IVP - Strangely Dim - Stuff About Editing Archives

August 6, 2012

Selling Apples on the Same Corner: Dan Reid's Vocational Journey, Part Two

Dan Reid, senior editor for IVP's academic and reference publishing, continues the story of his arrival in the "providential profession" of an editorial vocation. Read part one here.

Let me make this clear: No one in my earlier years would have said to me, "Dan, some day you are going to be an editor. I just know it!" No. Not at all. Never. My high school English teacher has (so I've been told) used me to illustrate the point that you never know what your students are going to do, particularly your less promising ones. This makes some of my IVP colleagues suck in their breath and feel slightly nauseated. But my old high school friends love to hear me tell my story. And from where I sit today, I can look back and see all sorts of interests, experiences, propensities and educational opportunities that prepared me for my vocation in theological publishing. And when the time was right, the desire to do it--and the sense of calling--was strong.

Dan 1 cropped.jpgI also see a stream of associations with IVP meandering through my life. Various IVP books had been part of our household as I was growing up, and some of them had entered my life at strategic points during my college and seminary education. There was a period when I eagerly awaited the next IVP book from Francis Schaeffer--in fact I had taken along a book or two of his for nearly three weeks of solo backpacking through the North Cascades of Washington State in 1969. It's very likely I had The God Who Is There in my pack that night on Aspen Mountain. I had also used IVP books in teaching. But still, it was something of a wonder to one day find myself at the source of this stream, in an old brick building on Main Street of Downers Grove, Illinois. That was over a quarter century ago.

My father likes to quote a very successful family friend's key to success in business: "I just keep selling apples on the same corner." This man was being very modest. But I have come to see the wisdom in that homespun reflection. I have come to doubt that anything really worthwhile is achieved apart from devoting yourself to it consistently, day in and day out. Not many of those days are very thrilling in themselves, but put them end on end and they can add up to something. And besides, we need that time to grow into our vocation, to slowly gain wisdom and build things where we have been placed. Impatience can impair that process. I'm much less enamored of brilliance these days, particularly the kind that flares ever so brightly . . . and then either burns out or dissipates in a shower of sparks. I'm moved by stories of those who have played the long game.

The vocational field I've been called to cultivate, year in and year out, has been remarkably uniform: acquiring and editing reference and academic books for IVP. But it has also been motivated and carried along by a particular vision of what evangelical biblical scholarship might become. For the most part it has only taken a few good ideas, executed with consistency and a sense of calling--and undergirded by a whole lot of providence--to make it whatever it is today.

I have frequently thought there are any number of people who could have done this job as well or better than I have. And I marvel that I was in the right place at the right time and given the opportunities I've enjoyed. I also wonder why there are people so much more gifted than I who just don't seem to find a vocational niche that fits them well. I do not have an explanation. And I sometimes feel embarrassed by the richness of my own calling. (Though I do realize many will find this an amusing delusion, since they view my work as immensely boring!) Yet I have also seen Christians who are capable of so much more than their job requires of them, who have nevertheless used their surplus of giftedness and character to make their work far more than it would have been without them. This too points to a deep sense of vocation and reminds me that it's not only what you do but how you do it that counts as witness to God's kingdom.

In my previous post I mentioned the sense of loss when I returned from the Philippines. Today from my desk I can see a shelf of foreign-language editions of reference works that I've built from the ground up. They are translated into Chinese and Russian, Portuguese and Italian, to name a few. It turns out that publishing can indeed bear witness to God's kingdom in a variety of tongues. I am taking part in that crosscultural missionary calling, though not in a way I had anticipated.

I still have moments--particularly when the routines and occasional crises of publishing seem to overwhelm--when I am sure I should have pursued a career in the mountains. But apart from the possibility that my life might have been quite a bit shorter, I still conclude that, for me at least, I would have missed my true calling. I can always satisfy my hunger for the outdoors. (And I do. My dream vacations are most people's worst nightmares.) Then, with body and soul ventilated, I get back to the particular work God has called me to do.

***

See IVP's books by Francis Schaeffer here.

Check out Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good here.

See some of the fruits of Dan's vocation here.

Read Addenda & Errata, Dan's IVP blog, here.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:18 AM

August 1, 2012

The Providential Profession: Dan Reid's Vocational Journey, Part One

Dan Reid, senior editor for IVP's academic and reference publishing, tells the story of the long and winding road to an editorial vocation.

I've heard the editorial profession called the "accidental profession." I guess a lot of editors have just fallen into this line of work. Many of us have not had any specific training for it. But in my case I'd call it the providential profession, or vocation.

Books have always been important to me. That doesn't mean I've always read the "right" ones. I've often pretty much followed my interests--whether it be stories of adventure and arctic exploration, or philosophy and theology, or just a good read. Unfortunately, for many of my earlier years my interests seldom lined up with school curriculum. I didn't like school. So up through high school and early college my grades reflected this. This is not what most people assume of me. You read it here.

