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Poetry Takes Over April

The month of April is the internationally beloved National Poetry Month, created in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. It has its own website and millions of readers. They call for librarians, teachers, and readers to celebrate in any way possible. What are some of the best poems released recently? In celebration of poetry month, here is a list of some of the best compilations:

Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur’s poetry has taken the world by storm with her 2014 compilation of poems Milk and Honey. It is split into four chapters and focuses on her journey of sexual assault, healing, finding love, and loving yourself. It has been on the New York Times Best Sellers List for seventy-seven weeks and has sold over 2.5 million copies. Her following work, The Sun and Her Flowers, was published last year.

Danez Smith

Another prominent collection of poems is Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith. It was published in 2017 and touched on a variety of hard-hitting themes such as police shootings, racial tensions in America, and a medical diagnosis that changes lives. Every poetry reader should add this book to their 2018 reading list.

Ocean Vuong. Photographer: Tom Hines

Poetry is certainly gaining traction in the literary world. The poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong as been received with glowing reviews. He is a fairly new poet and this collection was published in 2016. His poems center around the Vietnam War, romance, sadness, and family relationships.

Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker wrote the poetry book There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce. Her work revolves around Black American womanhood and the tragedies, love, and vulnerability that comes with that title. Multiple articles have been written about her in The Nation, The Washington Post, and NPR. Her writing is unapologetic and guides the reader to become more self-aware.

Poetry has a bad reputation in the modern world. People believe that haiku’s are simple and anyone can create a poem. Unlike novels, poems are a quick conversation, a simple smile-and-wave exchange of words. People might be turned off by their short length; however, some things are best said in one exploding sentence than several drawn out chapters.

-Laura Rodgers, Intern

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Hollihock Writers Conference 2016

This past weekend, CambridgeEditors had the pleasure of attending the second annual Hollihock Literary Conference  from August 26th-28th  in New Bedford, MA. This year’s theme was “What Scares You?” encouraging the artist in all of us to get out of our comfort zone and #WriteOn.

Our own Dr. Harte Weiner lead a poetry class on Friday night in which she read pieces from some of her favorite voices in poetry, including Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds and Henri Cole. Focusing on the school of Confessional Poetry using both free verse and formal poetic structures; themes hovered over mother and child relationships and other personal conversations from the heart. She was pleased to receive positive feedback from many of those in attendance.

On day two, interns Emily and Margeaux joined Dr. Weiner and fellow intern Silas to lead a discussion about editing strategies. The audience was given a chance to edit a sample short story taken anonymously from our archive. The interns then shared the edits they had made and discussed the key elements of professional editing. Dr. Weiner read a few pieces of her poetry, including a lovely piece dedicated to the interns!

 

Hollihock was a wonderful opportunity for us at CambridgeEditors to network with other members of the Massachusetts literary community. We were able to sit in on other events, including a class on journaling and strategies for daily writing, a conversation and Q+A with the Poet Laureate of Boston, and a lecture about authenticity in YA fiction. A great time was had by all.

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(See more photos on Hollihock’s Facebook and Instagram)

-Margeaux, Intern

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The Tangibility of Books

As any good or “classic” bibliophile can affirm, there are few sensations that compare to holding an actual book. With the advent of e-readers, kindles, and e-books, however, the fate of the printed book is looking slightly grim. There have been many reports over the past few years about different schools completely digitizing their libraries, in efforts both to save money and space, as well as being more environmentally friendly. In addition, more and more people are purchasing e-readers because of their ability to hold hundreds of different books, with a fraction of the weight of the tangible books.  I must admit that I cannot argue with a lot of the logic behind these choices, but they do make me sad.

As an avid book collector, it is hard for me to understand how people can love reading off of screens. I struggle to even read shorter articles off of a phone or computer, and can’t even attempt to read longer pieces of work. My eyes simply can’t focus on a screen for that long. Even though many e-readers are now designed to look as similar to a page as possible, with low light settings that won’t irritate the eyes, I still like real books more.

It’s hard to describe the delight that I feel when I have an actual book, but the heft and weight of it are exciting — they show how much information you have to gain from reading it! You can’t ascertain that from a thin little e-reader. Holding an actual book also makes it feel like you are making a real connection with it, like it is a friend or a partner who you are intensely involved with for a short amount of time (if the book is really good and you can’t put it down, that is), or even a friend who you see from time to time (if it’s the sort of book that you take breaks from and come back to every once in a while).

