A friend reached out this weekend because she was absolutely mired in a bear of a final paper. She didn’t want me to edit it (and I definitely don’t edit exams or papers earlier than the dissertation and/or journal submissions), but to give some advice on how to handle what had become unwieldy. My suggestion? The reverse outline. Here’s what I wrote:
My write-up on Ray Harrington’s award-winning documentary, “Be a Man,” from long-time client Stand Up! Records:
American universities are increasingly offering courses in masculinity—the ways it’s culturally and socially constructed, the ways its boundaries are policed, and the ways its constraints and contradictions put basically everyone on edge. But studying masculinity is different from trying, at an individual level, to define and achieve manhood. What does it mean to be a man? Who is that man? Ray Harrington has charmingly, brilliantly, and with utter vulnerability chronicled his journey to find out.
As he seeks his signature manly cocktail, discovers his dream car isn’t a half-million dollar phallic symbol, and maniacally gets into a boxing ring with a professional fighter, Harrington gathers his collaborators for a film that’s part love letter, part personal journey, part support group, and part road trip movie. Like any movie worth the popcorn, there are fast cars and fashion montages, dreamy landscapes and a lewd joke or two. Mostly, though, there’s an earnest rumination on modern manhood and how we all get by with a little help from our friends.
Featuring fellow stand-up comedians Kyle Kinane, Tom Wilson, April Macie, Doug Stanhope, Steve Rannazzisi, Robert Kelly, and Kurt Metzger, “Be a Man” boasts Grammy-winning Dan Schlissel as co-executive producer alongside Ray Harrington, who, despite a little razor burn and wrinkled linen, is, without a doubt, both a man and a “ten.”
Well, it’s awfully rad to get the “Yelp” treatment from one of my favorite authors! From Jooyoung Lee, sociologist at the University of Toronto and research fellow with Yale’s Urban Ethnography Project:
It was a joy working with Letta! She helped turn a sprawling manuscript into a leaner and more polished book. As a Hip Hop scholar, it’s often hard to find someone who knows a thing or two about the subject matter. But, Letta combined her lifelong knowledge of Hip Hop and music more generally to make my book less nerdy and more readable. Different chapters were at different stages of writing, giving Letta a chance to show her flexibility as an editor. At times, she’d go through my manuscript like a chainsaw-wielding super hero, shredding through redundancies and unnecessary uses of “the ways in which…” In other moments, she’d make small subtle revisions that made the book read and flow better. Most of all, Letta was a great help during those tough stretches of writing and revision, where nothing seemed to come out right. This is when her expertise really shined brightest. She would give me feedback that kicked me into gear and nudged (and pushed) me toward the finish line. Part writing coach, part muse, Letta Page is a top-notch editor.
Forget instant: constant gratification’s where it’s at. I’ve noticed that many of the authors I work with tend to delay their excitement about a project, especially when it’s a book. Why? They usually tell me it’s not “real” until there’s a book in their hands. Ugh.
And reading for pleasure. This piece first appeared, in different form, on TheSocietyPages.org‘s Editors’ Desk.
In case it’s hard to tell, that’s an imperative, not a descriptor.
See, many authors ask me for examples of how to incorporate a lot of information into something that’s thorough, academically sound, and engaging. It’s a tough balance, to be sure, but over the years, I’ve collected a number of books (and this is by no means a list of all of them) I can hand off as representations of that ideal. They likely have nothing to do with your area of study, but watching the authors’ deft hands at work (and knowing there are surely unsung editor elves in there, too) can be a truly enjoyable homework assignment. Think of it as “authorial excellence by osmosis.” Absorb and emulate these ten fine examples. Continue reading Read Widely, or Becoming a Better Writer by Reading→
One of my most popular pieces of writing yet, this first appeared on the SixDegreesUptown.com website.
Bodies are different. We all get that, and we all try very hard to remember that different appearance doesn’t equate to different ability. And yet, I got a very happy, “Ah-hah!” moment lesson that truly impressed that slogan onto my heart and mind: Don’t Judge. You Don’t Know. Everyone Will Surprise You. Do Your Own Workout. Run Your Own Run.
Here’s what happened. It was maybe three or four years ago, and I’d just started running. I think I cheered the first time I ran around Lake Calhoun—about three miles—without stopping to walk. As I should! That’s an accomplishment on its own. I did a 5K and I wasn’t fast, but I felt good at the finish, so I went ahead and signed right up for the Women Run the Twin Cities 10 miler. Whoops! Fear set in almost immediately. Continue reading The Ass Realization→
Today, someone forwarded another academic editor’s website to me, pointing out his big-name clients and wondering why I didn’t have a shout-outs section of my own. After thinking about it a bit, I came up with three answers:
Editors, ideally, are secret squirrels. We’re the spies who learn what makes your writing yours and leave those quirks intact. We get in there with a scalpel instead of a hatchet, and we make your ideas shine without doing violence to your piece. In the end, we hope your usual audience won’t even notice we’ve been there. Continue reading Name Dropping→
This issue, Contexts is changing the format of our usual student essay. We received four extremely thoughtful—and handwritten!—essays from “Inside” students in response to our student piece in the last issue, and so we’re sharing their insights to give another perspective on this ground-breaking program.
In the fall 2009 issue of Contexts, Tasha Galardi, an Oregon State University student, wrote about her experience as one of the “Outside” students participating in the Inside-Out prison exchange course in Crime, Justice, and Social Policy. The course brought together students from OSU and students who are currently incarcerated for a 10-week, college-level sociology course. Galardi wrote that one of her reasons for taking the course was to challenge her own preconceived notions of prisoners. Learning sociological theories in dialogue and collaboration with the “Inside” students she got to know over the semester transformed Galardi’s ideas about crime (and criminals). Continue reading Essays from Inside Prison→
This piece was written for Laughs Last author and Stand Up! Records humorist Dylan Brody for inclusion as back-cover copy and on various retailer websites, press releases, and whatnot. I adore whatnot.
There may not be boxes strong enough for the weight of memory, but some books can do the trick. Laughs Last is a rumination on family, legacy, talent, and the fluidity of time, a poignant dream of adulthood coming in fits and starts to our protagonist Damon Blazer. Continue reading Laughs Last→
A primer on getting the most out of the editing process, this short article assumes that you’re working on a journal submission, but is generally applicable to an op-ed you might be pitching, sample chapters for a book proposal, etc. I am also assuming you’ve already found an editor, but I’ll talk about that a little bit. As always, I take questions and additional recommendations—I’m positive I’ve overlooked, oh, about a hundred things. A hundred seems about right. Continue reading The Art of Being Edited*→