A Copyeditor’s Rant

During my disappearance from this blog, I spent a lot of my time proofreading, editing, and copyediting.

First, while people tend to use the terms interchangeably:

  • A proofreader checks text for syntax, spelling, punctuation, and other similar errors and corrects them.
  • An editor may do the above, but also will consider the content of the piece, the order of sentences, meaning, style, how the author addresses the audience, and other, deeper issues.
  • A copyeditor deals with text intended for publication – for instance, in a magazine or a book, proofreads it, checks it for accuracy (for instance, are the names of sources spelled correctly?), and then formats the material according to the “house style” of the publisher.

As you can see, each job has slightly different responsibilities. Mostly, I’ve been copyediting the local publication I mentioned in earlier blog posts. In general, I love the job. The hours are flexible (so I’m free to take care of sick kids or errands), and I get to make other writers look good. I’ve developed great working relationships with several of the columnists, thank G-d.

But there are also annoyances. And – without naming names – I’m going to tell you about some of them, because many of the people who read this blog are also writers, and those who aren’t may still be in a position where they have to write something for public consumption. A little awareness about common issues might prove helpful to you.

Continue reading

Background on my new story: “Just Perfect” (or why I believe we all live in a Magical Reality)

This week, Hamodia‘s Inyan Magazine published my new short story (and it’s actually for adults!), entitled “Just Perfect.”

The original version of the story was explicitly a piece of fantasy, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I transformed the story into an example of magical realism rather than fantasy in order to address the concerns of my lovely and knowledgeable editor at Hamodia. 

In the original version, then called “Easy as Pie,” the transformation of Libby’s life occurred after she bumped into a little old lady who offered her a slice of peach pie at a party. The pie made Libby’s life–well, just peachy. But my editor felt the little old lady was a little unbelievable. Could I cut her? The only problem was that her brief appearance at the beginning and the end of the story explained the wacky events in between.

I wracked my brains for a way to ditch the old lady but save the rest of the silliness. There had to be an explanation for it, after all. I did a bit of experimentation and research. Finally, I decided that maybe Libby should just pray–and then G-d answers.

Even after I found my “magically real” solution, I initially balked at making the change. It was an elegant solution, so my reaction puzzled me. I had to think about it a lot, and I think my conclusion is worth sharing. Continue reading

2 Major differences between writing a picture book and writing short stories

So the folktale project turned out to be an eye-opening experience for me.


Am I a writer, or a barber?

When I first started writing for kids, I didn’t really understand the difference between short stories and picture books. I’d submit short stories to book publishers, and picture books to magazines who published short stories. Selling Raizy and being guided through revisions by Devorah Leah Rosenfeld, the editor at Hachai, schooled me in the differences between the two media. After a couple years, I started writing regularly for children’s magazines, and her lessons allowed me to jump between the two formats.

2 Major differences between picture books and short stories:


1) The length differs significantly in the two formats. Oddly, an entire picture book has about half the words (sometimes less) as a short story for a kids’ magazine.

2) The illustrations in a picture book replace almost all the description. And the only words that could appear in a picture book text are ones that drive the narrative forward. When I learned this lesson, my picture book writing attained a sharpness that it had previously lacked.

Continue reading

But what about my Voice!?! What a writer should do when an editor asks for “a few changes.”


Hey, buddy! What about my voice?

Last week, I got an email from an editor (she’ll be the heroine of this story, but will remain nameless nonetheless). She asked me to make one change–one very small change–to the story that I had submitted.

Because I trust this editor–she’s very good at what she does and has built a friendly relationship with me–I said I’d make the teeny-tiny change she’d requested.

And then I panicked.  Continue reading

Thank the folks who’ve rejected you–a radical suggestion for writers this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us here in the U.S., and this is a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon gratitude, whether you celebrate the holiday or not. I’m a big fan of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin and also of Rabbi Shalom Arush, and I’m going to combine their approaches for this writing exercise appropriate to the Thanksgiving season and year-round. This exercise is useful whether you’re Jewish or not–please don’t get turned off to it just because it was inspired by a couple of rabbis.

mother offering child medicine

Be grateful for the medicine–it’s good for you.

Rejection is just about the hardest thing to cope with when you decide you’re going to become a writer, but it’s something that you need to learn to accept graciously. When that rejection letter first comes, you are often overwhelmed by feelings of resentment, anger, and frustration. You might lash out, calling the editors idiots or saying that the publisher doesn’t know what good writing is. You might despair, consider yourself a failure, or even give up writing.

But here’s the truth–you were meant to be rejected, at least in this specific instance. Continue reading

How to get back into the swing of things after taking a vacation from writing

Checklist on clipboard
I took some time off from posting to concentrate on Passover preparations…and then another couple weeks off recovering. My brain was so focused on errands and checklists, and my body was so exhausted from scrubbing, that I pretty much couldn’t write at the end of the day, not anything coherent anyway. I had several manuscripts under review by editors, so I thought it would be best just to step back a bit from cranking out stories and submitting them.

It was strangely relaxing to stop writing. While I love to write, things were getting jumbled in my head, ideas tangled up, and I was losing focus. I’ve always been a person whose problem is too many ideas, not too few. But it was getting to the point that sitting down to write was like opening up the doors to one of those closets where people just keep shoving things in wherever they fit, and you’re left fumbling for your navy pumps in a mess of fluffy pink sweaters, old luggage, and forgotten handbags that really ought to be sent to Goodwill. Where to start?

Plus, my writing was feeling less joyful. When writing becomes your job, and you expect yourself to produce something (hopefully brilliant) every day, it can become a chore instead of a pleasure. When most of your writing is done at the end of a long day of homemaking, it just turns into one more thing to check off your to-do list. A succession of rejection letters hadn’t helped the situation.

During Passover, I found extra time to lavish on my husband and children, without worrying that I was being a slacker or would miss a deadline (even a self-imposed one). Since most of the publishers I deal with are Jewish ones, I figured they’d all be out of the office, too.

However, my vacation had to come to an end some time. I belong to a critique group, and with a meeting coming up, I had to get back to writing. I forced myself to sit at the computer. My first couple attempts didn’t go anywhere, and I felt a bit demoralized. Thankfully, some wonderful helpers were sent to me from Shamayim (Heaven). Totally unsolicited, two friends told me that they like my writing. One particularly focused on my quirky way of looking at things in a way that’s humorous but true. This made me reconsider what I had been attempting to write.

I think that one of the problems with my recent attempts of writing was that I was trying to write what other people have successfully sold, as opposed to staying true to my own voice. Half-submerged anxiety about pieces that hadn’t sold because they didn’t “fit in” with publisher’s expectations must have led me down the wrong path, and a little reflection set me straight. I ditched the stuff that wasn’t really “me,” and returned to my uniquely wacky and off-beat voice. The ideas are beginning to flow and I’m feeling more optimistic.

The Providential arrival of a complimentary email from an editor contributed to the general upswing, too. If this particular editor loved my piece, I must be good!