Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"The World Is Covered With a Fine Patina of Fungal Spores": Popcorn by The Colonel #45

Believing that marauding feral mutant boars, possibly from space, may signal the End Times, shy people are finding the nerve to go up to their crushes for the first time and, if not actually speak to them, make hand gestures of the “give me money now” sort.

The Colonel never knows what title the editors of The Eye will give his submissions. He can only hope they have some relation to the content of the piece, and aren't cynically slapped-on with the only goal of getting clicks and eyeballs. Anyway, here's some inside baseball:

Being an established writer with a column in The  Eye, The Colonel receives innumerable, often indecipherable manuscripts, poems, curricula vitae, photographs, ostraka, marriage proposals, requests for advice, autographs, and monographs, requests for DNA samples from prisoners claiming innocence, requests to write students’ homework, term papers, love letters, doctoral theses, memoirs, autobiographies, best-sellers, cryptograms, etc.  

The Colonel does what he can to help these souls, usually by publishing their work as his own, as long as there’s no evidence that it was sent certified. Why look for trouble?

On occasion, it seems prudent to send the author a copy of his or her own manuscript (certified) with a cover letter to the effect that The Colonel just finished writing the enclosed manuscript and wonders what he or she thinks of it. Never too soon to think about how to win litigation.

Anyway, it now seems efficient to publish a few hints ‘n’ tips ‘n’ tricks to help aspiring writers. The Colonel plans to print a postcard of them like Edmund Wilson’s and mail it to submitters.

“Thank you for your correspondence. Please forgive the cold indifference of this canned response. Please resubmit your manuscript after revising it to conform to following guidelines:

“1/ Eliminate adjectives and adverbs, especially definite and indefinite articles, to give work feel of translation from Slavic language.

“2/ Be sure passive voice is excised from sentences in which it is used.

“3/ In poetry, never rhyme ‘tree’ and ‘industry.’

“4/ Never worry about ending a sentence with preposition, because last word in sentence automatically becomes postposition.

“5/ Never hesitate to split infinitive. Lincoln, great writer, was famous for splitting. Okay, he split rails, but you can adapt. Originality is but adaptation. Lincoln was vampire hunter, so you can become apostrophe hunter. Adaptation - get idea?

“6/ Foolish hobgoblin is consistency of little minds, so don’t feel you must always use (a) double-quotes, (b) single quotes (inverted commas -- very pukkah), or (c) no quotations marks at all (Joyce hated them). Don’t be afraid to strike happy compromise, as by using double quotes to open quotations and single quotes to close them. Or no opening quotes but double closing quotes. Eventually you will find your own unique voice.

“7/ When spell check gives you alternatives, pick third one, as you do on multiple-choice tests when you don’t know answer.  Microsoft is as naive as SAT people and always puts correct answer in third position. Like old Soviet embassies: third assistant secretary was always real boss.

“8/ Check facts, check facts, check facts. Recall words chiseled into archway over entrance to New Yorker magazine fact-checking department: “Accuracy is Next to Godliness, and Cabots Speak Only to God (Lodges? Lowells? Whatever.)”

“9/ Unless your work is in form of weather report, or is weather report, don’t begin with mention of weather, and don’t end with suicide, unless you are Goethe and main character is young Werther, or you are J.D. Salinger and main character is Seymour Glass, perfect bananafish guy. Oops -- belated spoiler alerts. If weather and suicide are essential to composition, start with suicide and end with weather. ‘First shall be last and last shall be first.’

“10/ Speaking of Bible, please not to let your participles dangle. Gird them up as if you are going on journey. Don’t quote Bible unless comfortable doing so. If comfortable quoting Bible, don’t, because King James Version no longer intelligible, and later English translations (Ivan, how say 'nekulturny' in English?) barbarous. So lay off Bible, but is not okay to substitute quotations from Nietzsche.

“The Colonel looks forward to receiving your revised manuscript, triple-spaced with one blank side per page, accompanied by digital version on erasable, reusable CD, thumb drive, or both, and ten-dollar processing fee in cash and check payable to order of ‘Jimmy Popcorn or I. Dontcare.’ If cash gets through okay, check will be destroyed uncashed. If check is cashed, assume cash was pilfered enroute. Please include stamped envelope with easily removed self-addressed label and enough postage to return manuscript by priority mail. Unfortunately, submissions cannot be acknowledged or returned. Happy verbiage!”

No comments: