Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Now You See It: The Visible Publisher

A good publisher is invisible.”

Alison Baverstock—publisher, author, and lecturer—spoke these words during the first week of class last semester. She threw me for a loop, along with the other fifty-some students in the Kingston Publishing MA. After all, we were there for a specific purpose, to learn how to become publishers. It wasn’t encouraging to hear that the key to being successful in my dream job is to remain invisible. I don’t want to be like Mia in The Princess Diaries film—lying alone in the rain, contemplating my insignificance (“I’m invisible…and I’m wet.”).

But I’ve remembered Alison’s words for a reason, and not because I’m afraid of being sat on or forgotten in my irrelevance. Scary as it might seem, the invisibility of a good publisher rings true. I’ve seen this first-hand. How many times have I enjoyed a book’s pristine design and flawless type? How many times have I comfortably read its content, enjoying the words that flow through my mind as easily as off my tongue? I have a publisher—or several—to thank for those small pleasures, even if I take them for granted sometimes.

And yet, I can also think of instances when I have been distracted by certain mistakes in my readings. Even the smallest flaw can—to borrow a theatre term—break the fourth wall between the reader and story. A misspelling here, a clunky sentence there, maybe even a gaping plot hole are all shocks that remind me that there are forces other than the author at work in producing this book—and someone fell short in seeing it through to perfection. In this case, the quality of the finished product can make the consumer forget the work that goes into producing it in the first place, whereas its imperfections reveal the chinks in the publishing process.

Unfortunately, it seems like this form of visibility for publishers is increasing with Kindle and E-reader sales. I’ve only owned my Kindle for a couple months, but I have noticed more errors in the downloaded material than in the physical books. In fact, there hasn’t been a single e-book with the flawless quality I’ve come to expect from good publishing. And if a Google search is any indication, I am not the only Kindle customer who has noticed the lacking quality in e-books; one article even claims that this negligence in editing makes Kindle books look like “cheap copies of the originals.” If digital publishing is truly the future of the industry, then shouldn’t publishers put that much more care into mastering the form and perfecting the content? Otherwise, they risk being visibly called out for failing to fulfil their responsibilities in improving the work.

If these observations are accurate, being a visible publisher more often than not means possible infamy or incompetence, to an extent. Working in relative anonymity is part of a publisher’s job, so if I want people outside the industry to recognize my name or work, becoming a publisher wouldn’t be the best option. But fame has never been my goal, anyway. And invisibility does not signify insignificance.

I’ll just have to take comfort in the fact that if I discover the next J.K. Rowling, my name will be written right beneath hers. In invisible ink.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mind The Gap

Over a week ago, I graduated from Grand Valley State University on May 30. As in, I walked across the stage, shook President T. Haas's hand, did the Running Man on camera, and strolled demurely back to my seat with diploma in hand. It still doesn't seem real, but that could have been because the ceremony itself was such a whirlwind, where I was only one in thousands to graduate.

But that wasn't really the case the night before, at the Honors College Recognition Ceremony. Dr. J, the president of the Honors College, wasn't kidding when he said that was our night, because that was definitely a night when all of us smart freaks felt special, and were recognized for going above and beyond the general curriculum. And I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Outstanding Senior Award, the highest honor the Honors College can give, for which I was recognized and expected to give an inspirational speech to the assembled students.

I stressed over this speech for days beforehand, taking advice from Jenn's high school valedictorian speech and trying to accommodate my family's somewhat outrageous requests (no, Sean, I will not draw attention to the DICK-tionary as a veiled shout-out to you). But I finally came up with something I was proud of, and felt that it fit the situation when I spoke at the Recognition ceremony. So, I have posted my speech below, because I am very proud of it and otherwise, it will fade into virtual obscurity.

Good afternoon, and welcome to the family, friends, loved ones, and faculty members of the 2011 graduates of the Frederik Meijer Honors College, and thank you for helping us through. I’d also like to add a special thank you to my family, who have taken up a table by ourselves and are probably among the loudest in the room—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You know, it’s times like these when it’s good to have a twin—otherwise, we wouldn’t have had enough tickets! But most importantly, congratulations to the graduates themselves. Because as Dr. J said, it’s our night, our celebration, and we should enjoy it.