Thumbnail image for Dan 1 cropped.jpg

Fortunately I came from a family where the King's English was honored and enforced. And I was schooled in a time and place where the instructional level was of such a caliber that even a drifter didn't stray too far from the main channel. I also came from a missionary family--three generations, in fact--so I grew up negotiating two cultures and two languages. I was--and am--a Third Culture Kid. They say this explains a lot, and I'll allow that.

I had quite a bit of theological education early on in college--a Bible college, to be specific. Then my interests broadened into philosophy and the humanities in general. Finally, my focus ratcheted down and I launched off into seminary with a general aim of heading into an academic line of work. Would I teach? I hoped so. The pastoral life didn't seem to match up with me, at least those parts that aren't related to preaching and teaching.

But before I go any further, I need to backtrack to September 1971. I was camped one night on the upper slopes of Aspen Mountain in Colorado, on my way back to Portland, Oregon, where I was due to resume my college education. I'd spent the first half of the summer bicycling down the Oregon and California coast, then traveled east to the Grand Canyon, where (on my last twenty dollars) I found a job and lived and worked until mid-September. I was a devoted mountain climber and skier, and being in Aspen set me to seriously contemplating finding a job right there and "living the life." But I had a revelation that night--and it boiled down to the fact that ski bums often don't end up doing much with their lives. (This should have been borne out by general observation, but there were enough attractive exceptions to distract my attention from the main lesson.) So I got back into my one-hundred-twenty-five-dollar 1949 Chevy (bicycle now within) and headed back to Portland, with a sensible detour through the Grand Tetons. But now with a new sense of purpose.

By the mid-70s I was married and in seminary. I was a much better student than I'd ever been before. I ate up Greek and everything else put in front of me. By 1979 I was the father of two and in a PhD program, and in 1982 I finished the degree. I had no assurance that this extended education would prove to be vocationally fruitful. But I knew that if I didn't do it, I would surely regret it. I thought I would fulfill my vocation teaching in a seminary in the Philippines. And I did that for two years, growing and learning through the experience. I enjoyed it. But in 1985 a family health problem brought us back to the States, and I was wondering what was next for us. I wouldn't be truthful if I didn't mention that with my missionary background, I was feeling a sense of loss. Would I find a position teaching? Maybe. Maybe not. I had nightmares that we would be living in one of the packing crate we'd shipped our stuff in (not an improbable scenario if you'd been living in the Philippines!). And I prayed.

Interestingly, the idea of working in publishing had been worming its way into my thinking. For a book guy, the idea of reading books before they were published, and being involved in the process of bringing books to birth, was tremendously attractive. I started to inquire of publishers. I got some freelance work with a publisher. I began to dream of working in publishing (rather than living in a packing crate). And the only concrete opportunity that surfaced was a new job opening at IVP for a reference book editor.

The job description was made for me--it had everything but my name on it. And IVP, after an interview, was courageous enough to make it mine. In the early years I really didn't know whether this new role as editor would work out for the long run. But over the years--twenty-six of them now--I've found it's my place, and a fascinating one at that. I work with great people, for a great company, and there is a constant stream of new ideas in the form of books and book proposals moving across my desk. I feel like I constantly have my finger on the pulse of evangelical thought. And I've come to know and work with all sorts of authors and scholars, some of whom I might not have met otherwise.

***

More from Dan in a post to come.

See some of the fruits of Dan's vocation here.

Read Addenda & Errata, Dan's IVP blog, here.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:40 AM

May 9, 2012

What I'm Editing: A Deeper Look at James, by Andrew and Phyllis Le Peau

This past Sunday I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, visiting college friends and tagged along to a pre-church ministry team meeting. Before singing and praying, we spent a little time discussing Matthew 17:14-21, where Jesus returns from his transfiguration to find a demon-possessed boy whom his disciples were unable to heal. It's a hard passage, and raised several questions for us, like

  • Why couldn't the disciples heal the demon-possessed boy? Did they really not even have "faith as small as a mustard seed"?
  • Jesus' reprimand seems harsh. What, exactly, is he reprimanding them for?
  • What role does our faith play in how God chooses to answer our prayers?
As we talked, I was struck by the layers in the verses. Our questions turned us back to the text, which gave new insight, which sparked more questions, which made us go back to the text and to the surrounding verses, which provided new insight . . . In our very brief time of discussion, a familiar passage took on new life for me, offering encouragement and challenging me to pray in new ways.

I've been similarly struck by the richness of Scripture in my small group this spring as we studied the Psalms using a method called manuscript study. With a print-out of our chosen psalm for the week in front of us, sans verse numbers and paragraph breaks, we'd spend some time marking it up individually: circling repeated words and phrases, underlining similes and metaphors, highlighting contrasts, writing down questions. And then we'd discuss, looking again and again at the text, answering questions as we could and drawing from other resources when we weren't sure, keeping in mind the historical and literary settings. And the psalms--at once seemingly self-evident ("How precious to me are your thoughts, God!") and yet full of interjections that seem to come out of nowhere ("If only you, God, would slay the wicked!")--came alive in new ways as we saw the implications for our lives.

