Intentionally Introductory

Introducing myself in any capacity always reminds me of the opening pages of a novel. Just as Holden Caulfield quips in the opening pages of The Catcher in the Rye, maybe I should start with where I was born and “all that David Copperfield kind of crap.”

But where’s the fun in that? Instead, I’ll start by saying I actually hate The Catcher in the Rye. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t hate J.D. Salinger’s writing style or anything; I just feel the book is a poor example of a coming-of-age story and thusly shouldn’t be taught as such in the general high school curriculum.

However, I will say this: My name is Brooke Knisley, a new intern at CambridgeEditors. I’m also in Emerson College’s Writing and Publishing M.A. program. My main concern is hearing and acquiring stories, and my definition of “stories” is a broad one. I like to know why people elect to share certain stories and what narratives are intrinsic in seemingly innocuous pieces of text: a scribbled note, an improvised tune, a birthday invitation. Graffiti counts too.

Me

I’ve traveled throughout the world in search of stories (Chiapas in Southern Mexico being my most recent destination) because the literary landscape is as diverse as our physical one. No text exists in a vacuum and the place of creation affects the production of a text as much as the narrative’s locale, whether intended or not.

But intentionality does matter in any story. The choices an author makes (or doesn’t) reveal the project at work behind the narrative. Which is another reason every introduction reminds me of the beginning to a novel. Why did this person use that piece of information to construct an identity? And why did they want to show you that specific side of their personality?

Which begs the question: If every introduction is a contrived text, why did I choose to introduce myself this way to you all? What is my larger project?

I look forward to revealing it to you over my tenure as an intern at CambridgeEditors. Hopefully, you will stick around so we can work through it together.

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Intern Introduction

Hello! My name is Madeline Sneed, and I am one of the two fall interns at Cambridge Editors this semester. I moved to Boston from Houston, Texas (the greatest city in the world), just a couple of weeks ago. Though I miss the Lone Star State, I’m so thrilled to be in a completely new environment, and I love Boston already. I am here to pursue an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. My goal after graduation is to write novels while teaching English or creative writing.

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Just bein’ a Baylor Bear

 

I have a BA in English literature from Baylor University in Waco, Texas—yes, I have been to Magnolia, and no, I have never met Chip or Joanna Gaines. During my time at Baylor, I fell in love with the works of Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Colum McCann, and David Foster Wallace. While post-modern American literature is my jam, some of my favorite novels include A Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, and Crime and Punishment. In addition to novels, I love enjoying stories told through film and television. I know too much about Game of Thrones for my own good, I can’t seem to stop watching Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, and my two favorite films are Dead Poets Society and Carol.

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Reading in front of Baylor’s English building

When I’m not consuming stories, I love to travel, hang out with my friends, work out, listen to music, and try to get celebrities to respond to me on Twitter. I’m an avid Houston sports fan, and the biggest struggle in moving to Boston has been stomaching all the Patriots paraphernalia. I truly believe that the Houston Texans will win the Super Bowl this year (I say this every year). Additionally, I love to cook and am a wannabe oenophile. A fun fact about myself is that I won four consecutive intramural racquetball championships at Baylor, and I believe that is when I peaked in life.

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Peak of my existence

I’m very excited to work with and learn from the Cambridge Editors team, and I hope you all enjoyed reading a bit about me. Look out for future blog posts from yours truly in the future!

Madeline Sneed, Intern

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Boston Bookstore Spotlight!

One of my favorite things about coming to Boston has been the access to used bookstores! Back home, the nearest bookstore was a Barnes and Noble that was almost 45 minutes away. Now that I’m in Boston, I have found so many amazing bookstores to choose from, each having its own unique experience.

