Thursday, April 30, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Last night I entered a "Battle of the Bards" -- a competition for writers delivering their work orally. I won first place.

An event like this is as much about how you present your work as your work itself. Fortunately, I read a comedic piece, and I made the audience of 25-odd people laugh. Nine of the twelve contestants were poets, and no one else read anything humorous, so I stood out well.

By the way, while I am currently the president of the Brandywine Valley Writers Group, this event was staged by a different writing organization, the Chester County Writer's Workshop.

It's been awhile since I came in first in a competition. I still find it hard to believe that people voted for me instead of one of the hot girl poets!

I don't know how long this link will be up, but here are some photos of the event. The MC is Tom Lillard, the guitarist is Jake Michaels. Poet Andrea Daniels took most of the photos, and Julie Latham was the main organizer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Advice from the Old Cock

Grammar maven Richard Nordquist just posted an article on, in which he relates the Five Rules of Thumb for Editing by the late Gardner Botsford.

Botsford worked as an editor at The New Yorker for almost 40 years. His ruthless editing skills earned him the nickname "The Ripper;" he once edited a three page article by legendary reporter A.J. Liebling down to a half-page. But Botsford was also a good editor, making articles clearer and better. The argumentative Liebling himself complimented Botsford on his edits.

Botsford...who addressed male friends as "Old Cock"...believed in first impressions, as you can see from his fourth rule:
Rule of thumb No. 4. In editing, the first reading of a manuscript is the all-important one. On the second reading, the swampy passages that you noticed in the first reading will seem firmer and less draggy, and on the fourth or fifth reading, they will seem exactly right. That's because you are now attuned to the writer, not to the reader. But the reader, who will read the thing only once, will find it just as swampy and boring as you did the first time around. In short, if something strikes you as wrong on first reading, it is wrong, and a fix is needed, not a second reading.
Of course, the superiority of first impressions has been expounded upon by many theorists. It's the main theme of Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink.

And yet, when I think of how many times I've been distracted while trying edit something, it's a wonder that I catch anything except glaring typographical errors. These days, when my critique group meets, I close my eyes to better concentrate when an author reads his or her work. It seems to help.

It's a cliche among stand-up comics, but I have to say it: when you name your kid something like "Gardner Botsford," you'd better be prepared for him to get beaten up in school. On the other hand, if your kid survives childhood, he'll probably end up in a job at The New Yorker. The drunk felon on "Cops" wearing a wifebeater and a three-day growth of beard never has a name like "Gardner Botsford."