Inductive Bible study--looking back at the text to make observations, to answer questions and interpret passages in their broader context, and to draw conclusions for our own lives--has long been a core element of IVP's publishing program. Of the many, many inductive Bible study guides we've published over the years (starting with Discovering the Gospel of Mark by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff worker Jane Hollingsworth in 1943), perhaps our best-known series is our LifeGuide Bible studies. The first seven were published in 1985. Today we have well over a hundred guides with over ten million sold, and we continue to publish new ones every year. They provide a fantastic inductive study for individuals or groups.

Because Scripture is so cohesive and often so confusing, so accessible and yet so complex, so simple and yet so multifaceted and many-layered, though, we wanted to offer inductive study plus--a resource that builds on our original LifeGuides to take people even deeper into the riches of Scripture by examining the same passage from multiple angles. And so our LifeGuides in Depth series has been born.

As the LifeGuide guru around here these days, I have the privilege of editing the inaugural volumes. I'm currently about two-thirds of the way through my first one, A Deeper Look at James. In addition to the original James LifeGuide, this new resource includes, for each study, an interactive "Connect" section that highlights other portions of Scripture James was drawing on in his letter, a short reading that gives space for deeper reflection, and a group discussion guide that allows for lively interaction regarding the first three sections as well as nitty-gritty practical application.

The result? Well, let's just say if you and James were Facebook friends before, after this guide you'll be BFFs. Or if he was, say, your sister's boyfriend or a distant second cousin--well, you'll know him like he's part of your immediate family. But you won't just know James and his teaching; as you'll learn in the guide, to hear (in this case, "read") in biblical times was to do. Our hope is that this new series will help us all in just that way--to become not just hearers of the word, but people who do it.

I realize that Christians tend to have a love/hate relationship with James. He does have some pretty hard things to say, after all (such as, "You adulterous people"; nice to be hit with that in your morning quiet time, huh?). But, as we see the historical context James is drawing from, starting right with verse 1 where he addresses his letter to "the twelve tribes scattered among the nations," his sometimes harsh words, though still challenging, make more sense and are a bit easier to absorb.

Editing this first study in the series is drawing on all my faculties--my knowledge of Scripture (Was James really drawing from the Old Testament when he said this? How would James's readers have interpreted this phrase? Is the connection to James clear in this exercise on Hosea?), my text-copyediting skills (Do these paragraphs in the reading flow together? Is the punctuation conformed to our house style? Will the reader be confused by this sentence?) and my Bible study-editing skills (Does this question make sense? Will it generate good discussion? Does it have the larger context of the passage in view? Are the most important points in the passage covered?). I'm being challenged in new ways as an editor--and as a studier of Scripture myself, as I learn new facts and, albeit somewhat subconsciously, take in and reflect on James's exhortations, even when I'm not working on the guide. Thankfully, seasoned Bible-study authors Andy and Phyllis Le Peau--longtime studiers and teachers and lovers of Scripture--have made my job easier by all the work they did (in their vast amounts of "spare" time between work and ministry and Very Cute grandkids) on this first draft.

Unfortunately for you, eager reader, the fact that I'm editing this great resource now means that it won't be available to you till next June. Consider this your sneak peek at the menu of the great "solid food" (not milk, to reference another New Testament great) to come. And this is just one of four; three other LifeGuides in Depth will be appearing in the spring as well: A Deeper Look at Daniel, A Deeper Look at the Fruit of the Spirit and A Deeper Look at the Sermon on the Mount. While you wait, you can decide which one you want to do first. And you can pray that God would deepen your love for him and his Word, and your love for others. That's been--and still is--our prayer for you. And I think I know James well enough to say that that would be his prayer too.

***

Related books you might like: How to Lead a LifeGuide Bible Study, Transforming Bible Study and The Bible Study Handbook (forthcoming).

Also check out Andy's post on our first inductive Bible study at Andy Unedited.

Posted by Lisa Rieck at 3:49 PM

November 15, 2010

Editing as Community Organizing

My job puts me in touch with a lot of crazy people--crazy enough to try to change entrenched patterns of behavior and societal standards. Likewise publishes a lot of activists; in fact some of the most notable books in our history have been the sustained reflections of people who spend most of their days pushing hard for more justice, more mercy, more shalom in their given contexts. I get a little envious sometimes, I can admit: while they're saving people, I'm condemning commas.

When I'm feeling particularly inadequate--usually after a phone conversation with one of these people (I should add that not once has one of my authors told me anything like "Why don't you get off your butt and do something significant for a change?"--even the ones who are well aware of the enormous amounts of free time I spend on my butt doing something insignificant)--I try to console myself by imagining the role of publishing in the greater effort of what I suppose we could call "cultural discipleship": how does what I do join with what they do to better represent the kingdom of God throughout the earth?

Or something like that. It's a self-serving exercise, to be sure, but I think generally it's helpful to me and to our authors; and really, what's wrong with imagining yourself in the kingdom of God?

