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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

28 November 2007

Interview with humor writer Christee Gabour Atwood

Today I’m pleased to interview Christee Gabour Atwood, a woman who has worn many hats—syndicated columnist, anchorwoman, radio personality, stand-up comedian, actress, editor, lobbyist, consultant, training manager, public speaker, and Universal Studios tour guide. She has spent November on a “book tour by blog,” visiting blogs to discuss her book Three Feet Under: Journal of a Midlife Crisis, published by Cardoza Press.

Congratulations, Christee, on the recent publication of your book, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Thanks for inviting me, Shauna. I always enjoy getting to visit with you.

I’m having so much fun with my book. Just finding out that other people are insane just like me makes it worth the public humiliation. And I get to visit with lots of famous writers before they get the restraining orders in place.

I know you're a big fan of the elastic waistband, so I thought you might be able to answer a fashion question that's been bugging me. How do clothes without elastic waistbands work? I mean, if I were, for some masochistic reason that escapes me now, to buy a skirt without an elastic waistband, what would I do? Buy it in four sizes and then change into the next larger size after each meal?

Good question. I think they put silly stuff like buttons or zippers on some skirts, but what is the purpose of that? I mean, the old “extender” of a rubber band around the button and through the buttonhole is frowned on—even in a society that wears pants so low that plumbers get embarrassed.

I guess they expect us to stay one size. Lack of versatility there. And I won’t fall prey to that kind of stagnant thinking.

So, to make a long answer longer, don’t even consider clothing without elastic. If it’s good enough to keep Santa’s beard on, it’s good enough for us!

Your book takes a humorous look at both middle age and your writing career. Which has been funnier, middle age or your career?

They take turns. But, judging by the way people laugh when they’re reading it, I think my résumé must be the funniest thing ever written… And it’s one of the few fiction pieces I’ve done. Everything else I’ve written has some truth in it…

I look back on my writing career (I use “career” in the loosest sense of the word) and I have to laugh. I remember the days of typing stories in my office (aka hot-water-heater closet) when I was in elementary school, and I laugh because I can’t even fit into that closet now. (Yeah, there’s that elastic theme again.)

I think of some of the first Great American Novels I sent off to publishers, and I’m embarrassed to have killed those trees. My manuscripts have traveled more than I have. They’ve really enjoyed it, and I live vicariously through the postmarks.

I’ve gotten rejection letters that were so “personal” that they had been copied with a hair on the copy machine. A giant curl on your form rejection letter is not as funny as you’d think—until some years later. And that’s the thing—it all seems funny now. So my writing career is pretty darn funny to me. And all that rejection is going to sound so good when I can say, “Yes, Mr. Letterman, those early days in writing were tough. I can’t imagine how I ever got along without my third yacht.”

Midlife, however, is a pretty funny thing too. Any period of life where I can blame hormones for everything is pretty darn fun for me.
  • “So I yelled at the cat. Hormones.”
  • “Yes, officer, I was speeding. Those darn hormones made me do it.”
  • “Well judge, I admit I did smash the mirror in the JCPenney dressing room. But it was hormones… and the fact that the XXL fit.”
Like anyone’s going to argue with you if you mention hormones. They’re usually as nice to me as the pharmacy people are when I pick up my megadose of Prozac.

Did I answer the question? What was the question? Oh yeah, is midlife or writing career funnier. Both. It just depends on the day.

I'm 51, and I'm really enjoying the perks of middle age. I'm expecting my fifties to perhaps be the best decade of my life. What’s wrong with me?

You obviously are much too well adjusted.

I doubt many people would agree with you!

It’s time for you to get your AARP notice in the mail. That will knock you down a notch! They keep sending ones to me and I return them with a nasty note reminding them that writers never retire. We just move to large-print versions.

I actually do like middle age. I’m loving the last of my 40s because I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. I’d like for their to be a little less of that skin and for it not to have quite so many little roadmaps appearing on it, but it fits me just fine.

Just keep being a writer. That’s the best way to keep from getting too content. Those publishers sure can help you stay humble, can’t they?

You believe in humor as therapy. How can people add humor to their lives to help them deal with writing problems, midlife problems, post-Katrina problems, or the year remaining of George Bush's presidency?

I can help with ideas for humor for all those problems, except maybe the Bush thing. That’s too scary to joke about.

