Grammatical Linkage

Because I’m online all the time, I’ve stumbled across some awesome writing and word related resources (as well as cute cat pictures like this one).

My favorite online dictionary is Dictionary.com because it compiles the entries from many different types of dictionaries, including ones with specialized language (ex: medical, technological, slang, archaic, foreign). If I need a synonym or antonym, I use its sister site, Thesaurus.com.

For translation from Spanish to English and English to Spanish, I highly recommend SpanishDict.com. It is one of my necessary resources. Like Dictionary.com it gather answers to vocab and full paragraph translation from several different translation engines, so there is more of a variety to pick from and compare.

I’ve also discovered a handy tool to use with the time vortex known as Words with Friends on Facebook. Scrabblecheat was created to help Scrabble players when they get stuck. As you’re not really suppose to use a dictionary or help of any kind when playing the board game, this is most helpful only if you’re playing online. I’d neeeeever condone cheating in other circumstances, but since this has the potential of expanding vocabulary and problem solving, I think it’s okay. Right, right?

Some other awesome links that address common grammar errors and questions:

Is it focussed or focused?

What’s the difference between root/rout/route?

The insidious dangling modifier!

A little known fact…

Editorial interns here actually are 60% (Jeevan’s statistic!) of the process for selection our successors. In other words, I was in charge of reading internship applications, contacting the applicants, arranging and conducting interviews (via Skype and phone), and finalizing the choice. I have received, and continue to receive, emails from intern hopefuls. Some sound quite qualified, and with others, it is obvious they didn’t spend much time researching BK or thinking about how they could be an asset to our company. Many just talk about their qualifications, and how much the internship will benefit them.

This is almost as stressful as turning down authors, because I was in these applicants’ anxious, desperate shoes just a few months ago. I know what it’s like to feel shy about “selling myself” and my skills. I was raised not to brag about my accomplishments and even downplay them, but that is detrimental when you are trying to get a job (or internship). I also had never written a cover letter before Winter Break; my letter to BK was my second. So I still consider myself new to all this. However, after reading so many cover letter/resume combos and discussing them with Jeevan, I think I’ve learned a few things.

Tip:
Spend some time researched the company you are applying for, and make sure to align your skills with what they are looking for. Make the connections in your cover letter! Also, there are ways to say you will be an asset without sounding pompous and full of yourself. We’re looking for confidence.

Tip:
Also, if I have to read another cover letter saying a version of “I’ve been in love with words and reading since practically before I was born” or “ever since I could read I’ve carried a book under my arm” (not exaggerating), I’m going to scream. Passion for literature, editing, words, writing, etc is very important to this job, but it does not go hand-in-hand with actual editing and writing skills. And there are so many creative, compelling ways to express passion without using the worn out trope of “ever since I was little.”

*end rant*

So, after this exciting process, I am pleased to announce the summer BK intern will be Jessica Osorio! She currently attends Pomona College, and in the past she was a tutor at 826 Valencia, the pirate shop/backroom writing workshop established by Dave Eggers (known for his first book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Simon & Schuster 2000). She is sharp, funny, and has a passion for writing and publishing backed up by experience. From my interactions with her, over Skype and during a brief lunch where she came into the office, I know I’ll be leaving my duties in good, and maybe even better, hands. I may only be here for a little over three months, but I already feel like this is my place, and I’ll admit I was a little hesitant about someone else coming in and “taking my place.” I don’t feel that hesitancy at all anymore with Jessica on board.

 

 

Rejection!

Right now I’m staring at a pile of about ten unsolicited manuscripts I need to attend to.

Dino Guards the Manuscripts

“Unsolicited” means authors just send them to us (often to the wrong person, like Steve or Kylah) without an invitation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that I have to read through every single one and determine if it has the potential to be a Berrett-Koehler book. (Read this post if you are curious how I judge them.)

Berrett-Koehler has a very unique way of responding to these unsolicited manuscripts. I learned about this week two, as seen below in my brief attempt to write a Week 2 update:

“February 8:

Today is the fourth day of my internship, and I still feel excited, against all predictions of my supervisor Jeevan Sivasubramaniam. So far, I’ve written several rejection letters (1 by email, 2 by hand). Normally, Berrett-Koehler calls to reject manuscripts, unless the proposal is too wacky and/or esoteric (meaning its handwritten, in large multicolored font, and/or relies on aliens, gods, spirits, ancestors, and personal anointing as the premise…yes, this has already happened to me).”