The bible of most activists at a grass-roots level (apart from the actual Bible, for the folks I work with) is Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, published in 1971 as an attempt to channel the chaotic rage of 1960s revolutionaries into more effective, sustainable social change. In this book Alinsky lays out some of the essential qualities of a community organizer, the things he needs to see in a person before he will trust them with the real needs of a community. You can train on tactics, but these are temperamental values that can only be acknowledged and encouraged. I'd say we look for them in authors too, as well as in publishing professionals such as myself. Ahem.

  • Curiosity. "Life is for him [always "him"; the 1970s were still a wee bit unenlightened] a search for a pattern, for similarities in seeming differences, for differences in seeming similarities, for an order in the chaos about us, for a meaning to the life around him and its relationship to his own life--and the search never ends."
  • Irreverence. "He . . . rebels against any repression of a free, open search for ideas no matter where they may lead. He is challenging, insulting, agitating, discrediting. He stirs unrest. As with all life, this is a paradox, for his irreverence is rooted in a deep reverence for the enigma of life."
  • Imagination. "There was a time when I believed that the basic quality that an organizer needed was a deep sense of anger against injustice. . . . I now know that it is something else: this abnormal imagination that sweeps him into a close identification with mankind and projects him into its plight."
  • A sense of humor. "Knowing that contradictions are the signposts of progress he is ever on the alert for contradictions. A sense of humor helps him identify and make sense out of them. . . . The organizer has a personal identity of his own that cannot be lost by absorption or acceptance of any kind of group discipline or organization. I now begin to understand what I stated somewhat intuitively in Reveille for Radicals almost twenty years ago, that 'the organizer in order to be part of all can be part of none.'"
  • A bit of a blurred vision of a better world. "Sooner or later he will react with 'What am I doing? . . . I quit.' What keeps him going is a blurred vision of a great mural where other artists--organizers--are painting their bits, and each piece is essential to the whole."
  • An organized personality. "It is vital that he be able to accept and work with irrationalities for the purpose of change. . . . He should be able, with skill and calculation, to use irrationality to progress toward a rational world. . . . He is always learning, and every incident teaches him something."
  • A well-integrated political schizoid. "Men will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 per cent on the side of the angels and that the opposition are 100 per cent on the side of the devil . . . and yet both parts have to live comfortably with each other. Only a well-organized person can split and yet stay together."
  • Ego--"clearly differentiated from egotism." "Ego is unreserved confidence in one's ability to do what he believes must be done. . . . The thought of copping out never stays with him for more than a fleeting moment; life is action."
  • A free and open mind, and political relativity. "Because of these qualities he is unlikely to disintegrate into cynicism and disillusionment, for he does not depend on illusion. . . . He conceives of creation as the very essence of the meaning of life. . . . The organizer finds his goal in the creation of power for others to use."

That strikes me as a pretty good description of a good book: "power for others to use." A book--particularly the type of book we publish--is an author's proxy, a way for the author's insights to be present when the author herself (see what I did there?) can't be present. It's a distillation of a person's embodied ideas and ideals, to be considered and adapted for another context. Maybe it's my ego talking, but that makes publishing a creative process--which makes me, as a publishing professional, a creative person.

Ahem. How you like me now, activists?

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:10 AM | Comments (2) are closed

September 2, 2010

Defining the Relationship--An Editor's Perspective

"You don't expect your editor to become your friend." I was a little embarrassed, a little impressed with myself, when Adam Taylor (his book Mobilizing Hope is just back from the printer) mentioned that in passing to a group of my coworkers. I was also, I can admit now, a little offended.

Why in the world wouldn't you expect your editor to become your friend?!? Do editors have that bad a reputation? I mean . . . OK, I know we can be a bit nerdy, and we are in the habit of telling people what they've done wrong and how we think they should do it better. I know we sit in little cells passing judgment day in and day out on the quality of other people's ideas, their capacity to communicate, their ability to engage an audience. So yeah . . . sure . . . editors can be awful, awful people--truly horrid--and not the ones you'd hole up with in a corner at a party, forsaking all others to hang out with. (OK, now I'm a little depressed.)

But friendship isn't just a matter of assessing compatibilities. Friendship is a trust, and trust is inherent to the editorial process. I seek out authors whom I can trust with my own faith and character and intellect; these folks have ideas and insights about things I'm willing to invest the next year or two learning, because that really is what the editorial process is for me. I seek out authors whom I will be proud to affiliate myself with, because for better or for worse, their life's work becomes part of my portfolio--part of how I understand and represent myself to the world. I attach myself to authors the way remoras attach themselves to sharks--hopefully not dragging them down or leeching their lifesource, but undeniably poaching their passion and borrowing liberally from their wisdom. When I go looking for an author, that's what I'm looking for, and when I find it, I befriend it. Sorry if that creeps you out.

