Thursday, March 23, 2017

What is ACES?

I told my coworker I would blog about this, so this one's for you, Camilla. 

Let me just preface this post by saying that if you're the kind of person who has never been entirely sure what to do with a semicolon or which their/they're/there to use when you're writing, you might want to stop reading right now. We are about to dive deep into editing-land, and I want to save you from it. Consider this a trigger warning, of sorts. This post could cause extreme boredom, revulsion, and/or horrible flashbacks to English teachers and their red pens of pain that you have now spent years trying to forget.

For anyone still reading, welcome to the world of grammar geeks, style sticklers, and, of course, word nerds. This post is coming at you live from St. Petersburg, Florida, (enjoy the photos) where I have just spent the day reveling in the company of my particular tribe of nerds. That's because ACES stands for the American Copy Editors Society and I'm currently attending their annual conference.

This hotel is full of introverted, but unfailingly kind and knowledgeable folks, who are thrilled to be here listening to other knowledgeable folks talk about punctuation minutiae, explain how dictionaries are compiled, and recount hilarious anecdotes about misplaced modifiers. I kid you not. This is really happening.

For editors, this is a rare and exhilarating chance to hang out with people who get you. I've been to writers conferences and publishing conferences, but it's with my fellow editors that my loyalties will always lie? lay? reside.

Even though most of us walk around this conference in constant, quiet fear that someone will catch us committing a grammar faux pas, we love listening to the hum of quiet conversation about citation guidelines, style sheets, and word processing innovations.

Which brings me to my big news. Well, big if you're an editor who loves The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) as much as I do.

Today I attended a session presented by one of the main editors at the University of Chicago Press, which publishes said manual. The presenting editor's name is Carol Saller or Carol Fisher Saller if you're talking about her in an official author capacity. She is one of my editing heroes. When I rode the elevator upstairs with her yesterday I had to stop myself from gushing because that would have made us both uncomfortable, but she really is just that great.

Carol (as I like to call her, since that's how she introduced herself to me while we were waiting for the elevator yesterday), was there in the session this morning to talk about the brand newly announced forthcoming seventeenth edition of CMOS and a few of the changes and updates that have been made.

Knowing her audience was full of editors and journalists, Carol anticipated us wanting to share these updates with our fellow word nerd friends and only asked that in doing so, we did not offer our own personal interpretations of these new guidelines but simply pass them along, exactly as written. So that's what I'm doing. I took pictures of her slides, and here they are, complete with my terrible photography skills and some not-so-great conference room lighting.

I will say there are some changes that I'm super excited about. Some I'm ambivalent about. And others I think are a little bit of a misstep, but I also think that's to be expected, given the nature of the manual. I won't offer my personal thoughts and commentary here (mostly because I'm too tired right now to do anything but add pictures to this post and call it a night), but if any of you fellow word nerds want to chat in the comments or on Facebook, I would be happy to follow up with you there. Tomorrow. Or some other time when I'm not exhausted.

This hard-to-see picture is to illustrate the amount of red-lining that transpired during the writing of the type 2 singular they entry. Apparently the debate was "lively" but "extremely collegial."


And this concludes our terribly lit slideshow, people. I hope you appreciated it. I could go on and on about how much I'm loving this conference, but I am sure you all have better things to read on the internet or better things to do in general.

I do want to write a post sometime on the topic of accessible content, which topic I'm going to present on here at the conference on Saturday. But like I said, I'm too tired to write more right now.

In other news, there's a ship here that looks like a pirate ship and it was super impressive to me.

PS–Did I mention that I rode in an elevator with Carol Fisher Saller yesterday? Best. Elevator ride. Ever.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

But what about today?

I've been trying to write a blog post all day.

Actually, to be honest, I've been trying to blog for weeks now. I've considered lots of topics, but nothing has been pulling at me to write it. And so I've been putting it off in favor of other things: watching Netflix, going for walks, practicing the piano, working, hanging out with my family, trying to teach myself to make and stick to a budget. All good things, really. But not this. At times I've even wondered if maybe I'm done blogging, or if I should just take a sabbatical for awhile and come back to this when I'm in a better frame of mind.

I can't say that won't still happen, but I don't think it's happening quite yet. I still like my blog a lot. I just haven't been feeling super inspired to talk about anything.

I think part of that has to do with what I actually want to address in this post: For the past few months, I feel like I've been living too much in the future. I'm so excited about things that are coming up later this year, like moving into my tiny house and paying off loans and going on trips, that I've basically been ignoring my current day-to-day living.