Yes, I have to call. As in, open my ancient work flip-phone, dial their number, and tell them “Thank you for considering Berrett-Koehler, but unfortunately, we will not be going any further with it,” or “…we won’t be able to publish your work,” or “…you have a great idea, and your writing is very compelling, but since you have no platform, we can’t market it.” Those last ones are the worst, because sometimes I really like what they have to say or I love their writing style, but if they don’t already have the potential of a large, receptive readership, we often turn them down. This is were BK as a business steps in. There’s no point pouring money into a project if there is no real profitability.

I know I’ve broken several writers’ hearts, or at least it sounded that way over the phone. There was this older woman I had to call a few weeks back, and I could just tell from the way she reacted that the manuscript was her baby and she’d tried everything she could to get it published. I wasn’t her first rejection, but I could tell it still hurt–maybe even worse since I was yet another disappointment.

However, a strange phenomena occurs during these phone calls, without fail. I end up getting thanked for calling and offering criticism! How odd is that? But it seems most authors are thankful to even get a reply to their proposal, let alone a phone call that contains some element of human connection. Most publishing companies send off emails or do not reply at all to rejected manuscripts. Rejecting via call or handwritten note is one of the things that makes Berrett-Koehler special.

It’s also one of the duties that sometimes makes my life as an intern a little hellish. I just hope I’m suffering more than the actual authors are (I doubt it).

An Interesting New Word Heard in the Winter Launch Meeting

Neal used it in reference to the author Karen Phelan:

“quant–noun
Business Slang . an expert in quantitative analysis.”
Pronounced: [kwahnt]

A thought or two (also known as an update)

A personal assessment of this blogging situation has made me realize it is time to change my system. Posting each week’s events in a nice summary is giving me the excuse to put off posting…not a good thing for a third-year college student (read: experienced, professional procrastinator). So now, I will publicly declare my intentions to post on all the things that excite and interest me, and not to post what is most likely a boring re-cap of everything I do. As I now have a larger audience, if there is anything in particular, you, dear readers, would like to hear from me, I’m more than willing to oblige. Just let me know! (That is a hint for lots and lots of comments, if you didn’t catch the subtext of the exclamation point).

It’s amazing to me how everyone at BK meets and balances multiple deadlines. For the editors, there are constant deadlines for input on potential projects, reviews, manuscripts in the process of becoming published, as well as constant communication with all the authors they are in charge of. My inbox fills up quickly with inter-department communications, and those are only the emails I see and the conversations I hear. I’m surprised that most authors seem to make their deadlines…before I came here I was under the impression that one of an editor’s biggest stresses was all the authors that never met deadlines. From what I’ve heard from Jeevan and Neil, that can be problem, but it’s not a huge one–at least not at Berrett-Koehler. Maybe we attract a different breed of author. Or maybe my bubble of optimism continues to blind me.

Speaking of optimism, last week I found myself speaking much more sarcastically about all the unsolicited manuscripts. Having to read so many so-so manuscripts that I have to reject by phone is making me jaded–either that, or Jeevan is rubbing off on me and I need to blow more bubbles of optimism around the room. One the many things I brought to personalize my desk in the office is a bottle of bubbles, and any time Jeevan starts to sound too pessimistic or jaded, I started blowing them around the office. It works so well! Jeevan stops complaining and I get a good laugh and shake off the jaded feelings.

But back to deadlines. At the moment I am balancing this internship, a full course load of upper-division classes, my college literary journal, and some sort of social life (does lounging around the house in PJs with the kitties and roomies count?). With all of these responsibilities, it’s been imperative to evaluate and reevaluate how I spend my time and how I go about accomplishing things, so that I can become more efficient. I am learning my limits and when to say I have enough on my plate, but also how much I can actually accomplish in small amounts of time when pushed. Deadlines are still little scary monsters to me. But I’m quite proud of everything I’ve done with BK so far, and excited to see how much further I grow. I know my confidence has already sky-rocketed since beginning this internship.