Hopefully I'm able to offer some trust in exchange. An author's manuscript is in many ways his or her baby: something that's slowly gestated in the mind, demanding nourishment and special attention, resembling the parent at the most essential levels, carrying immediately--by virtue of its existence--a portion of the parent's legacy. You hand your baby to a stranger or an acquaintance as a nicety, because they love babies; when you're looking for the truth about your baby, you take it to a doctor; when you want to hear the truth enveloped in love, or love that is committed to truth, you turn to a friend.

I'm overstating it, of course, and many authors have managed to shake free of these intense exaggerations of the publishing process. (That's what agents are for--OMG! JK!) The editorial process for those authors remains largely transactional--contracts signed, services rendered, money exchanged. And that's entirely appropriate, I suppose. But the game changes entirely when you open yourself to the possibility that this isn't just a transaction but a relationship you've entered into; this isn't just a mechanical process you've undertaken but a potentially quixotic mission you've set out on, with your editor happily serving as your nerdy Sancho Panza.

On the way home from dinner with Adam and my coworkers, I checked my voicemail (sorry, Oprah) to find a message from another author-friend, Sean Gladding, whose book The Story of God, the Story of Us returned from the printer the same day as Adam's. Sean was on his way out with some friends, and he and I hadn't talked in a while, so he wanted to just say hi. Like a friend would.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 7:03 AM

April 8, 2010

The Arcane Scrutiny

Earlier this week, in a bit of correspondence, I crafted what we in the biz call a "homonym substitution." On purpose. That's how clever a wordsmith.I.am.

For the uninitiated among you, a homonym substitution is a word that sounds like, but has an entirely different meaning from, another word or phrase. Mine, for example, was "That's like comparing tangerines to oranges. Both have appeal." See what I did there? "Appeal" sounds like "a peel." Please, save your applause till the end . . .

Anyway, I recount this example of wordy-nerdiness as an introduction to a little survey I heard about today via a network of editors I'm apart of. (See what I did there?) Here's the text of the e-mail:

There are two kinds of words we'd love to get your feedback on:

1. What words peculiar to Christian books seem to get mispronounced a lot (in sermons, conversation, and audio books)? For instance, I occasionally hear Frederick Buechner's name pronounced "BUKE-ner" (first syllable rhyming with FLUKE) instead of "BEEK-ner." One time I even insisted to the recording engineer that Simone Weil's name was pronoucned "VEY"--but they didn't believe me and recorded it as "WHILE" anyway. It doesn't have to be just proper names--are there other theological or religious words you hear mispronounced frequently?

2. General pet peeves about common words (non-religious) that get mispronounced. For instance, for me the word "err" is correctly pronounced "UR" (rhymes with SPUR) not "AIR." (Although Webster's gives "AIR" as a secondary pronunciation.) Some studios provide whole books of pronunciations for their voice talent, but that doesn't mean they necessarily read them.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what editors do. A lot. We scrutinize not only the English language but people's use (and abuse) of it. This isn't mere self-indulgence, however; we're providing a good service to society--protecting the language from its mishandlers, preserving a literary history unmarred by careless diction. You may not appreciate it, but your great-great-great-great grandchildren . . . well, they probably won't appreciate it either. Sad, I no. (See what I did there?)

Anyway, please feel free to post your suggestions here; I'll make sure they get into the write hands. (Ha! I can't stop!)

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 1:05 PM | Comments (4) are closed

July 30, 2009

Escape from Precision

I Understanding_Media.jpgt started out innocently enough. I wanted to post a quote from Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan to my Facebook(tm) account, but I couldn't think of a way of conveniently including bibliographic data. So I settled on linking the name of his book to its Amazon.com(tm) page, with the presumption that interested readers could "search inside" to find the particular page number of the quotation. Here's the tricky thing: Amazon(tm), so far as I can tell, doesn't list the edition that I got from my library to read, so I just picked one of the editions available there and linked to it instead.

Then I wanted to "tweet" quotes from the book on Twitter(tm). There I'm limited to 140 characters per entry. "Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media" is itself 37 characters, which means I could quote roughly twelve words at a time while giving a sort of baseline bibliographic reference. So I settled for shorthand, depending on how long the quoted material was: anywhere from "Marshall McLuhan, UM" to "MM." I counted on the sheer volume of quotations, archived together sequentially in my Twitter feed, to acclimate readers to my source material.

But then occasionally I couldn't even recover two measly characters to anchor a particularly long quote with "MM." Heck, I couldn't even complete the quote. I was in negative Twittertory. So I had to get cre8ive:I took out spaces between punctuation,b/t lowercase & uppercase letters. I digested two pages of material with ellipses. And then I did it: "at" became "@"; "to" and "too" became "2"; "for" became "4"; & so on & so 4th.

But w8--there's more. I was reading in the car during a road trip and wanted to take notes, but I hadn't brought a pen or paper. (Remember, this was a library book--no underlining or dogearing allowed.) No problem--I pulled out my iPhone(tm) and used the "Notes" app to jot down quotes using the touchscreen QWERTY keypad. Oops! I misspelled something! No prob--the iPhone autocorrects miskeys, even going so far as to guess the word you're spelling so you don't have to waste so much time hunting and pecking. But then--oops! Marshall McLuhan misspelled something!

It turns out the third printing of the 1964 McGraw Hill(tm) hardback edition of Understanding Media has a scandalously large number of typos. It also turns out that it's painfully difficult to intentionally misspell something on the iPhone(tm). My notes, inadvertently, effectively serve to cover over the infelicities of the original edition.

Portrait artists, I'm told, used to do that when painting royalty, conveniently neglecting to paint warts and scars and mustaches onto the ladies and gentlemen of the court. But that was so they would get paid, or even so they wouldn't get their own heads cut off. Now we do it inadvertently, accidentally. Here's a sample text from Understanding Media in two forms--first in its original form (page 353 of the 1964 McGraw Hill[tm] edition) and then as it might appear posted from an iPhone(tm) to Twitter(tm)--in 2 posts, because it's 2 many characters 4 1:

Let us not forget that nationalism was a mighty invention and revolution that, in the Renaissance, wiped out many of the local regions and loyalties. It was a revolution achieved almost entirely by the speed-up of information by means of uniform movable types. Nationalism cut across most of the traditional power and cultural groupings that had slowly grown up in various regions. Mutli-nationalisms had long deprived Europe of its economic unity. The Common Market came to it only with the Second War. War is accelerated social change, as an explosion is an accelerated chemical reaction and movement of matter. (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media [New York: McGraw Hill, 1964], p. 353)

Nationalism...wiped out many of the local regions & loyalties.It was a revolution achieved almost entirely by...uniform movable types.McLuhanUM

Multinationalisms had long deprived Europe of ... economic unity. ... War is accelerated social change. Marshall McLuhan, *Understanding Media*

Note that mutli-nationalisms is corrected in its spelling and omits the hyphen. Elsewhere character spacing has been sacrificed, and an ampersand replaces the word and. The digital age has ushered in the end of precision, I tell you. What's an editor to do?!?

When I was a kid, during the years when preadolescents worried about global thermonuclear war, a girl loaned me a manuscript of a postapocalyptic novel. I liked her, so I read it. In it the main character, a little girl who had survived an atomic explosion, was learning to subsist by herself in a hostile environment. She journaled her way through it and decided, for the sake of efficiency, that she didn't need to use articles and other grammatical devices in her writing. "The dogs are coming for me" became "Dogs coming 4 me"; that sort of thing. It doesn't take an apocalypse, however, for this utility to become commonplace. Precision in prose--even the full development of a thought--has given way to the utility of text. "Dogs coming 4 me" is just the sort of thing a frightened child might text to her mom as she runs away from the neighbor's pit bull. Our communication patterns are catching up to the immediacy of our media, and along the way a little precision simply has to go by the wayside.

That's not all bad--not by a long shot. The more exciting aspect of this is that such a message presumes a response. No word is the final word. Mom might text back "Throw ur bk bg @ it" or "Shout 4 hlp frm some1." Should I post an incomplete thought from McLuhan or someone like him, someone might very well tweet back "What page is that quote on?" There's a feedback loop in the digital age that makes precision less pressing, complete thoughts less requisite.

I would imagine McLuhan himself would have a thought or 2 @ the subject, but the bottom line, I think, is this: Reading does not have to be, nor necessarily should it be, as secluded an exercise as we have come to think it is. Precision is a value, to be sure, but a lack of precision doesn't shut down a discussion, which is where all communication, I think, is headed.

***

This post originally appeared at my personal blog Loud Time. It's been modestly adapted here.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:16 AM

June 2, 2009

Is 2029 to Publishers What 2012 Was to Mayans?!?!?

A note to Likewise authors from the Washington Post: "Word of mouth has long been the holy grail of book marketing." Tell all your friends.

But for goodness' sake, don't tell them in person or over the phone. Send them an e-mail with a URL for your book page; group-message them on Facebook with an embedded link; blog about it; tweet about it. Display it, don't say it. The mouth has gone digital.

My friend Mr. Steve turned me on to this report from BookExpo America, only the latest industry-wide hand-wringing to take place among publishers in light of an economic downturn and a technological shift to a paperless (surely that doesn't mean bookless?) society. According to some, including authors of recently printed and bound and pricey books about information longing to be free, publishing is not moving inevitably into extinction, but it does desperately need a facelift and a tummy tuck.

The world may end, according to the Mayans, in 2012, but on the off chance it doesn't, the printed book may vanish by 2029. In its place will be digital content that transcends particular platforms such as the Kindle, let alone paper and ink. That digital content, we're invited to presume, will emerge 140 characters at a time, as Twitter and Facebook and other social networking locales become greenhouses for long-form content.

If I may borrow from Battlestar Galactica, all this has happened before and will happen again. It's not so much ideas and art that live and die; it's the media through which those ideas and art are conveyed, and the architects and profiteers of those media. Such has been the dilemma of news, which is experiencing a shift from newsprint to something else as we speak, and music, which has provided its own moribund soundtrack for the past few decades as the corporate giants of the recording industry shrink while indie music on Myspace grows. Again from the Post:

The music industry, broadly defined--which includes bands, fans, concerts, recordings, iPods, etc.--is thriving, [Wired editor Chris Anderson] said. It is only the major labels, with their foolish attempt to cling to the CD model, that crashed.

