Tag Archive | writing

Reflecting: The London Launch of SophisTEAcation

(This post first appeared on www.inspiralit.com)

SophisTEAcation, by Desiree Sitompoel, was a delightful project on which I served as editor and content developer.

SophisTEAcation, by Desiree Sitompoel, was a delightful project on which I served as editor and content developer.

It was pretty much a dream come true to attend the London Book Fair in April for the launch of SophisTEAcation: An Anthology of Porcelain Teacup Collecting. When publisher Laura Prinsloo of KeSaint Blanc Publishing in Jakarta, Indonesia asked me to develop the content for a unique coffee table book on the art and collecting of porcelain teacups, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  Really?  You’re going to PAY me for this?

Not really. But close.

You see, I’ve loved teacups since I was a little girl and observed my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s collections, loving the way they clinked the tiny silver spoons against the china cups as they and my mother stirred their tea.  And when I got to drink from my own cup …. oh, bliss!  There was a teacup shower for me when I was a young bride, and then over the years I accumulated my own collection, and my china cabinet is now blessed to be home to some of the very cups, creamers, and sugar bowls that once belonged earlier generations of women in my family.

All that to say, this was a fun project.  So it was icing on the cake when I was invited to fly to London, along with the publishing team from Jakarta, to participate in the launch of SophisTEAcation at the London Book Fair!

 

Highlights of the book launch

Highlights of the book launch

It was great fun to meet Laura and byline author, artist, and teacup collector Desiree Sitompoel as they are both delightful and SO talented. Desiree owns an impressive porcelain teacup collection and a teacup shop in Jakarta (“Mamitoko”), which were the basis of the book.

I very much enjoyed being a part of the Indonesian exhibit at the book fair. (I did receive quite a few interested stares and quizzical looks when other conference attendees saw my name badge indicating that I was from Indonesia.  I was the only blonde on the team!)

With Laura, Desiree, and our moderator, Sari

With Laura, Desiree, and our moderator, Sari

 

The Indonesian Ambassador to the UK attended and gave a speech at our launch, and took the whole team out to dinner at a lovely Chinese restaurant in Kensington afterwards.  What a treat.

Right now SophisTEAcation is only available through the Indonesian publisher, KeSaint Blanc in Jakarta, although they are actively selling international rights and they hope to have it soon in the US, Canada, and elsewhere. (Last I heard it had been picked up in England, the Philippines and Poland). You really have to see it to appreciate the stunning photography, exquisite typesetting, vellum pages, and just overall ooh-and-ah factor! It covers the history of the teacup and favorite brands, how to start your own collection, proper tea etiquette, how to care for and display your teacups, and so much more.

Just for fun, you can see the Indonesian TV coverage of the launch of SophisTEACation here. I hope you get the chance to obtain a copy someday!

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Time for a Time Out

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When my kids were little, when I felt overwhelmed and pressured I would go into the bathroom and lock the door, just to be alone. As they pounded on the door, demanding to know why I was taking SO LONG, I would offer the excuse, “Mommy just has an upset tummy …” (small totally understandable white lie, right?).

It’s been a lot of years since then but the need to be alone once in a while persists. But the bathroom as a location for a personal retreat just doesn’t cut it anymore. 🙂

Even though I am legitimately a people person, “alone” is where I do my best thinking, praying, reflecting, producing, and reprogramming. And boy, did I need it this month! So earlier this week I took myself on a little personal retreat (thank you to my husband and daughter who were so gracious to get along just fine without me for a few days!).

We have access to a condo at Mt. Hood, Oregon, a three-hour drive from our home. It was me, my computer, a few books and magazines, and a knitting project for my soon-to-be-born granddaughter. Long walks in the woods. A trip to the snow. Three days with no appointments with anyone other than God. It was glorious.

This was the path to the river, right outside my doorstep:

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I sure don’t have these moments on a daily basis! The refreshment to the soul is priceless. I took smooth stones from the river, wrote my kids’ names on them with Sharpie marker, and brought them home to keep in a dish on my desk for little prayer reminders and a memento of my retreat.

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I drove a half-hour to the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood where I parked myself at what was obviously an anointed desk near the window (See top picture above; I can’t believe I caught this image with just my phone!) to work and look out at the snow. I took work with me because part of my purpose was to FOCUS … and to get some traction on a few editing projects I was struggling to stay on top of at home. It was SO MUCH MORE PLEASANT in this inspiring environment!

 

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It was surprising to me, how productive I was, and yet how refreshed and re-invigorated, on my little “working personal retreat.” I did the things “I” wanted to do. Not having the TV on (as it often is in my house when the family is around) was peace to my nerves. Spending some time in prayer, talking with God about my family, my work, and some friends who are going through hard times. Listening to classical music and working on a knitting project or perusing cooking magazines and planning my holiday baking and menus. Swimming laps in the cold air at the end of each day, in a heated pool with steam rising into the dark autumn sky. Wow, I actually liked spending time with … me!

