This Is Your Brain On Proofs: Why Proofreading Is–Or Isn’t–Like Making Bread

Ever wonder what someone’s brain sounds like after ten straight hours of proofreading proofs?

 

Exactly what it says.

“Proof. Poof. Why do they sound so similar?”

“‘The proof is in the pudding!’ Shouldn’t that be, ‘The proof is in taking a BITE of the pudding?’ I mean, plenty of pudding LOOKS great, but don’t judge a pudding by its looks, right? That would be like judging a book by its cover. Which people shouldn’t do. Which is why I’m currently proofreading these proofs.”

No cover-judging!

“And you know when they say ‘pudding,’ they mean dessert, right? Those ol’ British Commonwealth types, they actually ask their mums, ‘What’s for pudding, then?'”

“Hope they get their just desserts. I mean puddings.”

“You know what else proofs? Bread. Or anything with yeast in it. That’s what we bakers call the rising part: proofing. Isn’t that the OPPOSITE of what I’m doing now? I’m poking holes in my own prose, deflating its presumptions of quality.”

Proof of bread proofing.

“Or am I? I mean, proofing my proofs IS helping their overall quality rise in the long run, right? Well, yeah…but only after I make all those corrections. So the proofs have to flatten themselves in humiliation before they can rise. What’s the bread equivalent of proofreading?”

All THESE corrections.

“Did you know that the German word for ‘test’ is ‘PRÜFUNG’? So guess where ‘proofing’ comes from? And, yup…’proving.’ All these words have to pass their test. Just like the bread does.”

Proof of croissants proofing.

“If I quit proofing these proofs too soon, will they go ‘poof’ and prove me a fool?”

“And don’t even start me on loafing puns.”

Confessions of the Clueless, Part IV: NaNoWriMo Got You Down? Try WriBoYoWaWri!

You’ve heard of NaNoWriMo? (That’s National Novel Writing Month–an annual, Internet-based creative writing project that takes place during the month of November.)

Well, today this clueless author is celebrating something more personal: WriBoYoWaWri. That is… writing the book you (or I, in this case) wanted to write.

When I first published The Flying Burgowski, I told my writing group, “I wanted to write this book, and I did. I wanted people to read it, and they are.”

So later, when I ran into the brick wall fun challenges of marketing and book-selling, my writing buddy Iris Graville (whose memoir, Hiking Naked: a Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance was just published by Homebound Publications) reminded me of what I had said.

“You wanted to write this book, and you did. You wanted people to read it, and they are.”

Later still, when Book Two, Headwinds, came out and people would ask me that highly annoying perfectly innocent question, “So how’s your book selling?” I could always find my “happy place” by reminding myself about WriBoYoWaWri.

(Original photo: Abigail Porter)

You know: Write the Book You Want to Write.

These days, much to my surprise and DEEP gratification, both my sons are turning into novelists. And both are sharing their work, and their thoughts about their work, with me, their author-mama.

The other night, Son Two was stating his intention to end his book in a certain place. “That’ll make it very short,” I warned. “A novella. When I wrote mine, back in the nineties, all the agents I contacted told me they could never sell it.”

Son Two shrugged. “It’s what I…”

And I kicked myself and finished his sentence for him: “…wanted to write. Of COURSE. Do it. Don’t listen to me.” And I meant it.

Son One’s work will likely have the opposite challenge: length. Will I warn him about the difficulties of selling a long novel when your last name isn’t King or Stephenson?

No. No, I will not. I will joyfully chant, Write the Book You Want to Write. And I will MEAN it.

Writers, readers–your thoughts? Will you join me in WriBoYoWaWri? Don’t worry about November. WriBoYoWaWri lasts all year long.

Confessions of the Clueless, Part III: If John Green’s Clueless Enough to Write About Articulate Teenagers, So Am I, Thanks

Raise your hand if you

  • have read (or seen) John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
  • are, or once were, an intelligent, articulate, even eloquent teenager
  • have read John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines
  • are the parent of someone who was formerly an intelligent, articulate, even eloquent teenager
  • have read John Green’s Looking for Alaska
  • believe that teenagers have as much capacity for intelligence, articulateness, even eloquence as adults (and way more than several recent Presidents)
  • are excited about John Green’s latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down.

Me? My hand never went down.

Thinking about the critiques my own books have faced–“Your heroine thinks and talks too much like an adult!”–I’ve found happy solace in this article by Jennie Yabroff of Signature Reads. com, which details John Green’s patient resistance to dumbing-down his teenage protagonists. Here he explains that his characters simply narrate not the way society expects of teens, but the way these teens, these PEOPLE, see themselves:

“The reality of experience is ultimately a lot more interesting to me than what I think is sort of wrongly called ‘objective reality.’ Because I don’t actually think objective reality is a thing — certainly not a very interesting thing for fiction, I don’t think,” he said. Rather, he believes that the way he represents his characters on the page is the way they see themselves in their heads. “Certainly, teenagers don’t sound [like my characters] when they talk to us… But they do sound that way to themselves. And that’s what interests me. I’m not really interested in capturing how they actually sound, because that’s not their experience.”

I say AMEN. Or rather, my protagonist, Jocelyn Burgowski, says that. Even though “that’s not something a teen would say.” Jocelyn is trying, like every other teen, to figure out exactly who she is. Her voice is the voice of the self developing inside her–which we, the readers, are privileged to peek into. So who are we to demand a different voice on the page?

(Orig. photo courtesy high school-aged Brian Whittier)

I prefer to get my books from the library or in paperback from my local bookstore, so I won’t get to read Turtles All the Way Down very soon. But if you do–and I hope you do!–please listen hard, and hear what Green’s heroine Aza has to say. Then apply that listening to the teen nearest you.

Coming in November, Altitude: Final Book of the Flying Burgowski Trilogy

(Design by Bob Lanphear; hands photo by Heather Harrison; hands themselves: Anah-Kate Drahn) Thanks, all!

“To thine own self be true…” Yeah, right.

I banked toward the warehouses, skimming the trees. Gotta find some way to USE my power…Reaching the first ratty rooftop, I hovered, quivering. If I could get Vivian back to the sky… put our powers together—What’s THAT?

Not a seagull. This sound was coming from the alley below. A quiet wail—kittens crying. Was that rusty blue shipping container there before? I landed behind the gnarliest warehouse and peeked into the alley. From street level, the giant rusty container towered above me. The kitten-cries were definitely coming from inside. Maybe someone dumped a pregnant cat in there. The box was hinged at one end—a pair of doors belted with a big ol’ rusty chain and padlock. Why lock a cat in?

 “Kitty-kitty-kitty?” I called. “You in there? Poor thing!”

Two syllables floated from the stinking metal monster. A word I recognized from my Mandarin Terms a Traveler Should Know: “Bāng wǒ.” Help.

After a summer of betrayal and heartbreak and an epically rotten year, 16 year-old Jocelyn (The Flying) Burgowski is fleeing family and friends on Dalby Island for school on the mainland. What good is flying if it wrecks relationships? The guy she fell for almost destroyed her power. Now, discovering the ugly underbelly of mainland life, has Joss stumbled upon a fellow Flyer—only to bring her down? Confronting the dual forces of magic and maturity, Joss must face the question: what does “to thine own self be true” really mean?