Trust me, those of us in the "major labels" of book publishing (even us minor leaguers) are strategically stroking our beards and scratching our heads over this. But again, dear authors, you're not off the hook. If Facebook and Twitter are the breeding grounds of the new literati (and not of the new illiterati, as their naysayers might suggest), then writers need to figure out what art looks like in those media, how ideas there germinate and sprout and blossom and flourish, and what shape such a fully evolved idea ought to take. If we're going to publish in new ways, we need truly new stuff to publish.

So there you go. Your twenty-year mission, authors, should you choose to accept it, is to change the way we absorb, engage and convey fully conceived ideas. As for us publishers, our twenty-year mission is to figure out how to make money off of it, and of you. So say we all.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 8:01 AM

January 28, 2009

Pardon My French

Ooh la la! One of my authors, writing of a freak encounter with an unwashed rodent, let slip a naughty word. I'm blushing, I think. We may be edgy over here at Likewise Books, but we're not typically that edgy.

Normally our policy on vulgarities follows the policy of magazines, such as Time and others: either edit around it so it's no longer necessary, or strike the damning characters so that no one's virgin eyes are deflowered. So, for example, Lady Macbeth might be edited to the more family-friendly "Out, d*** spot!" Or, to keep it interesting, "Out, d*** s***"--in the event that I was feeling a little naughty myself. On the rare occasion when such edits will actually subvert the intent of the author, we will soberly leave the word unobscured.

The first time this problem came across my desk, it was assigned to me. An author had used a careless word, and his editor had failed to sniff it out. During a final review the word caught the attention of my sharp-eyed boss, and he commissioned me to review the entire book for other instances. I spent the better part of an hour giggling like a seventh grader as I typed every four-letter word I'd ever been spanked over into the search field in Microsoft Word. I felt like the George Carlin of the Christian publishing industry. (Google it.) An hour in my hot little hands and that manuscript earned itself a G rating, thank you very much.

So I'm accustomed to editing out the bad language of authors. But here I'm presented with a curious dilemma: the offending word is written in French.

This isn't the author trying to get around my puritanical editing; given the context, it's actually appropriate--a French epithet employed in a conversation that actually happened. The pottymouth in question is a Francophone. (Google it.)

Most of the author's audience are likely not Francophones, so only a percentage of the book's readers will know they're being sworn at. But I'll know, and the publishers in Francophone countries who are interested in translating the book for their audience will know. And my boss, with his annoyingly French surname, will also know. And when he reads the book, the m**** will hit the fan, if you catch my meaning.

So I'm editing the word out of the book. That is, perhaps, what Jesus would do, if Jesus were a twenty-first-century editor of Christian books for the American marketplace. Right? 

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 5:31 AM

December 10, 2008

The Sins of the Author Are Visited on the Editor

Sometimes when you edit a book, particularly a book of nonfiction and especially a book of Christian nonfiction, you get the feeling that the author has been spying on you. Call me a megalomaniac, but I had that experience today. What follows is a lightly edited pair of paragraphs from a draft manuscript for an as-yet unscheduled, untitled book:

I am an ENFP. If you know the Myers-Briggs personality types, you know that the ENFP is the easily distractible, often zany, poor at follow-through, overly dramatic personality type who speaks in run-on sentences and is apparently personified in the character Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid, which is weird because my college Spanish teacher suggested I take the name Ariel since words that begin with the "s" sound are nonexistent in Spanish and ... See what I mean?

There are numerous aspects of this personality type which make us very poor tyrants. Namely, we are too obsessed with being liked. Add to this the fact that I am a nine on the Enneagram (another personality measuring tool based on your chief sin), and dictatorial leadership becomes nearly impossible. The nine on the Enneagram struggles with sloth, or the need to avoid. In other words, that sound the car is making will probably go away if you just stop listening to it and those complaints about your supervisee will work themselves out eventually if you pretend they don't exist. Nines on the Enneagram have given us such memorable leaders as Dan Quayle and Gerald Ford. No, not the guy who mass-produced the automobile; the U.S. president Rolling Stone magazine called the most forgettable since Millard Fillmore (Millard who?).

I am an ENFP and a nine on the Enneagram who ignores noises in the vain hope that they'll resolve themselves and is mildly obsessed with being liked. The only thing about these paragraphs that I don't identify with myself is the stuff about Spanish class and The Little Mermaid. I think perhaps my phone has been bugged.

It's one thing when something you read that reminds you of yourself is objectively positive--for example, "ENFPs can make friends with pretty much anyone." Ah, that's nice. But that's not what this author is doing here. My dear author is being confessional, and he's implicating me in his confession. How dare he?!?

