Friday 10 February 2012

Editors: necessary or annoying?

One upon a time... before computers, computer speak/spelling, and SMSing, written language was formal - with grammar, spelling and punctuation conforming to its dictates.  Literary prose and poetry, however,  often broke the rules for the sake of rhythm, emphasis, and that wonderfully unique phenomenon - style. And there was something, too, about pacing back in that pre-computer era AND comprehension: readers, it was assumed, could retain what they had read in the preceding chapter and could savour a slow, even (God forbid) subtle exposition.
Writers like Virginia Woolf, (who wrote great slabs in parentheses,  spayed words across the page like bullets; or drawled them, creating a timeless, dream-like trail of subconscious thoughts and impressions) would have a hard time in the hands of the modern publishing editor.
My writing doesn't come close to that of Virginia's, but my experience with editors so far, has been somewhat confounding. Their first assumption is that they represent the reader - a mighty big assumption- and as such must make the work in front of them, palatable, digestible even. The reader, it is assumed, must be told everything in the first 5 mins - there has to be a hook - the reader won't wait for a slow exposition: the characters need to be defined swiftly and their connections made clear at the outset. Keeping a juicy titbit up the sleeve might startle the reader, who apparently would have felt safer to have known about it earlier.  Chapters need to force a page turn, otherwise the reader might put the book down.
(I've been putting James Joyce down since I was a girl and am still managing to pick him up.)
"Finding Artemisia-a journey into ancient women's business," is at the line edit stage. Dramatic structure has been established, characters developed and inane editorial questions answered. Now the editors are battling commas (before 'and' or 'but'?) colons (semi or the whole hog?) and dashes ('em' or 'en'?) and I humbly await their verdict.
Fortunately my publisher is giving me the last say on the tone, voice and style of my story, and that is comforting because it is, after all, my story and I am confident my readers will be inspired by it.
If you have an editing anecdote, please share.

Monday 6 February 2012

Breasts and pink ribbons

Check out PINK RIBBON INC on to see why I have not been able to support the PINK RIBBON campaign for breast cancer despite its success as a campaign and its popularity. As a therapist who sees people in recovery from mastectomies,  reconstructions, lymphectomies etc,  I have always felt uneasy about the light and fluffy, pseudo positive, girlish, pink campaign. If you check out the link, you will see that the original commemorative ribbon was a flesh colour, until it was grabbed by a cosmetic company. Since then the colour has been used to sell products supposedly in aid of breast cancer: but exactly which aspect of breast cancer? While billions of dollars have been raised, no-one seems to have raised the question: Why the ever increasing number of women succumbing to this insidious disease?
So let's look at some the changes in women's lifestyles during this era of rampant breast disease:1 the decline in breast feeding (corporate campaigns have made women nervous about the value of their milk; image consciousness and the belief that breasts will look worse after wear have had an effect; lack of social support for breast feeding mothers- even f/b at one point banned images of mothers "nursing" their babes) etc. 2 the increase in radiation, microwave and other aerial pollutants, 3 the increase in chemicals in food production 4 the massive increase in commercially produced food, take-out and food chains posing as restaurants, 5 the increase in alcohol consumption in women, 6 the increase in women's working hours, 7 the use of household carcinogenic chemicals, 8  the increase in radiating screens in women's lives, 9 chemical hormones for women. And that's not all.
So when diagnosed women come and see me and tell me their friends have advised them to be positive, I often think to myself...there but by the grace of the goddess go I, because as the environment becomes more and more carcinogenic, not having breast cancer may become the exception.  As for pink ribbons? Let's replace them with RED roars: save the food, save the earth, and put women and children before corporations!