Rodney's Bookstore

C: Rodney’s

I love scouring the often-disorganized sections of books, hunting for rare (and hopefully inexpensive!) finds. For a small town girl from New Jersey, there are few things as satisfying as getting a hardcover book for the price of a paperback or finding a rare book. Once, in Rodney’s Bookstore, I found a 1956 hardcover copy of The Catcher in the Rye. Rodney’s is located near Central Square in Cambridge and hosts a maze of books all randomly scattered in vertical piles. Entire rows of books are hidden behind each other and you have to really dig to find something of interest. There, hidden behind one of the vertical stacks, I saw the very top of a spine with the tell-tale red horse and practically threw all of the other books out of the way to get to it. I had never seen The Catcher in the Rye in hardcover before, and bought the book immediately. It’s still one of the best finds I’ve had so far in Boston.

Harvard Bookstore

C. Harvard Bookstore

Recently, I checked out the heralded  Harvard Bookstore in Harvard Square, where the upstairs shelves in the new books section are so massive that they have actual Beauty-and-the-Beast-style ladders along the shelves. Only the staff are allowed to climb them, but it still creates the effect of my dream library. In addition to this glorious maze, there is an impressive section for used books downstairs. You can also find some decent deals on remainders and a large section of discounted comic books and graphic novels. As an added bonus, this summer they are having 15% off fiction titles every Friday through September 1st! The discount doesn’t include used or remaindered titles, but you can still get a bit of a discount on any of your favorite new fiction upstairs!

Brookline Booksmith Shelves

c: hbooks.com

Another favorite treasure hunting spot of mine is Brookline Booksmith. Located off the Coolidge Corner T stop and just down the street from The Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline Booksmith boasts an impressive inventory. Looking for your favorite author’s newest release? It’s almost guaranteed they stock it upstairs in their vast sections of new books. You’ll also find a collection of journals and tons of fun gift items. If you love pins, funny book-related greeting cards, and Blue Q socks then you’ll definitely be stuck in the gift section for a few hours. If you’re looking for a cheaper find, head downstairs to find a haven of used books. They have everything from used Y.A. and children’s novels to comic books. A typical fiction novel won’t cost you more than seven or eight dollars, and they’re usually in excellent collection. I’ve done a lot of shopping in this particular store. I’ve even used their wide range of used fiction novels to not only bulk up my own collection, but also find some books for literature classes.

Whether it’s looking for a long-lost childhood favorite, trying to expand your literary collection, or just eager to attend some awesome literary events this summer there are tons of options in Boston! Don’t miss your chance!

-Megan, Intern

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Why You Should Hire an Editor for Your Dissertation

Hiring professional editors to look over dissertations before submission can help students reach their full potentials as they wrap up their graduate or doctoral studies. On her blog, “Get a Life, PhD,” Tanya Maria Golash-Boza writes, “Sometimes, you have to ask yourself: ‘What is the cost of not hiring an editor?’”

Getting professional advice and editing from someone who has experience in your academic field will help to narrow the focus of your final project, see and read your own words more clearly, gain a better understanding of what you need to do to make your writing appear more clear and professional, and ultimately produce a successful and publishable project.

There is no question that outside readers find far more mistakes in your writing than you do. Your mind knows exactly what the document should say and, as a result, your eyes see what the brain wants them to see. While asking friends, family, and classmates may certainly help you to discover small mistakes, professional editors have experience in the specific fields you may be targeting or pulling information from in your project. Finding someone who is familiar with your topic of study will largely benefit the final draft of your dissertation.

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Hired editors offer a variety of expert insights. Editors are not just used for poets, memoirists, and other creative writers; there are also those who have doctorate degrees in various scientific, mathematic, legal fields, and more, with the necessary proficiency needed to transform a student’s dissertation draft into publishable material.

Different editors are familiar with different styles and formats; if a student’s professor expects final dissertations to be written in MLA, APA, CMS, Turabian, AMA, or another style, it is certainly possible to hire someone who has a solid understanding of the essential elements of a specific style. Editors with degrees in science or mathematics will likely have a better understanding of how tables, figures, and graphs should be formatted than friends and family would.

Not only are hired editors convenient for dissertations written in specific styles and formats, but they are also helpful when it comes to constructive feedback and critiquing. They have years of experience editing works (especially academic writing) by other people. They can give additional feedback to help students with the structure and flow of their dissertations. Students sometimes struggle trying to plan and organize their ideas all on their own; getting outside perspectives can help. Some editors specialize in working with clients who are non-native English speakers.