Here’s a couple of methods to add humor to your life:
  • Read the newspaper. No, not the depressing stuff—just the headlines. I love finding mistakes. Some of my favorites: “Blizzard Hits Four States. One is Missing.” “Lawyer to Offer Poor Free Advice”
  • Read quotes from celebrities. For example:
  1. Vanna White said, “It’s not the most intellectual job in the world, but I do have to know the letters.”
  2. Samuel Goldwyn said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
  3. And Dan Quayle … well, there are just too many to list.
  • Read bumper stickers.
  1. “As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in schools.”
  2. “I still miss my ex-husband, but my aim is getting better.”
  • Carry a rubber chicken with you at all times. I personally use mine as a tool in a multitude of ways. I love to stick it in the car window, roll up the window so that just the head hangs out, and let it flap around as I’m driving. People never tailgate you when you’re driving with a chicken head in your window. I don’t know why, but it’s fun.
  • I also like to label my trash can as “Inbox.” And when someone I don’t want to talk to calls, I pretend to be an answering machine, beep, and hang up before they can “record” their message.
Those are just a few of my tips for finding humor in everyday life. Well, those and drinking heavily. Wine in a box is so handy. How can you beat that?

You've done some creative—no, I have to be honest, Christee, they were really bizarre—things to promote yourself. Could you talk about some of them and how they worked for you?

What’s bizarre about dressing in a full-body chicken suit and sitting in a bookstore window in a mall to write a novel in 30 days? Yeah, that was for National Novel Writing Month.

You know, I’ve done a few really impressive things in my life. I’ve been awarded a Senate resolution, been named Young Career Woman, won Adjunct Faculty of the year, had the highest radio ratings in the history of Louisiana, and been a professional speaker, an executive, a media personality, etc., but it took a chicken suit for me to get national attention (see CBS News article: Write a Book in 30 Days). What’s wrong with that picture?

I’m trying this virtual book tour this month, and it’s a fun way to do a book promotion. I get to talk about myself all month and I never have to get out of my pajamas.

For booksignings, I’ve learned a lot of things. I never sit down. I babysit kids while their Moms shop. I give directions to the restroom. I stand next to my book on the shelf, reading it and laughing. (Which is not terribly convincing, since my picture’s on the cover.) Whatever it takes… I’ll try it…

I like to create events—like the Menopause Fashion Show and my Thirsty Thursday Drinking Club. I’ll speak to any group that leaves their door unlocked. I give bookmarks to trick-or-treaters and drive-thru workers. I wear shameless shirts that say, “Will write for food.” I’ve been everything from Harry Potter emcee to Mrs. Claus.

All of this has combined to give me media appeal that works well for me. I get lots of interviews on talk shows, syndicated radio shows, and things like that because they see this strange stuff and realize that this is not a normal person. They know I’ll be “different.” Yes, I humiliate myself, but it works for me. I’d rather do it to myself than have someone else do it for me.

So many people start books; so few finish. Please compare and contrast your writing method with theirs. This question constitutes 10% of your grade.

Those people worry about silly things like writing quality, correct use of nouns, verbs, and modifiers, and paying their mortgage. By eliminating all of those things and being prepared to move into a refrigerator box at any time, I’ve been able to finish my books.

I’d stop there, but since my grade is riding on this one, I’ll also say that I don’t accept the concept of writers’ block. Why should we be allowed to claim “I’m blocked” and get off work? The garbage man doesn’t get to do that. The kid at the drive-thru can’t call in and say “I’m blocked” unless it’s a health condition caused by the food. And I’d be darned perturbed if my surgeon called in “blocked” on the day of my surgery. What makes writers so special?

So I believe in writing when I’m in the mood, when I’m not in the mood, and when I forgot to check to see if there’s any mood present. And sometimes it stinks, but in between all those stinky words, there will always be a few not-so-stinky ones hiding. When I cull the others out, I can usually find something to salvage in a day’s work.

Why are rubber chickens funny?

Because they have nothing to hide. Yes, with a rubber chicken, what you see is what you get.

Plus, they make such a great tool. (Remember the car tip earlier?) I even use them in meetings. If someone gets negative, they get the chicken thrown to them. Then they have to hold it until someone else says something negative. It reminds people to be positive … and it’s just darn funny to watch a rubber chicken fly around the room.