With this precedent, I hope readers who don’t feel as strong a pull towards physical books can imagine how wonderfully overwhelming book stores and libraries are for the classic bibliophile. It’s unlike anything else! Walking into a nice little bookstore, or even an enormous commercialized bookstore, is like finding nirvana for a ravenous book lover.

Not everyone will feel this way, mind you, but book lovers can always recognize each other; they are the ones who can spend hours wandering around bookstores or libraries, their arms laden down by their findings, and can’t bring themselves to leave until absolutely necessary.

However, despite their love of the physicality of books, bibliophiles are also infiltrating the internet! With sources such as Goodreads, which allows readers to rate their books and keep track of books they have read, are reading, or want to read, or even online forums such as tumblr and pinterest where readers can have discussions or see lots of beautiful pictures, book lovers are taking to the world wide web. Recently, I discovered an article from a website called Loner Wolf, which features pictures of beautiful libraries that book lovers and introverts alike can enjoy! The article can be found here: http://lonerwolf.com/introvert-dream-libraries/

The article is a glorified hay day for book lovers, depicting 24 libraries around the world that anyone would want to read in.

Here’s a little taste:

For all you book lovers reading this, I’m sure you are experiencing minor heart palpitations at these images, as well as a burning desire to find these libraries as soon as possible. The feeling is mutual. Until then, the public library and local bookshops will appease me just fine, as long as there are shelves upon shelves of books.

-Hadley Gibson

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642 Things to Write About; a book of infinite possibilities… or at least 642.

Last year, while caught in the throes of writer’s block, I purchased a book called 642 Things to Write About. The title is entirely self-explanatory. The book consists of writing prompts from all corners of life, and was created in 24 hours by a group of 35 writers at The San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. It’s so fun to imagine a group of kooky writers who had an exciting idea and let their creativity run wild late into the night, with the result that the entire content of a book was put together the next day. One of the contributing writers, Po Bronson, writes in the introduction, “I tell this story because it’s a lesson in hidden potential. You never know what might happen. In a single day, if you hit the right nerve, you could just have something-maybe it’s the start of something, maybe it’s the whole thing. And it doesn’t even have to begin with your own idea. You just have to get creative and plunge in.” (http://www.chroniclebooks.com/titles/642-things-to-write-about.html *Chronicle Books has also published these types of books for drawing and photography!*)

I write about this book today because I think it’s too easy for writers, and people in general for that matter, to fall into the trap of thinking that once you have done something one way, there is no other way to do it. How crazy! Life and writing will become stagnant only if you allow it to, and if you don’t work to view it from new angles. One of my favorite writing exercises that I learned a few years ago is to write a short blurb, maybe just a paragraph, and then rewrite it in different styles and themes, such as from the point of view of a convict locked up in the Bastille prison in the early 1700s, or as though you are slowly being devoured by an octopus while you write. The possibilities are endless!

I think Bronson’s point of hidden potential is something that everyone could benefit from believing in, especially because it is omnipresent in all walks of life. Whether in math, physics, or the human condition itself, potential is almost always lying beneath the surface (both literally and figuratively), waiting to be released in some form or another. In many cases, I feel that writer’s block, and any kind of slump you fall into in life, is caused by setting a precedent for yourself, and consequently feeling as though there is no way to surpass it. Instead of allowing the lack of upward motion to defeat you, why not attack the problem from a new angle? Spin it around, approach it slantwise, go under it, or slide past it by the skin of your teeth, it doesn’t really matter. The forward motion and the fact that you keep trying will yield results. They just may not be exactly what you envisioned at the start.

This book is not only great for helping writers to beat their mental blocks and release their creativity with out of the box prompts (e.g, ‘What is the sound of silence, and when did you last hear it? What was missing?’ or ‘Write a script to give telemarketers to solicit donations for starving children in Africa.’), but also as an example of what happens when you let go of your reservations and just “go for it”, if you will. To any and all writers, I recommend this book, even if you only use it for warming up your imagination. For any and all non-writers, I recommend this book as a source of inspiration to look at life through new eyes. Perspective isn’t just important in paintings, architecture, and writing, it applies to how we live out our days too.

Throughout the course of my internship I will likely refer back to this book and may even try out some of the prompts for my blog posts. It might be fun to blog about ‘a perfect meal’, or to ‘create and imaginary friend (human or not)’, if anything to see what comes of it!