If you’ve ever been in a train or subway station—whether in New York, Chicago, London, Paris, Beijing, wherever—you may have noticed that there’s a small space between the edge of the platform and the train door. It’s usually only about six or seven inches wide, nothing too daunting, but big enough to catch your suitcase wheel or trip you if you’re not careful. It’s one of those small inconveniences to keep an eye out for, especially if you’re a bit clumsy or unobservant, or you tend to read when you’re walking…or all three. Apparently, there are a lot of people like…that out there, because the subway stations in London warn their passengers about this space before people even get on. They have an announcement on the PA system: Please mind the gap between the train and the platform. Sometimes, like on souvenir T-shirts, it’s just shortened to Mind the gap. Kind of silly, really, but I’m sure it keeps at least a couple people from tripping.

As college graduates, we are facing that gap. We are at that space in our lives between the platform and the train, between our academic work and what we have been working toward. For some of us, this space might be the span of a summer, little more than a pause and a transition between two different degrees. For others, the gap might require a little more patience while applying for jobs or grad school. It might be the width of an instant or the span of months before we step onto the train that will take us to our next destination.

And we, like many others, have the opportunity and the education to make something of our journey. But we also have a unique advantage as graduates of the Frederick Meijer Honors College. Because our platform, our foundation at Grand Valley, has equipped us with not only knowledge, but experiences unlike any other. We have all survived a grueling Honors curriculum and maintained high standards of work throughout. We have all run the marathon that was our Civilization sequence, and we have conducted independent studies for our Senior Projects. Many of us have studied abroad—from Egypt to France, Chile to China, all over the world. Some of us have participated in service trips, or even sponsored our own. We have worked in internships and clinicals, presented at national conventions, published work locally and nationally, served as ambassadors and spokespersons. Forgive me if I’ve left anything out, but I don’t think we have the time to list all the achievements of the graduates in this room.

A famous writer—you may have heard of him—once wrote: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. As much as I love Shakespeare, I think he left a part out. We are not only the ones to achieve greatness, but to seek greatness. Haven’t we already? And after all we’ve accomplished at Grand Valley, can you just imagine what we else we can do? I am looking at a room of break-through researchers, best-selling writers, leading physicians, politicians, and philanthropists, and world-changers in the making. And though we might be headed to different destinations—grad school, the workforce, mission work, or someplace else altogether—we shouldn’t forget that we all left from the same platform.

But we also need to keep in mind that one silly piece of advice, to mind the gap. Because that is where seeking greatness has the potential to turn into something good, in the decisions and the difference we try to make as we move from college to whatever is waiting ahead. However narrow or wide that gap may be, we can still make something of it. So tomorrow, when we become official Grand Valley graduates, regardless of whether you walk across the stage or not, remember: seek greatness, but do good, and mind the gap in between.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ah, Young Love in Les Miz

So I just finished reading Les Miserables (yes, all 1222 pages of it). For the past few months, I've been obsessed with the musical and thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Bawled my eyes out in the end, to tell the truth. What I really found funny yet oddly insightful were the parts about the love developing between Marius and Cosette--a love that seemed reminiscent of puppy love. I thought a couple points were both amusing and noteworthy, and wondered how viable these points are today. I have little to no experience in the realms of love at this point in my life, so I wanted to hear what others thought of them.

So, without further ado...

What Victor Hugo's Les Miserables Taught Me About Young Love:

1) "The first symptom of true love in a young man is timidity, in a young woman, boldness. This is surprising, and yet nothing is more natural. It is the two sexes tending to unite, and each acquiring the qualities of the other" (756).

Does anyone else think that is a fascinating idea? That a woman becomes bolder and a man more timid when faced with love (or attraction)?

2) "There is another law of these young years of suffering and care, of these sharp struggles of the first love against the first obstacles, the young girl does not allow herself to be caught in any toil, the young man falls into all" (758).

Okay, I just thought this was funny. The example in the book explained how Jean Valjean (the protective father figure) was suspicious of a developing relationship, but Cosette hid her feelings so well as to dispell any doubts. Marius, on the other hand, fell into all the traps set for him and behaved like an obviously love-struck puppy. Valjean concluded that: "This booby is madly in love with Cosette, but Cosette does not even know of his existence!" And yes, he really called Marius a "booby".

Both entertaining and enlightening. So what do you think? Post if you can, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these ideas, foster some discussion and whatnot.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Gro Baby™ for my New Niece?

Well, it's official! My older sister has finally had her new baby, Lillian Michael. She was born on July 27th, at 8:36 a.m. She weighed 6 lbs, 3 oz, and was 19 inches long. I'm staying at their house right now, and she is one of the cutest little peanuts I've ever seen--besides Lily's older sister, Avery, of course.

