A Bildungsroman for the Post-Post-Post-Modern Age
Javi and Bobby
The Labyrinth & the Jingling Keys

Music:

Raziel’s Tree
Brett Solo

The Writer’s Bullet Journal: Do & Done

The bullet journal is a DIY paper planner beloved of many writers. Popularized by Ryder Carroll, this analog system features: 

  • an index
  • to-do lists: each task is assigned a bullet point
  • collections” of related ideas e.g. a reading or fitness log
  • task migration, or review.

The average bullet journalist is constantly refining their system and I’m no exception. Here’s a new addition to my bullet journal: Do & Done.

  1. Reserve the “Do” list for appointments or priority tasks.
  2. Fill in the “Done” list daily with anything you achieved or completed.
  3. That’s it!

Above you can see my bullet journal for Week 19. On the left are my appointments and errands for that May week. The “Do” column is a typical planner view and many people stop there. However, in Week 19 I also reflected every evening on what I had actually accomplished and made those entries under “Done.” This created a mindset of “What can I achieve tomorrow?” So mythological research on Monday led to a freewriting session on Tuesday and a scene outline on Wednesday. Brainstorming character motives on Friday led me to tweak the story arcs for the heroine and her antagonists over the weekend. Not bad for a week where I had planned to do no writing at all.

Writing is a solitary job and motivating oneself can be difficult. Therefore it’s really important to record your daily wins and personal milestones. The Do & Done tracks your progress through the week, inspiring you to continue a creative cycle of work. Don’t break the chain!

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into one writer’s bullet journal. For more inspiration, search Pinterest and Instagram to see what other writers choose to record in their “BuJo” notebooks.

Further Reading

Ryder Carroll: https://www.bulletjournal.com/

Kim Alvarez’s reference guide: https://www.tinyrayofsunshine.com/blog/bullet-journal-reference-guide