Archive for publishing

I don’t even like writing the word ‘plagiarism’

As a communications professor, I have to attend to the possibility that some students will use words that are not their own. I believe I can usually tell when that happens – a change in diction jumps out at me after a lifetime of writing, editing and publishing – but this might not be the case.

This recent plagiarism scandal is especially puzzling because Jill Biokosky is herself an editor at an esteemed publisher as well as a poet and memoirist. She knows the rules.

Also puzzling to me is Biokosky’s non-apology:

[This reviewer] has extracted a few ancillary and limited phrases from my 222-page memoir that inadvertently include fragments of prior common biographical sources and tropes after a multiyear writing process. This should not distract from the thesis of this book, which derives from my own life, my experiences and observations. I will, of course, correct any errors that are found for future editions of the book.

Perhaps the ultimate puzzlement, to me, is that here is a poet who could not take care to recognize her own words, or to see which ones were not her own. Even I would go, “Hey, that doesn’t sound like me!” when going through my own work. I remember breathing every word, or that I could.

Saying something nice

This New York Times feature on former Commentary magazine editor Norman Podhoretz reminded me of much I loathed this man back in my English Major undergraduate days at the University of Buffalo. In his essay “The Know-Nothing Bohemians,” Podhoretz had written of my literary heroes Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg that their “worship of primitivism and spontaneity is more than a cover for hostility to intelligence; it arises from a pathetic poverty of feeling as well.”

Indeed, he wrote, they and their friends in the so-called Beat Generation wished to “kill the intellectuals who can talk coherently, kill the people who can sit still for five minutes at a time, kill those incomprehensible characters who are capable of getting seriously involved with a woman, a job, a cause.” What a prick.

I was surprised – dismayed, really – at how the years had changed my opinion of this now very old man. I was a long-time professional editor looking at him as an editor, not a young writer looking at him as some literary critic. Here was a man who attracted a very large roster of superb authors to his magazine. It is hard for me to name an equal from his generation. As an editor with most of his career as one behind him, I now find his achievement astonishing.

My comment for the New York Times: “Norman Podhoretz was a very fine editor indeed if judged by the cast of writers he attracted to the pages of Commentary. It seems even by his own accounting, though, that he was far less successful as a friend.” This measured tone might have nauseated me in my youth.

A new publication from Miles Basil, MD

Weight Loss and Abdominal Pain Caused by Pancreatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma.”

The closing sentences are close to poetry. Really.

“If you are pro Black, pro Hispanic, or pro Asian, why don’t you say so … ?”

After we got back in touch with each other in 2009, Lorraine sent me the correspondence below – between me and a ‘literary agent’ – which she had kept after leaving Prometheus Books decades before.

Lorraine wrote me: “In one of my periodic cleaning binges, lo — my Prometheus ‘DO YOU BELIEVE THIS’ file re-emerged this week, after a disappearance of nigh onto twenty years! The attached provided me with a cascading set of giggles.  I hope you will still find the exchange as amusing as I did.” I did, and do. Thank you, Lorraine.

(I’ve obscured my antagonist’s information.)

Note #1 to my students: The approach I chose here is generally not recommended for your own workplace correspondence. Please stay courteous! Your goal, almost always, is to foster and maintain relationships.

Note #2 to my students: You also might want to avoid misspelling *your own job title* in workplace correspondence. I was the senior “Acquisitions” editor for a year before I remembered that “acquisitions” has a “c” in it. (That was around the same time I was shocked to see that “smooth” wasn’t spelled “smoothe.”)

PS – The “LMP” is The Literary Marketplace guide.

aquisitions

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Lorraine Marshall

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My old friend Lorraine passed away in her sleep yesterday. We worked together closely in the late ’80s and early ’90s, at Prometheus Books, where she was the Marketing Director. She was very funny (and very thoughtful); she was lovely.

Her Facebook page had this Lou Reed quote on it: “There’s a bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out.”

Ellavon shined up

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I started up Ellavon: An Ezine of Basic Culture in 1998 so that I could work with writers and artists whose stuff I liked. My plan worked beautifully. Our writers included Kristi Coulter, Robin Plan, Julie Damerell, Kat Kosiancic, Jeanne d’Arc O’Day, Jonathan Mayhew, Joseph Conte, John Glionna, Steven Silbert, and Chris Basil. Our artists: Lincoln Clarkes, Marilyn Suriani, and John Sindelar. And our interview subjects: Diane Middlebrook and Paul Kurtz (beloved mentors of mine, both of whom have passed away).

This week with the great help of Robot Overlord Inc., we fixed some back-end code, made (minimal) updates – Ellavon stopped publishing in 2002 – and got Mr. Sindelar’s gallery up and running again. We have been careful to leave the black-on-brick design of the contributions intact — to help you remember what it was like at the turn of the century.

Best in Vancouver

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Congratulations to my friend Emily Cooper, who was selected “Best Professional Photographer” in the Georgia Straight’s annual “Best of Vancouver” awards. I find her work magical and truly delightful.