My real reason for blogging today is as a favor to my older sister. You see, she heard about a diaper giveaway that was being awarded to bloggers, and it seemed like the perfect option to help her out. She's been planning on using cloth diapers for Lillian, and she finally narrowed it down to Gro Baby™ Cloth diapers brand. Of course, as the single and amazingly cool aunt, I don't have much personal experience with diapers just yet. I'm also not planning on having any kids soon, so I haven't had to consider whether I'd use cloth or disposable. However, from the info that I've read about Gro Baby™, it sounds to me like Chris and Michele have made a good choice. Using Gro Baby™ will help them to save money, as well as contribute to saving the environment, since cloth diapers are so much more ecologically friendly than disposable. Plus, from all accounts, my parents used cloth diapers when I was a baby, and I turned out okay, didn't I?

So all in all, Michele and Chris have decided that Gro Baby™ is the diaper for them and if it works out for them, I just might have to consider the possibilities...WAY in the future, that is.

1) Must be a new blog/pic, etc.
2) You may blog about your likes/dislikes for Gro Baby™ OR post a new pic of your babe in Gro Baby™ OR blog that you'd like to try Gro Baby™ .
3) ALL, must be accompanied with this link,
4) Email your link/address to WITH BLOG
GIVEAWAY in the subject line.
5) We'll send each participant ONE FREE Pre Production Shell Set in
Blackberry (sorry no other colors available)
6) One per family please.

For Lillian's sake, I hope this works!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Yes, I Am Still Alive

I know it's been embarrassingly long since my last post, and I honestly have no excuse as to why that is. Plus, this post is not going to be the longest, either. I can only say I am sorry.

At the moment, this blog is under construction--so to speak--as I try to revamp the idea and figure out if there's anything interesting about my life now that I'm back in Michigan. As I mentioned early on, I created this blog in order for my friends and family in the States to read about my experiences in England. So--as it says in one of my favorite books--if a thing was created for a reason, you better hope that reason still exists. Because when the one is gone, so is the other.

Don't worry, I'll be back soon though. Just give me some time to brainstorm and revamp the whole point of my blog.

Friday, June 5, 2009

So Much for the Countdown...

It is my last night in Surbiton...already. It's been a busy week, what with packing and last-minute sights to see. It seems to have sped by. I still have one more night to spend at a hotel in London, but then on Sunday, I'll be flying home to Michigan!

It's hard to believe that four months have gone by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday that I arrived in Surbiton, trying valiantly to stay awake to get with the time change. I'm sure Mom remembers me bawling my eyes out on Skype because I was so exhausted. In the time I've spent here, I've seen and done things that I never would have been able to had I not taken this opportunity. It's been amazing. I've made new friends, seen some awesome sights, tasted different (but not always appetizing) food, and just experienced and enjoyed life in a different country and on a different continent. So here's a brief lowdown of the highlights that have happened in the last four months. I know you'll understand if I don't really include anything about school...who would ever consider that a highlight?

Musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Hairspray, Les Miserables
Plays: The Winslow Boy, Pitmen Painters, Romeo and Juliet
Movies: The Secret of Moonacre, He's Just Not That Into You, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Watchmen (which I DO NOT recommend), X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Young Victoria, The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Star Trek
Other: Carpet premiere of Night at the Museum 2
England: London, Kingston-Upon-Thames, Surbiton, Brighton, Bath, Stonehenge, Chawton, Winchester, Oxford, Lacock, Manchester, Haworth, Liverpool, Stratford-Upon-Avon
France: Paris, Tours, Angers
Scotland: Edinburgh
Ireland: Dublin
Curry, Kebabs, Fish and chips, Toad in the Hole, Bangers and Mash, Haggis, Deep Fried Snickers Bar, Irish Stew, Crepes, Escargot, Yorkshire Pudding, Gelato, Creme brulee
Jane Austen House Museum, Sherlock Holmes Museum, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Tromphe, Notre Dame, Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh Dungeon, The Eagle and the Child pub, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Houses of Parliaments, Westminster Abbey, London Eye...
Okay, I'm bored of this already. Suffice it to say, I've done and seen a lot and it's been amazing. But as I've been telling people, I'm thrilled to be going home...just not all that happy about leaving, if you get what I'm saying. On the one hand, I will be going back to my family and friends back in Michigan. Not to mention Frozen Cokes and Taco Bell and air conditioning...and a car. I will definitely not miss England's public transportation system, however handy it was to the stranded traveler. On the other hand, I've made some amazing friends here, that I had to say goodbye to tonight. I'm hoping to stay in touch with everyone through Facebook and such, but who knows how well that'll work?
All in all, Sunday's departure will be a very bittersweet event. And the next time you hear from me, I will probably be on American soil again!

Friday, May 29, 2009

From the Ghostbus to Fried Mars Bars!