Having a little rubber chicken on my keychain has been a wonderful thing for me too. I never lose my keys in my purse—nothing else feels like a rubber chicken. And valet parkers never lose my keys either. Plus, I carry it hanging out of my pocket. It reminds me not to take myself too seriously. Hard to be a bigshot with a chicken hanging out of your pocket.

Could you tell us a little about the other things you've written and why my blog readers should drop everything and rush out right this minute and buy them?

Well, right now I have three business and training books in various stages of publication. The first one is out—Succession Planning Basics. It outlines a format to create career maps in your workplace. Yes, someone actually had me write a serious book. How scary is that?

My other two will be out within the next few months. They are Presentation Skills Training and Manager Skills Training. Pretty cool. They are entire two-day seminars—ready to go. They even include a CD with PowerPoints, forms and handouts, etc. So basically, anybody could pick these up and teach a workshop on these topics. If someone is thinking of going into the business of seminars or training, these are great starting places. And yes, they’ll notice that I even sneaked in some humor. No one is safe from my sense of hummus. Oops, I’m getting hungry. I can always tell from my typos.

I also write a regular humor column in City Social Magazine in Louisiana. “Life’s Lumps” has been a feature of that magazine since 2002.

And the sequel to Three Feet Under is in the works. Look for In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands, coming soon to the bargain bin at a bookstore near you!

Thank you again, Christee, for stopping by my blog on your virtual book tour.

Thanks for letting me visit with you, Shauna. We miss you here in Louisiana! And remember, anything you read about me on the Post Office wall is greatly exaggerated…

Three Feet Under: Journal of a Midlife Crisis is available for purchase at and Barnes & Noble. Christee maintains a blog about writing, "Elastic Waistbands," at and a Website about her book at

We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog. . .

Author interviews will continue tomorrow with humor writer Christee Gabour Atwood. But in the meantime, I've been tagged with the middle-name meme.

Here are the rules:

1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.

2. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don't have a middle name, just make one up...or use the one you would have liked to have had.

3. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.

4. At the end of your blog-post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

My name is Sue.
How do you do?
(couldn't resist quoting The Great Cash)

Sscience fiction and fantasy. It's both the genre I write in and my favorite one to read, dating back to when I was in elementary school and started reading the books from the adult area of the library. Books in the other sections of the adult area didn't have much to interest a gradeschooler—too much romance, politics, and other adult concerns. But sf/f had universal themes of interest to people of all ages. Choosing one's future. Fulfilling one's destiny. Becoming the person one should be. Adventure. Life in other times or under strange circumstances. I already loved fairy tales. When I found the sf/f section of the library, I was hooked for life.

UUdders and Putters. For many reasons, I was glad to leave the Midwest. I'm a city person. I like eating at good restaurants, going to concerts and museums, and having a good selection of interesting stores to shop in. But one thing I like about the Midwest is straightforward talk and lack of pretentiousness. Udders and Putters is a good example. No sophisticated city would be home to a place like Udders and Putters; it resides instead in the farmlands near Yellow Springs, Ohio. There you can pet the goats and cows, eat ice cream made from the milk of said cows, and play miniature golf. How cool is that?

EExercise. I believe exercise is an important part of the writer's toolbox. It pumps oxygen to the brain to help you think better, helps reverse the damage done to the heart and lungs by sitting in one spot for hours eating chocolate (or your own writing fuel of choice), improves your stamina so that you can spend even more time at the keyboard when deadlines loom, and stretches out those back, neck, and shoulder muscles that get so tight when one sits and types all day.

I'll tag:

Sphinx Ink

Farrah Rochon (sorry, I know you have a long middle name)

Julie of The Journey

19 November 2007

Interview with historic mystery writer C.S. Harris (Candice Proctor)

Today's guest is Candice Proctor. Her newest historical mystery from NAL, Why Mermaids Sing: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery, written under the pen name C.S. Harris, has just been released. Why Mermaids Sing is the third in a series of mysteries starring a young nobleman in Regency England who was scarred by his experiences as a spy in the Napoleonic Wars. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin is drawn into investigating mysterious deaths despite opposition from his family and the authorities. The first and second books in the series are What Angels Fear and When Gods Die: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery.

Welcome, Candice, and congratulations on the publication of your new mystery.

You wrote romances for many years. Why did you decide to try your hand at a historical mystery?

