The New Yorker’s invisible woman

Over the weekend, I discovered a TED Talk by famed New Yorker copy editor Mary Norris, and I was delighted to find that I could share it here! Some of my favorite lines from her talk:

• “Our purpose is to make the author look good.”

• “If we do our job well, we’re invisible.”

And I wanted to cheer when I learned that she, too, abhors “the singular their,” a usage which gives us sentences like, “Everyone in the vicinity held their breath.” What does Norris say about this use of “their” with a singular antecedent?

• “To give it legitimacy, copy editors call it ‘the singular their,’ as if calling it singular makes it no longer plural. It is my job, when I see it in print, to do my best to eliminate it.”

If you have 10 minutes, I think you’d enjoy watching this talk. And if you do, I’d like to hear your own takeaways!


Fine Books & Collections Magazine

current_coverDo any of you remember the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup slogan, “Two great tastes that taste great together”? Well, I love magazines and I love books, and a few months ago I was delighted to discover a combo of the two every bit as awesome as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Fine Books & Collections is the name of the magazine, and I’ve just received my second issue in the mail.

I’ve already told my husband that I’d like to visit the new American Writers Museum, a subject of one feature, the next time we’re in Chicago, and of course I love all the advertisements about rare book auctions. (Would you pay $11,250 for a first edition of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind? Someone just did.)
But for my money, the best article in this issue is Biblio 360, the magazine’s guide to book clubs and societies, membership libraries, classes and seminars, exhibits, conferences, book fairs, and festivals. I was quite intrigued to learn about such bookish groups as:
The American Society of Bookplate Collectors & Designers. People collect bookplates? That’s one area I’ve never explored, but maybe I ought to! (
• Fine Press Book Association. This group has the goal of “promoting the appreciation of beautiful books and printing skills.” (
• The Miniature Book Society. A nonprofit organization, this group promotes “all aspects of the book arts with special affection for the small format.” (
• The Movable Book Society. I tend to move my books from stack to stack around the house, but that’s not what this means. This is a group of enthusiasts of pop-up and movable books. (
And if you’d like to keep up with such intriguing book news for yourself, you can visit the Fine Books & Collections website for a free sample issue here.

On authors and their politics

As a former journalist, I am and forever will be anti-censorship. Goodness knows I don’t want whichever administration is in power at the moment telling me what I can say/think/write. But should novelists write about their political beliefs? And is it wise to do so? Some might argue that those with a platform have a responsibility to do so.

I visited the Facebook page of a popular author last week. I simply wanted to know what she was writing next, but instead I was treated to her thoughts on the new president and his administration, her experience in a local women’s march, and a brief bit of back-and-forth with some readers who disagreed with her views.

I had mixed emotions upon seeing her political posts. On the one hand, I often admire those with the guts to stick up for what they believe in. This author clearly feels very strongly about some things going on in our country right now, and I assume that she wants to make a difference regarding those policy areas she disagrees with. (Me too!) But while I actually agreed with much of what that politically minded author had to say, I was disappointed that she seemed so in-your-face with those who disagreed with her.

On the other hand, I read a Facebook post by another author who shared an opinion I disagreed with very much. We are polar opposites on the specific issue she addressed, yet she acknowledged those of us who hold another point of view, tried to explain how she views the issue, and was so respectful of her readers that she even invited them to contact her privately for further discussion. I was greatly impressed by her respect for her readers and by her constructive, thoughtful manner of engaging them.

So now I’m less interested in reading the author whose political opinion I agreed with, and I’m more interested in reading the author whose opinion I disagreed with. I finally realized that one author showed her readers respect, and one did not. Respect wins me over every time, no matter what opinion you may hold or which side of the aisle you sit on.

Do you mind reading about an author’s political beliefs? Does it affect how you view the author?