So, with that being said, why don’t you who read this blog try out one of the prompts? How about… ‘It’s 2100 and the world is running out of fresh water. Describe a typical day.’ You might be surprised where your mind takes you.

-Hadley Gibson

Even the cover inspires creativity!

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The Updated Love of the Written Word

As Kanga has graciously alerted the office with many a bark, I have started my first day as the newest intern at Cambridge Editors! My name is Hadley Gibson, and I am currently a senior majoring in English and minoring in communications and media studies at Tufts University. I say ‘currently’ because I am painfully aware of the fact that my status as a student will soon be listed as ‘previously’ once I graduate in May. However, that is many months from now, and I can revel in my last year of college by slowly branching away from school and into the real world by working here! With a short drive over to Cambridge on Wednesdays and Fridays, I am looking forward to better acquainting myself with Cambridge Editors and all that they do in and out of the Boston community.

I have only been here for a few hours, but have started to learn many of the goings on in the office, as well as the surrounding area. For example, as I learned when I started driving in Boston in January, there will frequently be at least one road on your route that is shut down for construction, and you will inextricably wind up taking a much more convoluted path to get to your destination. While I was driving through Cambridge today my GPS assured me that I would arrive to the office a few minutes early, when I suddenly came to a closed road with a disparaging orange detour sign leading me to the left. After a series of one way streets leading in what felt like smaller and smaller concentric circles, I finally arrived with just a minute to spare. Luck was on my side.

This in turn leads me to one of the most prominent things I’ve started to notice here at Cambridge Editors: technology, although in many cases incredibly convenient and helpful, can be extremely frustrating. Even though I have grown up using many forms of technology, I am by no means incredibly adept at it. I can get by, and can usually figure out how to do what I need to with technology, but I have always been a strong lover of the hand written word. In fact, I have always preferred to take notes in actual notebooks, and not on computers, which Dr. Weiner and I have in common.

In a world where the hand written word is slowly becoming extinct, technology is taking over with websites, e-mails, and even blog posts like this! The silver lining though, is that technology has enabled the written word to become much more widespread, and people are communicating through writing much more than ever before. Be it through text messages, Facebook messages, e-mails, or even twitter, the written word is incredibly prominent and I personally would argue that literacy is on the rise more that ever! And while the rest of the world is hooked on viral videos and pictures, the love of the written word is so strong at Cambridge Editors that it is almost overwhelming, and incredibly refreshing. The office is full of notes and plans that allow the company to run smoothly and provide top notch editing to numerous clients on a daily basis. Seeing the sheer number of emails that go in and out every hour is amazing, and makes me feel so excited and lucky to be in a place where I can further foster my love of the written word.

So as my first day winds down I can easily say that I eagerly look forward to spending the next few months here, writing, reading and possibly learning how to use technology more extensively… although the last item, while important, may be put on the back burner for a little while.

Kanga dutifully oversees the office.

Kanga dutifully oversees the office.

-Hadley Gibson

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The Staff Gets Out of the House!

In a fit of summer jollity, the team here at CambridgeEditors took a field trip on Monday afternoon. It was Elizabeth’s birthday, which was certainly cause for celebration. We decided to visit Silas, who works at Shake Shack in Harvard Square! It was a grand old time — we ordered burgers, fries, and milkshakes, served to us with a huge smile by the lovely Silas.

The restaurant itself was a cute little place; we sat in the corner and watched everyone working in the open kitchen. Silas’s manager very kindly paid for our meal, and even came over to tell us what a great job Silas is doing!

Elizabeth was very happy to eat her hamburger, cheese fries, and chocolate shake, and we all had a great time getting out of the office on a hot summer day and having a different kind of fun than we normally do! Take a look at the pictures below to see our smiling faces!

 