When I first started writing romances, historical romance writers were free to set their book in any time or place, and I really took advantage of that. I set one book in Medieval France, another in the Old West, another three books in different parts of Australia in three different time periods.

But then publishers realized that writers who “branded” themselves—i.e., “she writes steamy Regencies” or “she writes funny Westerns”—sold better. I started coming under a lot of pressure to “pick a time and a place and stick with it.”

The problem was, my story ideas always came to me as a set of characters in conflict in a specific time period and setting. I knew that if I simply picked a time and place and tried to artificially manufacture characters in conflict, my pleasure and my creativity would both evaporate. Some people can do that, and do it very successfully. I simply can’t. So I decided that if I had to “pick a time and place and stick with it” (can you tell how tired I got of hearing that phrase?), I’d rather create a set of characters and write a mystery series.

Given that you're an expert on the French Revolution and women's role in it, why did you choose to set your story in Regency England and have a male hero?

I did toy with the idea of developing a series set in the French Revolution, but I just couldn’t seem to summon up a lot of enthusiasm for it. The French Revolution was a really bleak, depressing time. I find it fascinating historically, but I really didn’t want to spend the next ten or more years of my life fantasizing about it. But Regency bucks in knee breeches? Women in filmy dresses and gamon curls? Much more pleasant!

I did in fact consider a female protagonist. Actually, the first character I developed was Kat Boleyn, with Sebastian as her lover. But I didn’t want to write a cozy series; I wanted something edgier, something darker and more dangerous. I couldn’t realistically see a Regency lady throwing knives and fighting and chasing murderers though the sewers. Given the conventions of the time, I realized I needed Sebastian as my protagonist.

In historic mysteries, generally the detective is free of some of the prejudices and blind spots of his or her age. Brother Cadfael (Ellis Peters), Sano Ichiro (Laura Joh Rowland), Benjamin January (Barbara Hambly), Isaac of Girona (Caroline Roe), and Catherine LeVendeur (Sharan Newman), to name a few, all share with Sebastian St. Cyr progressive ideas about women, tolerance of people of other religions or ethnic groups, a compassionate attitude toward the poor and other unfortunates, and training or travel that provides them with unusual skills and insights. Do you think writers give their detectives these traits to make them more sympathetic to the modern reader or because being open-minded gives the detective a huge advantage over the typical person in solving the mystery?

I don’t know about other writers, but Sebastian is the way he is because I myself wouldn’t like him if he were jingoistic or prejudiced and closed-minded! The other characters in the series do have some of those failings—Tom, for instance, is very suspicious of foreigners, while Sir Henry Lovejoy is very religiously conservative and Jarvis has the ethical standards of a wolverine. Don’t get me wrong; I still like all of those characters, despite their faults. But I demand more of Sebastian.

The horror writer and psychologist Charles Gramlich once told me that he believes that in stories, the hero is our teacher-by-example, and that if we are to be that hero’s disciple for the duration of a tale, we must respect that hero, they must have traits we admire and would like to have ourselves. Ironically, I see a disturbing trend in contemporary genre fiction, particularly thrillers, toward creating “heroes” who share many of the same traits that I associate with Hitler’s inner circle—intense jingoism, militarism, prejudice against other religions and ethnic groups, a willingness to use torture and slaughter the innocents of other nations. I don’t think those kinds of protagonists ever endure. They’re simply not heroic.

You've talked in your blog about how you hate revisions. What is your favorite part of writing a book?

I had to think long and hard about this one. I realized my favorite part of writing is whenever things are going well, when the story ideas click effortlessly in place, when characters spring magically to life on the page with all sorts of wonderful nuances I never consciously imagined, when a scene shapes up to be more powerful than I expected it to be, when the words fall without effort to describe a setting or an emotion with unusual grace or precision. That’s when I get that thrilling zing that makes me love writing.

On the other hand, I hate writing when my characters seem flat, when the words tear and strain, when my plot twists me into a knot and backs me into a corner. So I guess the answer is, there really isn’t any one aspect of writing I enjoy more than the other. When the process is working, it’s heaven. When things aren’t going well, it’s hell—and I’ve only myself to blame.

Do you enjoy researching your books? Do you have any suggestions for not getting bogged down in research at the expense of writing time?

