January 10th, 2008

Watch Your Language!

Well and truly embarked on Revision One of the finalfinalREALLYfinal draft of my MG (unless it’s YA) fantasy novel, I am heavily arguing voice and word choice issues with myself. And some of my characters. And so I find that language out there in the real world is hitting even homier with me than it usually does.

• Best Line I Heard at a Staff Meeting Recently: “Cat, you have everything you need.” (Yes, colleague-pet conversation replays are fair game at staff meetings for this organization.”

• Best Idiotic Thing I Said Recently: So this guy made up a crossword puzzle for one of the pubs I edit. Just for the fun of it. And we do consistently need one-page fillers for this pub, when ads fall out or stories run to short. Earlier this week—not really wasting time, although it might have strongly resembled exactly that--I set out to test this puzzle.

I’m a fair hand with the crosswords, but this one was a little tricky, containing some medical terminology and some wonky abbreviations (one clue, “Homer on the big screen,” was solved by “TSM,” standing for “The Simpsons Movie”).

Then there were two clues that referred to each other: the clue for, say, 13 down was 65 across, and the clue for 65 across was 13 down. Finally the correct down answers created 65 across: D-E-N-Y.

“Deh-nee,” I muttered to myself. “Why couldn’t this guy change some of the down answers so 65 across would actually be a word?”

On the other hand, I considered the possibility that my correct down answers weren’t actually correct. But as I continued the puzzle, 13 down was looking more and more like D-E-N-Y.

By this point, the abbreviations and medical terms were starting to get to me. Plus there were clues I just couldn’t solve. So I gave in and called the guy, per his request.

He’s a very pleasant person, and was so excited that I’d attempted his puzzle. He readily admitted that some of the abbreviations were just plain silly (ABN solved the clue “Young Frankenstein” brain donor [abbr.]. I got the reference—but I don’t dare pass it along to my readers!)

So I didn’t hesitate to ask him about the crazy solutions to 13 down and 65 across.

“Oh—you mean deny?” he said.


Not DEH-nee.

“Oh my God—it’s a word!” I blurted.

Yes, folks. I’m a full-time writer. How sad is that?

• Best Rude Email I Received Recently: I have several phone numbers: cell phone (reserved for only a select few); home office (open to the world, practically); extension at one editory gig (where few phone me); and extension at another editory gig, where I do not have an office and so I have to remind myself to call the voicemail to see if anyone’s left me a message. (Perhaps there is a plaintive enough quality to this sentence that you can already tell I don’t remember to remind myself to check this voicemail very regularly.)

So there were some holidays recently, and real life was very much at the forefront for me, and yes, I had not checked this voicemail in a while. Then I got an email from a colleague, telling me someone had been trying to get in touch with me, and could I call him. Then I got an email from someone else—the third in command at this organization—telling me the same thing. Then I got an email from the guy himself. And brother, did it sting. To protect the guilty, I can’t even quote from it, so you’ll just have to trust me. But I will go on record as saying that THAT is NOT the way to convince me to write about him, or anyone affiliated with him. So there. (Seriously, people—why would you be rude to a media person you are trying to pitch to?)

• Best Question I Had to Say No to Recently: “So—seen anyone famous at Big Lots lately?” (Truth to tell—I have not been to Big Lots since the Mike Scioscia incident.)

I only hope some of these sterling voice observations and experiences will pay off for Revision One!

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