They are paid to meet strict deadlines that will provide some relief to students with tough time constraints between school, work, and family responsibilities. While it’s certainly cheaper to edit your dissertation yourself (or have it edited by another student/ friend), that will not be enough for a project that could eventually become an important addition to your résumé.

A well-written and well-researched dissertation has a better chance of being published in a scholarly magazine or website. A published dissertation looks an impressive detail on a job application. As Edit 911 says on their website, “Completion of the dissertation or research projects and conferral of the degree are often required to achieve advancement with one’s current employer or to obtain a position with a different employer. Delays in final acceptance and frustration with the system may even be sufficient to cause some candidates to abandon their goals of working in academia, even if they do complete degree requirements successfully. Dissertations often are the first major publications for these professionals.”

Dissertation-Proposal

While hiring an editor may seem like asking for outside help, it is encouraged by most schools and will ultimately create a more publishable product. “Professional editors have the skills and expertise to complete these jobs satisfactorily and guarantee the quality of their work.  Reputable editors will also provide a sample edit to show the kind of revisions they can do and to ensure they understand the candidate’s exact needs in the editing process” (Edit 911). Getting your work read by an outside perspective will help you reach your highest potential as a student who has an intelligent idea to offer the world after years of taking college classes. Remember, “Sometimes, you have to ask yourself: ‘What is the cost of not hiring an editor?’”

After a hired editor provides the helpful feedback all students need to create a perfect or near-perfect finished product, the student’s professor will in turn focus his or her critiques/ grading more on the student’s work and research rather than the quality of writing, because the quality of writing will be good enough to ignore once it has gone through a hired editor.

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–Audrey Conklin

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The New Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith

Tracy Smith Picture
Photo Credit to Rachel Eliza Griffiths

The United States officially has a new Poet Laureate! In June, Tracy K. Smith was appointed to the position by the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. But what exactly does her job entail? What qualifies her for it? And just who is Tracy K. Smith? If you’re like me and don’t know that much about poetry, you might be wondering all of these things, too! Fear not, dear reader! I’m going to do my best to put together a short history of the position as well as give you some details about the Tracy Smith.

The Poet Laureate position has a long history in the United States, with each of the 22 Poet Laureates that we’ve had bringing their own special spin to the position. Tracy Smith is just the sixth woman and fourth woman of color to have the position since it was created in 1937 (although it wasn’t called the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry until 1986). The Poet Laureate is appointed by the Librarian of Congress, who consults with past Laureates, poetry critics, and other staff. Each Poet Laureate serves from September until May of the following year, although they can be appointed for a second term by the librarian.

Over the years, the Librarians of Congress have kept the rules for the position fairly lenient, wanting each new person to have the chance to work on any project they are passionate about. Other than opening and closing the annual series of speakers at the Library of Congress with a poetry reading and a lecture, the Poet Laureates are free to focus on almost anything. Rita Dove, who served from 1993 to 1995, brought together artists to explore African Diaspora. Gwendolyn Brooks visited elementary schools to encourage a love of poetry in the young students. Most recently, Juan Felipe Herrera spent his two terms creating several different projectsincluding La Casa de Colores. Tracy K. Smith told NPR that she plans on, “getting off the usual path of literary festivals and university reading series and talking to people who might not even yet be readers of poetry.”

Ms. Smith is definitely an excellent ambassador for poetry! At the young age of 45, she has accomplished more than most people can hope for in their entire career. She’s published 3 collections of poetry as well as a memoir and has won numerous awards for her writing, including the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry with her collection Life on Mars. She is also currently the head of the Creative Writing Department at Princeton. Now, with her appointment as the Poet Laureate, she has received the highest honor for a poet in the United States.

life on mars cover

Her work has been recognized many times for the themes that she covers. Life on Mars contains everything from an homage to her late father to poems critiquing race relations in the United States. When talking about her decision to appoint Ms. Smith as the new Poet Laureate, Carla Hayden said, “Her work travels the world and takes on its voices; brings history and memory to life; calls on the power of literature as well as science, religion, and pop culture. With directness and deftness, she contends with the heavens or plumbs our inner depths—all to better understand what makes us most human.” Tracy K. Smith fits perfectly into the demands that we have for writers today. She finds a way to take large topics like death and makes them somehow beautiful and easier to swallow.