I’m a historian, so it’s inevitable that research is one of the things I enjoy about writing historicals. I need to be very, very careful not to overdo it. When I was researching Night in Eden, I spent over six months reading Australian history. I finally had to tell myself, “Candy! You’re not going to be teaching a course entitled Introduction to Australian History. You’re just writing a novel!” I don’t think I’ve gone to quite that extreme again, but anyone looking for suggestions on not getting bogged down in research needs to go elsewhere!

What is your writing regimen? Would you recommend it to aspiring authors?

I have a horrible writing regimen. I’m not a morning person, so I seem to waste big chunks of the day doing laundry and cleaning out litter boxes, and doing yoga, and checking email and blogs, and reading the news. (I’m a huge news junky; I read on-line newspapers from all over the world. I tell myself it’s research.)

Usually, it’s almost lunchtime before I actually start producing anything. Now that my youngest has gone off to college, I’ll work through until my husband, Steve, comes home for dinner. I frequently work during the evening, too, although that’s usually plotting, editing, or research, rather than actual composition.

My lifesaver is our lake house. I can go up there and be away from all distractions—Internet, daughters, husband, laundry, vomiting cats—and just write like crazy for five days at a time. I fall into my natural rhythm, which means writing until 5:00 am and sleeping until 11 or so the next morning, then getting up and doing it all over again. I live and breathe my story, it flows out of me with amazing grace, and I produce scores of handwritten pages. I then come home and type up.

It’s a crazy system, and even though it works for me, I wouldn’t recommend it, no.

One problem many New Orleans writers have is that recovering physically and mentally from Hurricane Katrina takes an enormous amount of time. You seem to have successfully balanced rebuilding your Katrina-flooded house and refinishing your furniture with writing your books and making your deadlines. Any tips for the rest of us?

I didn’t write anything for seven months after Katrina. Part of it was that I was spending 18 hours a day gutting and then rebuilding our house and working on the furniture. But a big part of it was I was simply too emotionally battered to reach within myself the way one must when one writes. I had a book due in November 2006—Why Mermaids Sing—and finally my family told me in April that I had to stop spending every day working on the house and write. I set up my computer on the bare concrete slab of my empty office and just stared helplessly at the screen.

What saved me? I started my blog. I wrote about Katrina, and somehow that freed me to begin writing my book. The other thing that saved me was the little house we bought up near Clinton, Louisiana, as an “evacuation house,” i.e., someplace to go next time we need to evacuate for a hurricane.

At first I went up there just to get away from the trauma of New Orleans and the distraction of our shattered house. But I’ve discovered there is something about breathing in clean mountain air and sitting on the porch swing staring out at a peaceful, sun-sparkled lake that makes me amazingly productive, and it’s now become a part of my writing routine.

I’m still stunned that I actually made Mermaid’s deadline—and the recent deadline for my fourth book, too. The house in New Orleans still isn’t finished, of course, but we’ve been back in it now for over a year, and my writing career is solidly back on track. I can only credit the support of my family and the magic of the lake house.

Book trailers remind me of TV drug ads: Music and visuals set a mood, but one learns almost nothing about the product. Your Website has a book trailer for Why Mermaids Sing. Do you think book trailers help sell books? If so, how?

I think the best book trailers are designed to appeal to the emotions—at least, that’s what I tried to do with my trailer. Get a little bit of information out there, but mainly evoke a dark and mysterious mood. So many of the ones I’ve seen are too long and boring—even if I had been considering buying the book, the video would have put me off! But then, maybe I simply wasn’t their target audience.

Do I think book videos help sell books? Not to me, but then I’ve learned I can’t use myself as a gauge for other people’s thoughts or behavior.

So why did I make one? It made my publisher happy—publishers like to see authors doing things to help sell books, and making your publisher happy is VERY important in this business.

I also did it quite simply because it was fun. I made my own, and I enjoy facing a challenge and mastering a new skill. I doubt anyone will decide to buy Why Mermaids Sing based solely on the book trailer, but it might help tip that mental/emotional balance. Right now, book videos are still fairly new, so they have a novel appeal. Eventually, I suspect everyone will have them and no one will be watching them. But then, I thought vampires were a passing fad back in 1996, so what do I know?

One of my favorite characters in your series is the scholarly spinster Hero. Are you willing to give any hints about what's in store for her in future books?

Hero was one of those magical characters who simply sprang to life on the page. I personally find her a fascinating character, and she plays a major role the fourth book in the series, Where Serpents Sleep. Beyond that, my lips are sealed!

