Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Professional Approach In Non-Paying Obligations

One of my peeves is the callous attitude some folks have when payment is not involved. We know that when a contract (verbal or written) involves money, it is a professional agreement and deadlines count. But what about agreements that don’t involve exchange of currency?

Some people think these aren’t real, or binding, or at the very least “not as binding” as deadlines set by bosses/contracted editors/clients.

I learned this lesson years ago, when I was part of an organization of volunteers who put together a biannual review of the private schools in the bay area. We met, the chosen head organizer set directives for the standards of the reviews, and we accepted which schools each of us would review. The head set fixed deadlines for submitting the reviews. Some people covered only one school, but I had two schools to cover.

When the deadline came, I submitted my reviews. They entailed research, two school visits to each of the schools, (one an organized tour and the other an impromptu school visit) and interviews with people whose kids attended the schools. No small feat when I had a preschooler and a toddler, as well as a mother who was full time in my care. The head organizer had the added task of looking over all the reviews and making sure they met the standard of the catalog the organization set. It had been a much-lauded publication for over twenty years.

Only the head organizer and I met the deadline. She then had the added task of nagging and needling the other volunteers to submit-please-do-it-NOW. She managed to gain some gray hairs before the publication heroically met the final deadline in time for the Bay Area Private Schools Fair.

 I have since encountered this lackadaisical attitude in critique groups and beta readers, exchanges that do not involve money but do involve agreement to exchange favors. Most folks are professional in meeting standards and deadlines. But then there are others who regularly forget/get distracted and miss these obligations altogether...
...oops, so sorry!

I am not referring to unusual occurrences. Life happens. There are medical and family emergencies. There are situations we can’t plan for and couldn’t even have the ability to notify when they happen. But these are not the rule, and if someone almost always skips and slips, we have an unprofessional attituder (I made this word up 😎) on our hands.
What these folks are saying, in effect, is that because they are not paid, they’ve pushed others and their schedules to the back of the bus.

What to do about it? For myself, I make it a policy not to be such a person. That’s what I do.

At the beginning of this post, I didn’t call it a pet peeve, because I think it isn’t petty to ask for respect. I can’t fix others, but I resolve to be the kind of person I respect. It makes me feel good.

I highly recommend it. If you’ve been such a slacker, change this for yourself. I think you’ll feel good.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

When Proper Words Become Verboten

A few months ago, I suggested to DD that she consult with her teacher about certain career choices. “After all, your teacher is both old and wise,” I wrote.

I was swiftly corrected. “We don’t say old anymore. It’s not okay.”

Turns out teacher (and yours truly) are now properly called chronologically blessed.

I am mulling over whether to adjust, as I always have before. I have a long history with such adjustments.
I hope I’m not too chronologically blessed for that.

It started with the (now ancient) advent of Ms. I was a wee-one leaning English as a second language in Israel. Our English teacher was a delightful orthodox woman from South Africa. She informed us that in her English class the new “Ms.” doesn’t exist. “It’s neither here nor there, and proper English has Miss and Mrs.”

No wonder I came to the U.S.A. ill prepared. But I adjusted.

Then came the change from black to African American. I always try to call people what they want to be called, so despite the added length and relative unwieldiness, I adjusted. Some African Americans have informed me recently it’s back to black. I’m adjusting. I’m down with whatever you want because I respect you by either, and I accept this is a fluid matter.

Then came the ban on the word cripple. I’ve adjusted to disabled, and recently to differently-abled.

Retarded shifted to delayed, though they are almost synonymous. The new delayed holds the promise of eventual parity, and I doubt this is factual. But I’m game. I’ve adjusted.

Then came the non-binary pronouns. They are much harder, because my learned English grammar and the ghost of my former teacher from way back keep waving the red pen and striking they/them out when referencing a single individual. But I try.

But now, in my chronologically blessed dotage, I’m beginning to tire. I only ask the language police to respect my age and sense of propriety half as much as I try to respect theirs. Old to them is anyone over forty, and it’s a good olde (sic) word that deserves respect it has earned over five hundred years.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Let’s FACE It

Warning: this is on the gruffly side 😖

In the last year, I’ve gotten many Facebook friend requests where the person requesting chose not to put a photo of their FACE on their profile.

Yes, if I know you in real life and I’m sure it’s you, I’ve accepted. But the vast majority (like 95%) are people I’ve never met. If we have very few FACEbook friends in common, I assume this is a fake profile or some sort of spam. But most show that we have hundreds of friends in common.

This would indicate they are part of the kidlit publishing community, as most of my FACEbook friends are.

Some have chosen to put a photo pf their dog or pet ferret as their profile picture. For a banner, they put a lovely sunrise or field of wildflowers.

I mean, seriously?

I know we’re spooked by the use of our photo for nefarious purposes. I think that if this disturbs you greatly, maybe FACEbook is not the place you want to be to begin with. If you suffer from social anxiety and you fear your appearance will be judged, maybe this is not a good venue for you. Whatever the reason, why are you approaching people who don’t know you in real life with such?

I don’t accept such requests. I’m a basically shy person, so I understand the impulse to hide. But get over it if you choose FACEbook to engage with strangers.

Of all things, this^ is the banner of a site that offers to help you create a “memorably beautiful Facebook timeline.” Honestly, I’d pass.

Let’s FACE it and put a FACE on it. It isn’t your dog or a pretty postcard who’s asking to be connected.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Too Many REALIZations?

“Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Mark Twain

Craft advice for writing has a standard admonition to look at “weak words,” i.e. qualifiers that weaken prose. Examples of such oft mentioned are: Very, all, so, quite, rather. You get the idea. Mr. Twain^ said it with aplomb.

A few months ago, while working on my third draft of a novel for middle grades, I chanced upon another word a great writer felt indicated “lazy” writing. The word is realize.
The writer suggests using this word is a shortcut to the experience of realization, a telling rather than showing. A character realized something and stated they had this realization. The reader didn’t get to experience this, we heard about it. Lazy writer = lazy writing.

Something about this struck me as worth examining. Was he talking to me? 😯

Using the find function in Word, I discovered (ahm, realized) that in a 38,000~ word manuscript I have forty-three “realize.” I mean, I had the realization that while the word may have its best uses, forty-three is a few too many. 😶

With little effort, it was easy to eliminate half. The sentences lost nothing and gained directness. A few more needed showing what the character experienced viscerally instead of the statement that the character realized.

By the time this Saturday night verb massacre ended, (it was in fact a Saturday evening) fifteen “realize” were left standing. I’m not a purist, and I can never take any suggestion as absolute. But I suspect this battle with a tick-word I didn’t know I had was good for the story.

Even strong words can be tick-words. Weak or strong, catch and kick the ticks out.