Tracy Smith’s appointment is an excellent opportunity for poetry in America. Now more than ever we need outreach for the arts. Bringing poetry to people off the usual, beaten track of literary festivals will expose more people to the power of well-written literature. In a society that is rapidly moving towards defunding arts programs in schools and brushing aside the liberal arts as too fanciful to be practical, we need passionate people like Tracy Smith more than ever.

Sources:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/books/tracy-k-smith-is-the-new-poet-laureate.html?mcubz=0
http://theculture.forharriet.com/2017/06/tracy-k-smith-is-fourth-black-woman-to.html#ixzz4nJ4t28JK
https://www.loc.gov/poetry/laureate.html
https://www.loc.gov/poetry/about_laureate.html
https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/poetslaureate/faq.html#4

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Happy Hour Writing Session at GrubStreet

Last Friday, I went to GrubStreet, a creative writing center in Boston that has made a huge impact on the local writing community and individual careers, to attend an event called “Happy Hour Writing Session,” which was exactly what it sounds like. Snacks, drinks, and writing prompts were available to those who signed up and a few who didn’t (including myself—oops). GrubStreet offers classes, programs, and various unique events with a dedicated and experienced faculty willing to help students and visitors fulfill their greatest potential. They encourage all kinds of writers to take the time to work on the projects that they often put aside for work, family, and other personal responsibilities.

I was not expecting the class to be so packed at 6:30 on a Friday evening, but the classroom was nearly full when I got there. Unlike in my creative writing classes at school, where my work is critiqued and commented on by only eight other people who know more about me than they should, I felt surprisingly calmer around this large group of strangers than I had anticipated.

I, however, was one of few people pursuing a degree in writing; most of the others already had full-time careers in fields that ranged from nursing to teaching to analyzing computer data, but were trying to squeeze some writing time in for the week in a space that helped them focus and become inspired. Others were retired and trying to discipline themselves to write more every day. Others were there for the first time just to see what it was all about. Diverse as this group of people was, we were all there for the same reason—to write, to relax, and to make good use of one free hour on a Friday night.

digital composite of hands using notebook with graphics

I sat at a table with three other women. JoAnne was retired and a GrubStreet regular; Bridget was a sixth-grade teacher who just completed her first year and was looking to get some writing done during her much-deserved summer off school; Emily was a retired CEO and a great conversation starter who had a goal of taking some time to write at least three times per week.

For the first exercise, we were prompted to describe a color, and whenever we felt stuck or distracted, we would just have to envision that color and write whatever came to mind. No editing, no primping, no perfecting—just writing. After that exercise, some of us shared what we wrote while others simply explained their ideas without reading their work. I chose sea-grass green.

For the second exercise, each table was given a spice and a perfume strip from a magazine, and we were told to write about what those scents inspired in us. I smelled my table’s spice without looking at the label first and immediately thought of Christmas before I even realized the spice was cinnamon. Our box of Christmas decorations sitting in the basement at home that smells like cinnamon because we have ornaments made of stale cinnamon sticks and ginger cookies with in festive ribbon. As a result, I wrote about my family’s twenty-something-year-old, fake, dwindling Christmas tree had it not been for that smell, which I would have never thought of had it not been for the spice sitting on my table.

Cinnamon Ornaments 7

Finally, we were given our third and final exercise at the end of the hour-long event. We had twenty minutes to write anything using one of several opening lines our instructor had given us for inspiration. I chose to write a passage starting with, “In my second life,” as did Bridget, but we ended up writing completely different exercises. In Bridget’s second life, she was a Broadway singer who could express herself through voice and drama. In my second life, I got my first job at a movie theater was I was sixteen and lived in the same town until college.

