Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue...

I just finished watching Brave New Voices on HBO, and like every time I watch this series, it inspired me to write!

If you've never seen a poetry slam, I highly recommend that you get on that right away. It's so powerful to see writers pouring out their souls on the stage, and getting feedback from the crowd. It especially makes me happy to see really young kids expressing themselves through poetry. You may think you're not into poems, but have you ever read a Dr. Seuss book? How about Shel Silverstein? Do you listen to any rap music? Ever look up the lyrics to your favorite song and fall in love with the words? Then you, my friend, might be into poetry. Don't fight it. Embrace it! I'd love for you all to write a poem about something you care about--anything--and send it to me. I'll try to write a poem for every one I receive.

In the meantime, I guess I should fill you in on my last few proofreading classes. In the class before last, I taught them how to mark corrections in the text and assign responsibility. Did you know that every correction that is made to the text of a book has to be paid for by someone? If the printer makes a mistake, we call that a PE (printer's error). If the author makes a mistake and the proofreader doesn't catch it, that's an EA (editorial alteration). It gets more complicated, but I don't want to put you to sleep or anything. Moving right along...

In the next class, we entered the wonderful world of grammar. I can practically hear some of you groaning right now. But hey, learning some basic grammar rules will make your writing that much better and easier to understand. I don't happen to be the greatest at this subject. I'm one of those people who knows what sounds right, but I wouldn't necessarily be able to give you the technical term for it. So I called in a pro: Ellen Scordato. She has been in the business for 25 years and knows her way around a sentence. (I may have mentioned before that she interviewed me for one of her posts on the Barnes & Noble community blog, Unabashedly Bookish.) Anyway, after I introduced her to the class, she took over, walking them through the various parts of speech (there are 8, by the way) and some common mistakes that people make all the time. I'm so glad she gave this class. I learned a lot! I had completely forgotten the term "gerund." (For the record, it's a verb that can be used as a noun. For example: Running is fun.) Toward the end of the class, the students had to break up into groups, and each group took a sentence from a bag and had to explain what was wrong with the sentence and how they would fix it.

And in our last class, we tackled spelling. So many people think they can spell...until they have to take a spelling test! I gave the class some words that have stumped me in the past, or that I see author's spell incorrectly all the time--like "cemetery," "archaeologist," and "psychic." I'm happy to say they did pretty well. When I took this class years ago, I took a spelling test myself and was surprised to find out that I didn't know how to spell "accommodate." Two m's? Huh. Who knew? 

I did promise you a language tip for every class I taught, so now I owe you three! Here they are:

1. Titles like "mom" and "dad" are only capitalized when used in direct address or when used as a name.

    Example: Can you pick me up from school, Mom?  or  My dad said no, but Mom said yes.
    But:         My mom is my Facebook friend.

2. "Each other" is used for two people, "one another" is for three or more people.

    Example: Lisa and Tonya looked at each other and laughed.
    But:         Everyone on the volleyball team supported one another.

3. Use what is called an em-dash (a long dash) for interrupted speech and ellipsis points for trailing speech.

    Example: "I was going to call you, but--"
                    "Oh, no you weren't," Maria interrupted.

    But:         I wonder if . . . No, it's too scary to say out loud.

Phew! Okay, now that we have the school recap out of the way, time to fill you in on my next author appearance! I'll be participating in the Let's Read event at Columbia University in Manhattan on November 14 from 12 PM to 3 PM. My reading will be at 1:37 PM. If you happen to be in the area, come on down! It's free, there will be a bunch of other authors there, including Henry Neff and Troy CLE, there will be workshops for parents, and there will be music and other fun surprises. All the authors will be signing books afterward.

Well, that's all for now. I'm beat. But you all get cracking on those poems!

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