Backwards Proofs Your Reading

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September 25, 2012 by Tracey S. Rosenberg

My first poetry pamphlet (chapbook) is being published next month by the ginger wine-fuelled dynamos at Stewed Rhubarb Press.

Now, let’s get one thing out of the way: I dislike rhubarb, stewed or in any other form. When it arrived in the organic veg boxes I used to receive on a fortnightly basis, I generally gave it away. Certainly I don’t ever remember cooking any, though I probably did because I hate wasting food more than I hate nearly any particular food. I think the only place I can tolerate it is in a pie, and only then if there is also strawberry present.

However, Stewed Rhubarb is a new wee press specialising in a) spoken word poet(s)(ry) and b) amazing design skills and production values. I know both of the publishers and they are good people. And good editors. And even though I don’t drink ginger wine, they decided to take me on board.

I’d been thinking of putting together my own pamphlet for a while now. In terms of my writing, it was definitely time to have a collection, and on the business/marketing side of things, I need something to sell at readings. This is a thousand times better than anything I would have been able to do with clandestine photocopying and covers made from paper I bought at Hobbycraft.

Unlike my other pamphlet, which is currently making the rounds of slush piles, I had no real sense of what the narrative of this one would be, so I basically handed 25 poems to Rachel and James and said, ‘what’s the story?’ And they found one. (These poems were either previously published, or performance poems that I wasn’t sure would work on the page. Some of them simply don’t.)

The two suggested titles were Bitter Mustard and Lipstick is Always a Plus. I liked them both, but ultimately I didn’t want to be the sort of poet whose first book was titled Bitter Mustard.

Yesterday, I spent all morning going over the proofs. Continuing the food theme, I realised that the word ‘chili’ was triggering the spellchecker, and said, hmmm, British v American English? A straw poll in the kitchen resulted in 3-nil for a double L, and then I had some chilli chai tea (don’t ask) and that correction was duly made.

This morning, I spent much less time going over the revised proofs. Most of my time today was spent on hyphens, for although we figured out that the font used the same symbol for a hyphen as for a minus sign, and thus we had been cruelly led astray by en dashes, not all of the en dashes were corrected to hyphens, so I decided to make a list of all the ones that needed to be changed manually. This meant looking at every line individually. The problem is that it’s sooooooooo easy to start reading the poem, rather than slowing down and looking for typographical symbols, and thus sooooooo easy to skip one. I therefore used an old editing trick, and started reading the poems backwards, line by line. I was still in danger of getting sucked in, but not nearly as much. It’s easy to fall into the rhythms that already exist in your mind, when you’ve been reading this poem for months if not years.

But of course even though three people will be scouring the manuscript, there will be a typo. Because there always is.

That typo, and the rest of the collection, will be available for purchase next month!

In news related to The Girl in the Bunker, quite a lot of Goebbels’s personal papers are up for sale. Even if I had a spare £200,000 I doubt I’d buy them, but it’s interesting to see what still exists.

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Photo credit: Rahima Subhan

Tiny bio

I live, work, and write in Edinburgh. I travel to other places as much as I can. To contact me, email writingmostly at gmail dot com.

Books

CURRENTLY READING: The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo.

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