It was this duality between our two stories starting with the exact same line that made me realize how different all of us at my table, in the room, in the city, and in the world are. We all have so many different ideas and stories to offer people who are willing to read them, and GrubStreet is willing to help you get to that point.

If you are interested in attending a Happy Hour Writing Session at GrubStreet, see their website and event calendar; don’t forget to sign up!

—Audrey Conklin

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The Price of Self-Publishing

What does it really cost to self-publish a book? I thought this question had been answered for me when an author came to visit my high school to talk to a group of students who were interested in learning more about patenting and publishing. She was a romance novelist and had self-published over twenty of her own books, some of which were sold in popular airport bookstores.

She explained to us that while self-publishing costs more upfront, she was ultimately able to make a larger profit because she had more control over the money she made off her sales. Usually, writers who commit to large publishing companies keep less than half of their book’s profit. But I want to explain the process, because self-publishing is not for everyone, nor should it be. How does an author become confident enough in his or her work to make such a time-consuming commitment?

self-publishing

According to Tom Harris, a writer for the website “How Stuff Works,” which is also the home of my favorite podcast (“Stuff You Should Know”), self-publishing is essentially the same thing as running a small publishing company. You may have to get a business license and even a bank account. You may also have to come up with your own name, logo, and perhaps a website. But before you even start setting up your business, the first step to self-publishing is making sure you have a sellable product. Research websites and fan bases and see what people are buying and where and for how much. Be confident enough in not only your writing, but also the book’s design, genre, target audience, and so on.

To keep yourself on track during the writing process, you should set your own deadlines. Hiring a developmental editor can help motivate you to have a specific amount written for a set date. Developmental editors help you to plan and structure your work; they give you useful feedback about the track of your book. The author, however, ultimately has the final say, unlike with some larger publishing houses. Once you have completed a manuscript, you could hire a copyeditor to get some professional feedback on your work before sending it into the world.

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Photo taken by DeckledPages on Instagram

 

As Tom Harris explains, “For your work to be a viable book that can sit on bookstore and library shelves, it needs a few additional things. Before printing, you need to: Get an International Standard Book Number…Get a Library of Congress catalog number…Get a European Article number…Set a price.” Include details like an author bio and endorsements or reviews on the back cover to give your book a more professional look.

Once your manuscript is complete and ready for printing, decide whether you want to publish your book electronically, in print, or both. The first step for either option is to create a digital copy through computer software which isn’t so difficult to find and manage nowadays. Your next step would be to do some research on book manufacturers and, when you find one that appeals to you, ask for a quote, just like you would ask for a quote from your editor.

Finally, once your book has been printed and it’s ready to be sent out into the world and shared on Facebook profiles and showcased on Instagram and retweeted on Twitter, you must complete the process by marketing your work. “There are a few major marketing steps that are nearly essential: Fill out an Advance Book Information (ABI) form at BowkerLink.com before your book goes to press…Send advance information and copies of your book to Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal…Pick other suitable publications and send them books for review” (Harris). There are also book and lifestyle bloggers who recommend great reads to their followers; you may want to contact these people (usually via email) and offer to pay them to advertise your book (which you would obviously send to his or her P.O. box, free of charge) to their audience. Giveaways on social media usually seem to have successful outcomes, too. I’ve seen ads for books everywhere, from podcasts to music streaming websites to Tumblr and Pinterest posts. There are endless opportunities, but only so much money, so choose your advertisement outlets wisely and according to your target audience.

So, what is the real price of self-publishing? The answer: a lot of hard work, but when done correctly and efficiently, worth the time and money and pressure. Of course, it is not for everyone, and sometimes signing a contract with a publishing company can make one’s career as an author soar. But evidently, a self-published book that does well on the market is obviously a great option for an author trying to get a foot in the door of the literary world without wanting to commit to a large company. Plus, once you self-publish one book, you may find yourself content with the process and willing to continue your career on a more individual level, much like the romance novelist I was fortunate enough to learn from several years ago.

—Audrey Conklin

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