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Kanga or Outlook

My dog is urgently sick, and my staff is here, and bookkeepers are sending proposals with sign on the line, and small print, and we aren’t in good shape right now with the bookkeeping. I am personally only on one edit right now, with a lull in that. But my staff is here, and clients are to be responded to. Clients who have deadlines, clients whose very lives and careers depend upon their writing whether for their degrees, for their promotions within the academic system, or their sense of coming into their own with their memoirs and novels, the works of years; theirs is no small effort. They have given their all. Each may ask a certain hand up along the way, but they are the scholars, authors, professors, and visionaries. How can I let them down; how can I let anyone down. How can I let down my dog, as she is young, and she is my refuge in this cruel world, and I am the one who is to save her from whatever is going on inside her, unfairly eating away at the organs that digest? We have been through this twice in two months. Done this 2 times and she is alright each round.  We love her. We are co-dependent with her. She gets from us less than she gives, and she gets from us all we possibly have to give—all we’re unable to give to each other because of underlying reasons, all of the love we wish we could express more broadly. We know that her eyes get dry in the mornings, and behind her ears, bulky clods of hair (I use my nail scissor to clear and discard from time to time) make my scratching there ease the terrible itch, the itch to live and the itch to dance in the fields, and bite at the heels of sheep, and wreak havoc upon the intrusion of would-be strangers, protecting the household and practically jumping up and down as her voice alone causes them to back up a few steps into some set of shoes unevenly stacked just to one side of the front door, and sometimes just to exit. What should I do. This is my company, CambridgeEditors after all; a former Managing Editor calls her my “love child.” Who, among my charges, should come first in my affections, my attentions, my wish to grant salvation and be the who I think of myself as, really down deep, the person not enough intimates really get to know. Are we beings or writers (editors) first?

–Dr. Weiner

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lol but srsly: Texting as an Art Form

“Millennials don’t know how to email,” my mother complains near-daily. She bemoans our poor grammar, our sloppy style, our overly-informal tone. She sighs and asks me, “How do you even understand what your friends are saying?”

We don’t email — we text or Snapchat or Facebook message, I explain to her. And for a long time, my response ended there. I excused our inability to craft letters by playing up our use of alternative forms. Recently, though, it dawned on me that not only has my generation replaced one skill — the classic epistolary style of years long gone — with others, but we’ve also honed our specific style of conversation.

We communicate, for the most part, in short bursts — speedy back-and-forth phrases. We feel little need to write some longer narrative because our means of communication mirrors conversation. Quick wit is paramount. A balance between brevity and explicit meaning is necessary. And emotion doesn’t fall by the wayside — we cram humor, sarcasm, love, rage, and poignancy into just a few words. I’ll come out and say it, at the risk of sounding simultaneously conceited and deluded: my generation has turned the most informal, sloppy kinds of communication into art.

Art? you say, mouth agape. Correspondence, perhaps, but art? I understand the hesitation — one I feel as much as my parents do — to classify something so functional and so hasty as art. But hold on just a second — let me argue my point.

Like any good millennial, my attention span is minuscule and my need for entertainment desperately pressing. A constant pulse thrums in the background of my existence, urging me to be interesting, be fun, be unexpected. And so the means of communication that I use daily for a purpose as banal as confirming lunch plans has become, by virtue of some default setting in my overactive, thrill-seeking brain, an opportunity for humor, wordplay, aestheticism.

Sometimes this urge takes the form of something like word association, in which case the conversation might shift focus entirely after a string of connected ideas. Sometimes it’s what my friend Matt likes to call a “puzzle” — an acronym, maybe, or short phrase taken out of context whose meaning the recipient must guess, and in doing so receive some current meaning from a shared memory. Sometimes it’s an unexpected escalation from a pure exchange of information to storytelling through creative imagery — a fantastical break from reality. Sometimes it’s simply the choice to spell a word a certain way, to use “u” instead of “you.”

fig 1.2 Fig. 1. A conversation between myself and my friend Nate, wherein an accusation of lameness turns into a) an analysis of capitalism and advertisement; b) a study of American suburban culture; c) an ironic subversion of social expectations.

Let’s refer to Figure 1 as an example. In this instance, I text my friend Nate a simple accusation: that he is a “lame-o.” But suddenly, thanks to his quick impulse to play with that word, to twist its meaning into something unexpected, he riffs on the idea of Cheerios to rebrand the word as a sort of midlife-crisis cereal. Inane? Frivolous? Silly? Yes. Creative? Clever? Funny? Yes, those too.

I won’t compare this sort of everyday fun to a Woolf novel or a Rembrandt painting. But I see an aesthetic value to this kind of play — play that permeates even the most daily of tasks. We often think of creativity as something on the periphery of daily life, as a muscle we exercise in very specific and extracurricular ways. We paint, we write, we sing — and unless we make a living off this art, it becomes a hobby that falls outside what’s normal for us. But why limit ourselves that way? Why not play creatively during our day-to-day lives rather than outside of them?