The last day of my retreat I received an email in my inbox from a friend whose blog that day just happened to be why we need personal retreats from time to time!  It’s well-worth a read. And, if prayer is what you want to focus on, on your own retreat, my friend Cynthia Bezek has written a book called Come Away with Me that will help you do it. She has certainly been an inspiration to me in that department.

I am home again and back to reality, feeling on top of things and much refreshed. I think I’m much better for my little “time out,” and I hope my family agrees!

 

 

 

 

Grammar Tips for the Average Joe (or Jo-Ann)

Okay, so as an editor, I admittedly deal with grammar more than the average Joe (or Jo-Ann).

In fact, when my Hillary (now 14) was in first grade, I rode on a school bus with her class as a field trip chaperone. (Yes, I rode on a bus with 75 first graders–without a sedative, which is pretty much the equivalent of childbirth without an epidural.  I did that, too.)  Anyway, enroute I overheard the following conversation between Hillary and a classmate:

Little Boy:”Hey, Hillary, what does your mom do for a job?”

Hillary: “She corrects people’s spelling.”

It was humbling, to say the least.

Most people’s livelihood doesn’t depend on knowing how to spell properly or knowing how to conjugate verbs. HOWEVER, and I say this in all caps because it’s IMPORTANT, the degree to which you DO pay attention to spelling and grammar can make a big difference in how well you get on in the world.

That’s because bad grammar can make you look, well, bad. 

I’ve been doing some playing around with different topics on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter, just to get a feel for what kinds of things people seem to respond to and be interested in.  Guess which of my Facebook posts of late has gotten the most response?  The one about grammar!  (Although, the one about getting moles out of my yard seems to be running a close second.) It seems folks care more about grammar (and moles) than one might think. People do notice how well you do (or don’t) express yourself.

Here’s a fact: if you want people to take you seriously, you need to at least half-way sound like you know what you’re talking about. And if you can’t get at least the basics of either spoken or written English right, how credible of a candidate are they going to consider you for a job, position, speaking engagement, etc.? It may not be a fair judgment of your actual abilities. But I’m telling you, it’s REALITY.

I came across an article that speaks to this–so far as it relates to writing–in a succinct and user-friendly way. So, rather than re-invent the wheel, I’ll just re-post it for you here.  Hope you enjoy … and if it’s helpful, all the better!

——

(Note: this next part is an excerpt from an article on CopyBlogger.com, by Brian Clark.)

What are some mistakes that can detract from your credibility? While we all hope what we have to say is more important than some silly grammatical error, the truth is some people will not take you seriously if you make dumb mistakes when you write, and buying from you will be out of the question.

Here are five mistakes to avoid …

1. Your vs. You’re

This one drives me insane, and it’s become extremely common. All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say.

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your blog.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re screwing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are.”

2. It’s vs. Its

This is another common mistake. It’s also easily avoided by thinking through what you’re trying to say.

“It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, as in “this blog has lost its mojo.” Here’s an easy rule of thumb—repeat your sentence out loud using “it is” instead. If that sounds goofy, “its” is likely the correct choice.

3. There vs. Their

This one seems to trip up everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread.

“There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.” Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.

4. Affect vs. Effect

To this day I have to pause and mentally sort this one out in order to get it right. As with any of the other common mistakes people make when writing, it’s taking that moment to get it right that makes the difference.

“Affect” is a verb, as in “Your ability to communicate clearly will affect your income immensely.” “Effect” is a noun, as in “The effect of a parent’s low income on a child’s future is well documented.” By thinking in terms of “the effect,” you can usually sort out which is which, because you can’t stick a “the” in front of a verb. While some people do use “effect” as a verb (“a strategy to effect a settlement”), they are usually lawyers, and you should therefore ignore them if you want to write like a human.

5. The Dangling Participle

The dangling participle may be the most egregious of the most common writing mistakes. Not only will this error damage the flow of your writing, it can also make it impossible for someone to understand what you’re trying to say.

Check out these two examples from Tom Sant’s book Persuasive Business Proposals:

After rotting in the cellar for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

Uhh… keep your decomposing brother away from me!

Featuring plug-in circuit boards, we can strongly endorse this server’s flexibility and growth potential.

Hmmm… robotic copy written by people embedded with circuit boards. Makes sense.

The problem with both of the above is that the participial phrase that begins the sentence is not intended to modify what follows next in the sentence. However, readers mentally expect it to work that way, so your opening phrase should always modify what immediately follows. If it doesn’t, you’ve left the participle dangling, as well as your readers.

P.S. You may find it amusing to know that I have never learned the formal rules of grammar. I learned to write by reading obsessively at an early age, but when it came time to learn the “rules,” I tuned out. If you show me an incorrect sentence, I can fix it, but if I need to know the technical reason why it was wrong in the first place, I go ask my wife.

Thanks, Brian, well said!  ~A.