Sunday, September 25, 2011

Word on the Street (Lethbridge) 2011

Today was the Word on the Street Festival, the first iteration for Lethbridge. On the upside, it was nice to see some version of this national event in the city; on the downside, organization left something to be desired.

My primary complaint is that the contracted organizer seemed to miss that this was supposed to be about the written word. Three quarters of the booths and activities had some other focus: ethnic food, a roller derby booth, blood donors, jazz and country musicians, ethnic dancers, face painting, and so on. I get that the organizer was trying for a festive atmosphere with lots of interesting things happening, but it did rather end up feeling more like the random collection of tables/tents one gets at the weekly farmer's market than anything remotely related to the written word.

Furthermore, the logic of setting up a bandstand and installing a country singer at one end of the block while setting up poetry readings and meet-the-author events downwind along the same block of his city-blasting sound system escapes me. At one point Tigana and I walked past what appeared to be a choir of 20 or more singers whose lips appeared to be moving but from whom we could detect no sound, given the banshee wail of the country performer. What was the point of this arrangement? If I were the choir, I would have been supremely pissed to have been asked to perform under such inappropriate conditions. I know that we certainly didn't bother even trying to listen to the various author readings, for it was clearly a hopeless endeavour. Giving priority to the bandstand over the authors seems to rather severely miss the whole point of the exercise! Why weren't the authors given the bandstand sound system, and the musicians off in the corners, instead of the other way around?

And where were the literary activities? Face paint for the kids is all well and good, but where is the instant poetry booth, the magnetic poetry board, the graffiti wall, the improve group, the word-oriented kids activities? Or adult activities, for that matter? There was nothing to involve, engage the passerby that had anything to do with writing or reading -- clearly, the organizer didn't believe words would be enough and opted for Festival Filler instead.

And Tigana burst into laughter at the sight of the heavily advertized 'bouncy house for the kids' -- it was smaller by half than our own family's backyard version, purchased from Costco; it wasn't even the size of the entrance to the bouncy house at the house party we had attended the night before. For a city-wide event, advertizing a bouncy house as the main attraction for the kids, I think we imagined something bigger than a toddler's wading pool. It was embarrassing.

I have to give some credit for organizing skype conferences with various authors; but I know it embarrassed Mary to live in a community with so few writers we had to skype in speakers. And when I talked to a couple of writers I knew forlornly manning the autograph table and asked how sales of their books had been, one Edmonton author confessed she'd only sold one book, and that to the out of town author sitting next to her.

The University bookstore did an excellent job of profiling itself as somewhere to buy books other than texts, and they were good to have copies of all the featured authors available for sale. But I can't help wondering if they broke even on the deal....

I hope the event goes again next year...but I hope the organization is a little better.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Too Much Tracking

I've been editing for a while now, and I generally use "track changes" in Word as the best way to add to, delete from, and comment on a manuscript. As I was finishing up a document recently, however, the damn program kept crashing on me every 8 minutes or so. Very frustrating. I took my computer into my IT guys, and their suggestion was simply to upgrade to the most recent version of Word, since it seemed likely my current Word had corrupted somewhere. Okay, fair enough. Slight nusiance to have to reconfigure all my personal preferences and menu options and so on, but needs must. And on the whole, I like the new MacWord interface just fine and am getting quite used to it quickly enough.


One unexpected change was that when I reopened the document on which I had been working, I discovered that all of the comments had now been numbered automatically. I can see how this could be a useful feature. Several people working on the same document and wanting to discuss a comment on page 236 could now say, "comment 27" and know they were all talking about the same thing. My problem is not with the functionality of this new feature, but with a latent dysfunction -- the psychological impact -- that the software engineers failed to consider.

I like to think that I am a pretty good development editor and catch a lot of mistakes that otherwise might get missed, and that I have a lot of helpful suggestions to make. It is therefore not uncommon for me to be making three or four comments per page, over and above the usual grammatical additions and deletions. And authors have always been good with that, happy that I was doing such a thorough job. But now comes sequential numbering -- and suddenly it is unavoidably brought to the author's attention that that three or four comments per page add up to -- in this case -- 425 requested changes.

I cannot blame the author -- any author!-- for freaking a little bit at the prospect of having to address over 400 changes. It must seem completely daunting, in a way that three or four changes per page might not. Just as the journey of a thousand miles starts with but a single step, so responding to the comment on the first page, then a couple on the next, appears doable; whereas taking on all four 400 at once may sound like a good time to bail....

Anyone know how to turn comment numbering off?

Interview on Editing

Interview with me on editing by Mike Plested on his regular Get Published podcast. Mike's questions covered a lot of ground and I think the interview came out rather well-- i.e., he did a good job of editing out all of my more stupid comments.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quote of the Week

If I rave about a book I love and I have it with me, I am absolutely not going to give it to you. If I love it that much, I am going to keep it. And if I love it even more than that, the thought of you even borrowing it and maybe smudging up the dust jacket and cracking the spine makes me throw up a little in my mouth. So buy your own copy. Or pirate it.

-Sandra Kasturi, publisher, editor, poet.