I don’t propose to replace the Mona Lisa with a Snapchat, or to ban novels in favor of texts. But I do value the opportunity to inject creative play into my daily life — to participate in art as part of my routine. And I think that casual communication allows for more — and different — creativity than ever before. So maybe I don’t know how to write a great email. But I can text directions in haiku form and shape a grocery list into post-modern flash fiction. And I find that simply thrilling.

-Charlotte Goddu

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Mary Norris: Sovereign of Spelling, Empress of the Em Dash

Mary Norris’s first book, Between You and Me: Confessions of Comma Queen, shines a spotlight on copyediting as an urgent and beautiful part of writing and publishing. The book is fun and full of attitude, making light of the intense nit-pickiness that comes with a copyeditor’s territory. She writes, “There were writers who weren’t very good and yet were impossible to improve, like figure skaters who hit all the technical marks but have a limited artistic appeal and sport unflattering costumes. There were competent writers on interesting subjects who were just careless enough in their spelling and punctuation to keep a girl occupied.” Throughout the book — part memoir, part grammar and style handbook — Norris explores the most common faults she found copyediting during her time at the New Yorker.

Naturally, a book about grammar written by a copyeditor will assert the importance — the article making or breaking potential, even! — of just one misplaced comma. But less expected and more intriguing is the joy Norris finds in copyediting. To Norris, finding mistakes and correcting them is a wonderful puzzle, a job as delightful as it is necessary. For Norris, copyediting grew from a job into a lifestyle; she writes, “I was paid to find mistakes, and it was a long time before I could once again read for pleasure. I spontaneously copy-edited everything I laid eyes on.”

This book struck a chord here at CambridgeEditors because it reflects a balance we, too, see in editing. Yes, a superb professional edit can make all the difference in your novel’s publication, your application’s acceptance, or your business proposal’s success. And our desire to help writers put their best foot forward certainly plays a role in our editing. But we’re also passionate about what we do — our editors work hard, but they also love their work. Good editors must care about their work and enjoy it — if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be good editors at all. We’re lucky that we work with editors whose passion mirrors their talent, for whom copyediting is one essential facet of a rich, full understanding of writing.

In an article for the New Yorker wherein she discusses her book, Norris writes that copyediting “draws on the entire person: not just your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and usage and foreign languages and literature but also your experience of travel, gardening, shipping, singing, plumbing, Catholicism, Midwesternism, mozzarella, the A train, New Jersey.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

 

-Charlotte Goddu

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Hello from the Newest Intern!

Hi, everyone!

I’m Charlotte, the newest intern at CambridgeEditors. I’m more than thrilled to have the chance to work with people who are just as interested in writing and editing as I am!

To help you get to know me a little bit better, I’m going to tell you two of my biggest opinions on editing (which also happen to be two rather important aspects of my personality as well).

First: I’ve always preferred editing my work to writing it in the first place. During finals week this winter, I spent hours of valuable studying time editing one short story for my creative writing class — not because I really needed to, but because I was having too much fun to stop. When my friends asked how my studying for my other classes was going, I replied “Uh, I think it’ll be fine,” while deleting and inserting the same comma over and over again because I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.

Second: I know and respect the importance of a good editor to tell you to fix that semicolon, reword that sentence, or just rewrite the whole thing. As a kid, I was stubbornly independent. For many years, I refused to show my parents (two very smart people) any of the essays I wrote for school. But one day during my sophomore year of high school, the then-very-frightening editor of my high school paper sent me a kind but discouraging email explaining that my opinion article outlining a brilliant solution to all immigration-related conflict in the U.S. would not be printed because it just wasn’t up to snuff. I cried a little bit, looked over the article myself, and then turned it over to my mother. She slashed away with her signature blue fountain pen until nothing was left but the barest bones of my article. She then sat me down, told me what I’d done wrong, and said, “Fix it.” So I did. And I showed her every subsequent article I wrote before turning it in. The pen-marks on the page got fewer and father between as I improved — but even now I ask for her advice on anything truly important I’m writing because I know just how huge a difference a great (and ruthless) edit can make.

Enough about my life in terms of editing, though! I’m a rising sophomore at Columbia University majoring in English and Creative Writing with hopes of someday needing CambridgeEditors’ services for my own work. My professional aspirations change daily, ranging from novelist to food critic to copyeditor, hinging only on a connection to writing. My literary tastes are equally eclectic — I love everything from Murakami to Salinger, Morrison to Ovid. Recently I’ve been reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and I’m about to move on to Jon Krakauer’s Missoula.

I so look forward to working at CambridgeEditors — I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn during my time here! Until next time!

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