Thank you again, Candice, for taking the time to visit my blog and talk about writing and your books!

You can find Candice Proctor's Website at and her blog at Her book Why Mermaids Sing: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery is available at major bookstores and can be ordered online from and Barnes & Noble.

15 November 2007

Odds ‘n’ ends

Five reasons to have an office cat

  • Ernest Hemingway had one, and it is a common practice in the arts to improve craft by emulating the masters.
  • You’ll never need to buy a paperweight.
  • A cat always needs to be fed, combed, or petted or to have its mousie retrieved from under the dresser. Cats let you take breaks without guilt.
  • Writing is a solitary profession. But with an office cat, it is not a lonely one.
  • A cat serves as a constant reminder of what your prose needs: grace, elegance, silky smoothness, flexibility, strength, and sharp hooks.
Office cats at work: (left) Hemingway and his cat (Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston); (right) Dulcinea Malueg-Roberts (Copyright 2007 Shauna S. Roberts)

2. Farrah Rochon’s book Deliver Me, which sold out its first print run, went into a second printing. If you missed it the first time around, it is back on store shelves and available at and Barnes & Noble. (An interview with Farrah appeared in this blog on 16 May 2007.)

3. The third book of Charles Gramlich’s Talera series, Witch of Talera, has just been released. It is available at (An interview with Charles appeared in this blog on 30 May 2007.)

4. Interviews with Louisiana authors C.S. Harris and Christee Gabour Atwood will appear here soon. Both have new books out: Why Mermaids Sing: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery (Harris) and Three Feet Under: Journal of a Midlife Crisis (Atwood).

09 November 2007

Copyeditor: friend or foe?

Out in the real world, when people learn I’m a writer and copyeditor, they have no idea what the “copyeditor” half involves.

Neither do many writers, judging from the complaints I’ve heard some make about copyeditors.

No horns sprout from my head; the number “666” is nowhere tattooed on my flesh. My job is not to ruin your golden prose, but to buff it to its highest shine so that it reflects well on you.

In the "Razored Zen" blog today, Charles Gramlich argues that a writer’s primary purpose is to get his or her point across. Your copyeditor helps you do that, and more. Here’s how.

•The copyeditor puts your copy into the magazine’s house style so that usage is consistent throughout the issue. Some publications use a comma after the penultimate item in a series (lions, tigers, and bears) and some don’t (lions, tigers and bears). Some italicize species names and some don’t. Some italicize captions and some set them uppercase. Some say 98°F and some, 98 °F. Some use “Koran” and some, “Qu’ran.” English contains hundreds of acceptable style and spelling variants, and the copyeditor has to know which ones a publication uses.

•The copyeditor also makes your copy logical and internally consistent. A person’s last name should be spelled the same way each time, for example. Reference 1 should be cited before reference 2. If a word has multiple acceptable spellings or abbreviations, the copyeditor changes the text so that the same one is used each time. Variations could confuse the reader, who puzzles over the distinction the writer is making between “analog” and “analogue” or between “fluorodeoxy glucose” and “fluorodeoxyglucose.”

•The copyeditor looks for grammar, syntax, spelling, word, and math errors. Even professional writers sometimes make basic mistakes, and doctors often misspell drug and chemical names.

•The copyeditor is alert for factual errors, both definite ones that can be corrected immediately (one can be sure that the Battle of Hastings did not take place in 1966) and possible ones (for which the copyeditor may do some research, send you a query, or both).

•The copyeditor fixes other problems that might confuse readers or send them off to do a Google search. In particular, most magazines want an article on first usage to give people’s full names, spell out abbreviations and acronyms, define technical terms not familiar to the readership, tell what state or country a nonmajor city is in, and give both generic and brand names of drugs.

•At some publications, the copyeditor may take out unnecessary words that weigh down the text, unknot tangled sentences, and smooth awkward passages that could confuse a reader.

Next time you’re tempted to cuss out the copyeditor who slashed red across your pristine black-and-white pages, take another look. You’ll probably find your text is cleaner, clearer, more accurate, more consistent, and easier to read. In other words, the reader can grasp your message better. Your copyeditor may be your best friend between submission and publication.


November is author interview month at “For Love Of Words.” Look for at least two interviews with authors with newly released books in the coming weeks.