This is probably not a surprise to people who know me well. I tend to live in the future a lot. I like to set goals. I like to make plans. I like thinking about how I could progress and become better. I really like change, and when I can see it coming, it makes me excited.

Those aren't bad qualities. Sometimes they're very good ones. The problem comes when I get so caught up in the future that my current life starts to feel empty by comparison. This is when I start to think things like, well, I'm not that happy now, but I will be soon. I'll be happier just as soon as I get my tiny house towed up here or just as soon as I can go on another trip or just as soon as this work project is complete.

But what about today?

The thing about living in tomorrow is that tomorrow never really comes. Or by the time it does, you're focused on the next thing. The thing that comes after whatever you just accomplished.

I'd rather not wait that long to be happy. And it's not just happiness that I'm talking about. I generally am fairly happy and optimistic, no matter what's going on. What I'm talking about really is more than happiness. It's a sense of peace and wellbeing that comes with knowing my life has purpose, like what I'm doing matters now and will continue to affect me as I move forward.

Those kinds of feelings are what I've really been putting off lately. Living in the future or in tomorrow means I start investing my future plans with that sense of purpose, rather than making my purpose something I can do something about right now. In some ways, it's convenient because it means I get to sit back and twiddle my thumbs while I wait for the future to come. In other ways, it's gutting. It makes me feel like there's no point in even getting out of bed in the morning because today is just one more day of pointless nothingness that needs to be ticked off a calendar before I can get to those better days I know are coming.

That's what living in the future can do to you. That's the really dangerous part about it.

Instead, I'd rather live in today. I don't want to have to wait until my life is perfectly put together before I start enjoying it. Because the truth is, my life is never going to be perfect, so I would be waiting for a really, really long time.

Unfortunately, I'm not as good at living in today as I am at living in the future. Today is messy. It's full of mistakes. I make them all the time. It's also full of other people who I have to interact with, and that can be a struggle for me. Today might be mundane. It might be mediocre. It might have moments of awesomeness, but it might also have moments of sadness, frustration, guilt, annoyance, fatigue, fear, uncertainty.

Today is a little too real for me. Tomorrow is the stuff of fantasies. In today, you're forced to confront reality. In tomorrow, you can be anyone, do anything. In today, you're you. And that you is probably flawed, which is pretty frustrating.

Anyway, I feel like I'm babbling a bit, but I hope you guys get what I'm trying to say. I'm also getting really tired, and that's not helping.

I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to accomplish this whole transition from future to present living. If anyone has ideas on how to do that, I'd be happy to hear them.

Sometimes it helps me to get outside. Nature is fleeting. When you spend time outside on a regular basis, you start to pick up on how quickly things change, especially this time of year. There's so much growth and change that happens in spring: flowers bloom and then vanish quickly; trees bud and then the next time you see them, their buds have changed to full dark leaves. That's part of the reason I take so many pictures when I'm outside. I know that whatever I'm seeing in that moment won't happen quite the same way ever again. There are too many factors at play, like the weather and the light and the time of year. It's like Pocahontas says, "what I like best about rivers is, you can't step in the same river twice."

If I can extend that fleeting feeling from nature into my interactions with people and the tasks I have to accomplish each day, I might start to feel more connected to today.

 Another thing I might try to do more of is noticing my present surroundings, including the people and moments that made today special to me. I probably won't share them all on my blog because that would be exhausting and probably not all that interesting to read and would, frankly, belabor the point.

But to conclude this long and rambling post, I'll share a few little things I noticed today that made this day special to me:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Today I walked into church and one of my good friends was sitting there and so instead of sitting alone, like I normally do, I sat with her. That was nice for me. I don't mind sitting alone (usually I prefer it) but today I felt like company, or at least I felt like having her company.

Today I played the piano and noticed that I'm getting better at it. I'm not very consistent about practicing, so my progress is slow, but it's still happening.

Today I had dinner with my family and it was yummy! The missionaries came over, and we had roast and potatoes and my mom made her famous crescent rolls. There are definitely some benefits to living at home, and this is one of them.

Today I drove through some beautiful green hills down 680 to San Jose for a fireside. The sun was setting and it had finally gotten low enough to break through the hazy cloud barrier that hung around for most of the day. The golden light on the wildflower-covered hills was lovely. I saw a rainbow. I love living here where I do. There's something about this place that just resonates with my soul. I love the Bay Area, and it loves me back.

Today I realized that I need to be better about studying the scriptures and strengthening my spirituality. I've been on auto-pilot a lot lately. I'll read, but I won't really think about what I'm reading. I'll pray but I won't really think about what I'm saying. Somewhere along the way, I stopped talking with God and started talking at Him. I can't imagine that's a very interesting conversation from His perspective.