That's a hidden value of confession, I think. It has a corporate aspect to it that is often overlooked--sometimes even on purpose. When people hear statements that cut a little too close to the bone, they often quickly distance themselves from it: "You're right. I like being liked as much as anyone, but you're crazy about it. You should lighten up." The degree to which a personal confession takes on a corporate life, however, is the degree to which it is prophetic.

I'm reminded of Isaiah's confession in the presence of the Lord seated on the throne: "Woe unto me! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips." If I had been within earshot of Isaiah, I most likely would have said something equally pious such as "Hold the phone, Isaiah! Speak for yourself!" But he was right, and there's no sense denying it once it's out there. Behold the power of confession: it opens the door for a community to better understand itself and its need for the grace and mercy of God.

Confession also, of course, alerts the community to the reality of God's grace and mercy, which is a nice side effect. At my church we offer a corporate prayer of confession, followed by a time of silent confession, followed by the passing of the Lord's peace. We wind up being the hands of Jesus for each other, speaking the words of Jesus to each other--"Peace be with you"--in the immediate wake of our acknowledging our failings in the company of one another. Behold the power of a community of faith: in case you forget, you're reminded that God is love, and sins are forgiven.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 2:45 PM | Comments (1) are closed

December 3, 2007

Ode to Editing

While in Cambodia I was teaching an editing workshop (through a translator, I might add; it's much more difficult than it sounds), and I'm feeling inspired by Dave's Ode to Homonym Substitutions and Ode to an Artfully Written Run-On Sentence (which I feel obligated to give you another example of here), and I was discussing with a friend last week a book that needs a much closer edit than it received (all I can say is: chop, chop), so as our Fortnight of Odes draws to a close (much more gracefully than this sentence), I offer you an Ode to Editing. (Just a little warning: it may move you to grateful tears. I might have shed a tear or two myself while writing it . . .)

Sum folks may claim (I wont name names)
that editing need, we don't
I; ofer you hear
ode an that makes clear
why survyving without it--we won't

Things are A miss (I promise u this)!
without a good editor's eyes
we labour for. You
to make errorrs few
so all of your books are good buys.

Idaes shine threw and words becomme new
when editing! work is done well
And what the is test
of an editors best ?
Reader, you are the one who can tell!

If we have at all inspired you during our Fortnight of Odes--or even if we haven't--why not post one of your own?

Posted by Lisa Rieck at 9:18 AM | Comments (3) are closed

April 13, 2007

The Importance of Is

As a proofreader, I am easily and often offended. Spelling, punctuation and capitalization mistakes are everywhere: flyers, ads, signs, billboards. Billboards especially get me. There's nothing like being stuck in traffic and being confronted by a larger-than-life capitalization error to really generate anger.

A few weekends ago I went to a movie with my cousin to relax and be entertained. I was comfortably settled into my seat, anticipating the start of the movie, when it happened again: the (also larger-than-life) movie screen lit up with the headline "Silence is Golden(R)." Aaaaahhhhhhhh! I should have asked for my money back. I mean really. I'm just not sure I can give my money to a company that doesn't know that if you're going to capitalize the G you have to cap the I! Or that doesn't run their headlines by a proofer before they register them and flash them onto movie screens all over the country.

I've noticed it's often the is that gets demoted to lowercase in titles. I think it's assumed that, since it's only two letters, it must not be that important. Funny, because we never forget to cap I by itself. And if you think about it, is is a pretty important verb (case in point). Crucial, I'd say. "She drives fast" is very different from "She is fast." "That movie looks good" often does not turn into "That movie is good." Water that looks clean can be very different from water that is clean. We should give is its proper respect.

The is gets much more significant when it comes to faith. I have to admit that, having had a relationship with Christ since I was a young child, there are some stories, phrases, words I have a hard time grasping the significance of simply because I've heard them my whole life. But is is not one of them. In fact, the is is why I love Easter so much, why Easter never fails to inspire awe and wonder in me. When I think about the pain and suffering Christ experienced before his death, and the guilt and sorrow and confusion and despair the disciples and other close friends and family must have experienced at Jesus' death, and then when I try to imagine resurrection morning, when the women went to the tomb and found it empty--I can't not feel wonder. The sheer impossibility and joy and juxtaposition of death--Jesus was dead--and life--Jesus is alive--strike me deeply. And the fact that Christ really is the only one those two statements can be made about over two thousand years after he walked on earth deepens my faith.

That's the significance of is. On that first resurrection day and today, Jesus is alive, bringing life from death all over the place. It's a headline, really: Jesus Is Alive.

And the Is makes all the difference.

Posted by Lisa Rieck at 8:38 AM | Comments (3) are closed

January 8, 2007

Typo-theology

From an unedited IVP manuscript to remain unnamed, the award for most crass marketing campaign in Christendom goes to IVP for

Offer thanks to our God that he suffered for our sales.

I hesitated before posting this because I don't want to give any trinket-manufacturers any ideas for an Easter sales campaign, but ultimately I decided that the laughs are worth the risk. Serendipitously funny typos such as this one are the things that sustain an editor through the long days of line editing.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at 9:20 AM | Comments (3) are closed

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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