I returned from Scotland yesterday, and fortunately I brought back a lot of new stories and memories! Unfortunately, my camera still won't transfer everything that I want it to. Oh, well. Anyway, I'm just going to post a brief recap of my trips to Ireland and Scotland.

Dublin, Ireland:

I flew to Dublin early last Thursday...VERY early. As in, I went to Luton Airport late Wednesday night and had to stay the night in the airport. My flight arrived at Dublin Airport around eight in the morning, but the hostel check-in time wasn't until two in the afternoon. You do the math. Needess to say, I got a lot of reading done waiting in a nearby cafe. I didn't get a lot accomplished in the first day, since I was trying to catch up on sleep. Plus, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I had no idea where the hostel was in the city. I was afraid of wandering too far away and not being able to find it again.

Jenn's plane got in on Friday afternoon, and that's when the real vacation started. We checked in at a different hostel and this time, I made sure to find out where it was on the map. We didn't have much time left in the day, so we mostly wandered around O'Connell Street, looking around the souvenir shops and picking up dinner.

On Saturday, we took a free walking tour of Dublin, where the tour guide explained the history of the Vikings, Celts, and Normans. The tour took two hours, and luckily the rain held off long enough for us to get safely inside. We were able to explore Grafton Street for a while, which was fascinating due to the street performers and different shops. My personal favorite was a puppetmaster and his wooden puppet. The guy was so gifted that the puppet seemed to be alive...and he was that funny, too! That was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip; that or the tour I took that night. We bought tickets to Dublin's Ghostbus Tour...Amazing! The guide was hilarious, and the tour took us to a cemetary and the Forty Steps, which is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in Ireland. I can't honestly say that I saw any ghosts or spirits, or even that I believe in them any more than I did before. But the tour was fun regardless.

Our flights left Sunday night, which still left enough time for one last adventure. We ended up--where else?-- at the Dublin's Writer's Museum. I mean, come on! Jonathon Swift, Oscar Wilde...what literary enthusiast could resist? I certainly couldn't.

Looking back on this trip, I can't say that Jenn and I did that much in terms of events or activities. Rather, we just enjoyed being in Dublin, seeing the sights, and relaxing rather than running all over the place trying to do everything at once. I certainly got a lot of pictures anyway!

Edinburgh, Scotland:

I took this trip with four friends from the Kingston Study Abroad program, and it was just as fun, though in a different way. We took a taxi to catch the early flight this time, so at least there was no staying the night in the airport. I don't know if I could've handled that a second time!

We flew out on Tuesday morning and returned Thursday evening. In that time, we took a walking tour of Edinburgh (free, of course), visited the Palace and Edinburgh Castles, and went to the Edinburgh Dungeons. Just like the Ireland trip, this was pretty "chill." We even made a habit of taking a nap--our siesta--in the middle of the day. Although the first day, we definitely went a little overboard in the nap department. The scenery was gorgeous; there was nothing better than walking down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and hearing the slight sounds of bagpipe music (I'm not kidding about the bagpipes; performers were everywhere!) I even tried haggis, which, if you don't know what it is...well, it's probably better if you remain ignorant. It didn't taste bad, though. The flavor and spice was good, even if the texture was somewhat weird. Another Scottish delicacy I tried was...a deep fried Snickers bar. I know, it sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen, and it looked disgusting. But it was delicious! I could've easily eaten another one, it tasted so good! Speaking of Scotland, they deep-fry everything! Pizza, Mars Bars, Snickers, pickles, even cheeseburgers! And I thought I was adventurous by trying the Snickers bar!

Edinburgh is also a big place for Harry Potter fans, since J.K. Rowling got much of her inspiration from the city. Hogwarts is there, as is the inspiration for names she used, such as Tom Riddle and Minerva McGonagall. Just a couple fun facts, I guess. I was also interested to visit the Elephant House Cafe, which was where the writer first penned Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. J.K. Rowling isn't the only literary figure from the Edinburgh area, nor the most significant. Sarah and I went to the Edinburgh Writer's Museum, where we explored exhibits about Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter Scott is especially renowned in Scotland, as he helped to bring the kilt back into the culture. Who knew?

We returned late last night after spending a pretty relaxing last day exploring the shops and taking pictures of everything. Needless to say, though, we were pretty exhausted when we got back, especially since we missed out on our siesta yesterday! :(

And I know I've neglected Edinburgh a little when you compare this account with the one I've written about Dublin. But I hope you'll forgive me! My time's running short, figuratively and literally! Not only do I have to meet a friend for dinner, but I only have ten days left to spend in England! So expect to see the return of the countdown!