19 April 2007

Typesetting and bios

Last night and today I've been doing the typesetting for Poetrix. I rather enjoy typing up the poems because it gives me a better feel for the poets' rhythms. I have to say that this issue is a particularly diverse one with lots of scientific words, which almost made me go gooey inside. I would list them all here, but I've done an unusual thing in that I've done the typesetting before we've actually sent out the rejections and acceptance letters. It's just that the mood hit me, strongly, so I asked Sherryl if I could take them home straightaway, and bring them back tomorrow (that was yesterday, so today). So none have been sent yet -- not that I expect any of the Poetrix submitters are likely to be reading this.

I'm less enthused about typing up the bios. Some authors present me with nice succinct bios that I can just put in as is, but many give me none, in which case they get a "So and So is a poet who lives in Such and Such", which I always find a bit bland. However, I totally respect that some poets may prefer to remain anonymous, or may shy about sharing something about themselves, and that's fair enough. Interestingly, when I'm doing the typesetting, they always seem to be together alphabetically, so I'll have four in a row like this, then several full ones, then another four one-liners.

Lots of poets give me too many lines and then it's up to me to craft their bios. How much crafting I do depends on how squeezed I am for space (decided by how many poets we've accepted, and how many of these are one-liners), how long the bios are, how pressed for time I am and, yes, I hate to admit it, but how good a mood I'm in. Many are long lists of magazines the poets have been published in. I have mixed feelings about these. On the one hand, they are as boring as all get-up to read; on the other, they make the newer poet aware of some of the markets out there. I much prefer the more-personal bios that tell me something about the poet as a person.

Good information to include is a list of the poet's books if she (and I can safely say "she" because Poetrix only publishes women's poetry -- as a result of a very real gender imbalance and bias by some of the male editors who were around at the time of Poetrix's inception). Again, titles let newer and more established poets know who's publishing collections, but also it's a chance for the poet to market something they can sell. As a reader and writer, I'm far more impressed by a collection than a list of magazine titles, perhaps because I have the latter myself, but not the former?

What I don't see much of are silly bios -- they seem to be more prevalent in SF magazines, and some of my friends write these. Sometimes they're pretentious. Sometimes they're wacky and amusing. Sometimes they're just nonsensical. I'm ambivalent about these. Occasionally, I think they give me a sense of the writer's personality, but more often I just think they look unprofessional. I've done them myself in the past, but not in the last few years. I must admit I hate writing bios. Mine always seem boring -- a statement of facts, but at least I don't have to worry that some editor might read over it and think me a total nut.

So back to today's. I try to treat all author's the same, ie allot them all the same number of lines. If they don't use their quota, that's fine, and if they exceed it, then snip, snip. I start with maybe five or six lines each, then whittle down. I think that in this issue, bios will run to five lines, but sometimes it's only three. Today I've edited by the newspaper principle -- ie assuming the writer put the most important information first. However, for one author it meant the long list of magazines got in, and the collection didn't, so I cut the list. I'd rather cut the whole list than a few titles in it (though I did leave in some Best of... titles, as they are more impressive). So, tomorrow, I'm returning the poems, which will give me a break so that when I do the first round of proofs my eye is fresh. Then the group will do a second round of proofs later. I'll sit out at that stage, because by then I'm too familiar with the work, and the mistakes will all be my own, so I'm more likely to miss them. Proofreading is a slow and laborious process, but oh what a difference it makes.


Snail said...

Silly bios can go either way ... but mostly they take the wrong turn. I do have a deep fondness for a line from an early version of Terry Pratchett's bio, though:

He started work as a journalist one day in 1965 and saw his first corpse three hours later, work experience meaning something in those days.

Tracey said...

lol. Yes, that's a great one, isn't it?