So there you go. That was my day. It wasn't wasted, and there were good moments in it. I just needed to take the time to notice them. I hope I can keep doing that. Because as much as I love the future, I think I could also learn to love today.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Guest Post: How do you go from good to great writing?

Dear lovely blog readers,

I know I've been a little . . . sporadic about posting lately. The truth is my life has been really busy with work, tiny house logistics, more work, moving, continuing to minimalize, attempting to put myself on a budget for the first time in like ever, and lots of other good things. But the sad fact is that my blog has gone slightly neglected. I can tell the weeds around here are getting a little high, and I'm sorry about that. I'm hoping to remedy the situation soon. Specifically, stay tuned for a tiny house update. Good things are coming! Yay!

In the meantime, however, we have a super special treat today in the form of a guest post from one of my favorite people ever: Elodia Strain.

To give you some back story, I've known Elodia for almost ten years now. (HOLY COW, I am OLD. She's not old. Just me.) When I first started working as an editor, lo those many years ago, Elodia was one of my very first authors that I worked with and I was so dazzled by her that I just about keeled over from the excitement. I kid you not. I was definitely fangirling the entire time I worked on her book. We've been friends ever since, and her writing has only gotten better!! It is not an exaggeration at all to say that I LOVE Elodia's books.

In celebration of her newest book coming out, which you can find here on Amazon, by the way, Elodia's been on a blog tour and I'm super flattered that she took the time to make my blog one of her stops.

Since we're all about questions and answers around here, I asked Elodia to tell us how to take writing from good to great. (And by "us," I mostly mean me because I really need this advice. Seriously.)

Here's what she had to say . . .

My Quest for Great Writing

As part of the blog tour for my new book, I made sure I got to stop by this one, which is a personal favorite of mine. I admire the blogger as an editor, author, and person. So. Heidi posed me this question: “How do you go from good to great writing?” This is a question I seem to ask myself on a daily (sometimes minutely) basis. And as I’ve asked and worked toward the answer, I’ve come up with a few tried and true tactics that I seem to use over and over, book by book, page by page. Maybe they’ll spark something anew in your personal creative pursuits!

Number one, I think about the readers. A LOT. When I wrote my first book in 2005, I was writing the kind of book I looked for and couldn’t find a lot of—squeaky clean romantic comedies with a little sweet meat to them. Just like inventors talk about solving a problem, I was writing to fill a need. I still do that. Maybe someday I’ll write a super heavy literary masterpiece, but for now, I’m writing for the woman who is overwhelmed by life and needs a laugh, the woman who needs a little pick-me-up. I care about the people who read my books so much. I’m grateful to them, hopeful for them, and always, always aware of them.

Second, I write when I’m not writing. When I start a book, I buy a bunch of yellow (or white, if my go-to store is closed) notepads, and put them all over the house. On the treadmill, next to the kitchen sink, in a basket by the bathtub. These are for my “relaxed brain” notes. Thing is, when I write, I often leave spaces if I can’t find the best words. For example, I’ll type: Ian drove (an old school Americana type of car.) Then, while I’m doing dishes or painting my toenails, my “relaxed brain” will come up with: A 1975 Ford truck. For the sake of trees and cash, I’ve tried keeping my “relaxed brain” notes on my phone, but I always come back to my trusty notepads. (In fact, here is a picture of one week of notes taken while working on The Dating Experiment.)

Third, I try to make every word count. Early on, when I was first started writing, I would sometimes spend hours writing descriptions and backstory that was just kind of…lame to write. And then I had this serious Eureka! moment. I realized if it was drudgery to write, then it probably wouldn’t be a lot of fun to read. This has been one of the single most important lessons I learned as a writer. And it’s not to say that writing isn’t hard, and painful, and all those things, but you just kind of know when something is fun and when its not.

Which brings me to my last tactic. When it comes down to what words end up being put to paper or screen, I trust others’ opinions sometimes, my gut often, and God ALWAYS. This is true for all aspects of writing from plot to characters to setting. I have a whole lot of growing to do as a writer, but I have yet to regret following this pattern.

Wow. What awesome words of wisdom. Thanks so much for stopping by, Elodia! I loved your advice! And thanks to all you readers for your patience with me when life temporarily takes me away from blogging. I promise I'll always come back. And in the meantime, if you're looking for something to read, might I suggest checking out more of Elodia's awesome writing in The Dating Experiment or any of her books, available on Amazon and in bookstores all over. Hope you're all looking forward to a great weekend! I'll be back soon!  —HD