23 February, 2010

Idle Musings as I Procrastinate...

Somehow, midterms week is right around the corner, and yet I feel as though I just arrived. Funny how time seems to stand still when I'm anticipating something, but when I want time to stretch on, it flies.

At work today, I actually heard the British pronunciation of the word "aluminum" for the first time. I mean, I know they pronounce it "aluMINium," but it was funny to hear someone use it. I giggled, and she looked at me a bit funny.

And speaking of words, I have not heard a single person use the term "bloody hell," nor the word "bollocks." I have, however, learned that the British don't use the words "garbage" or "trash," and will indeed look at you oddly if you use them. They prefer the term "rubbish," which sounds silly to me. A trash can is called a "rubbish bin," or just the bin. I've heard several people refer to bathrooms as loos, but I feel silly when I use that word, so I've taken to calling it the toilet, since they don't really use the term bathroom that I have heard. Today I learned a new word: swish, which means posh or swanky, and I rather like it. I don't really try to use British slang very often, although sometimes a phrase or two will just pop out. (The other day I used the word dodgy and didn't even mean to! The accidental times are the only times I feel okay about doing it, because it's far more natural than forcing it into my everyday speech.) I have started using the words "quite" and "rather" more often than I have in the past, and I've found that especially when I'm speaking with an English person, my accent changes noticeably. Not on purpose, but just sort of naturally.

I've also realized how much I've had to "neutralize" my own speech. Like I said, I don't force British slang into conversation, but I've significantly cut down on my use of the word "awesome," as well as a few other American-y words. I've learned that when people ask where I'm from, answering, "The US," makes me sound stupid, and answering, "New York," makes everyone think I am from the city. (Anyone who has any idea of where I am actually from knows that this is FAR from the case.) I've taken to telling people that I am from, "New York. But the part of it you've never heard of."

A lot of the Brits I've encountered seem to think that the US is comprised of a few cities: NYC, LA, DC, Chicago... and that they are all spread out about our vast country. The rest of the US, as far as they are concerned, is full of cowboys and rednecks. One thing they all know, though, is that the US is far bigger than their tiny country. A very drunk guy asked me a few weeks ago to name all 50 states and took my inability to do so to mean that our country is far too big for us to handle.

People on the streets have stopped making fun of our accents, or at least, we haven't heard them do so. I've stopped hearing people yell "HOWDY!" if I utter a single word while in South Kensington (A very studenty district. Full of rude, drunk British uni students, at least on weekends.) and we, in turn, have stopped being noisy on the tube. (British people DO NOT TALK on the subway. Unless they are drunk. It's horrendously unsettling.) We either encounter people who love Americans, or think they are far better than us. We met a group of (again, drunk) guys on the subway on Superbowl Sunday, wearing miniskirts and football jerseys of teams not even playing that night (They were supposed to be cheerleaders. Hence the miniskirts.) who absolutely loved us. One got down onto the ground to examine my friend Lindsay's jeans.

"Are these bootcut?" he asked, taking the fabric into his hands and pulling it, as well as Lindsay's leg, up to his face. "Yes," he decided after a minute. "They are definitely bootcut."

They also enjoyed my exciting new hat that I bought at a market, although one claimed it was a bit too "mainstream" for me, and they were absolutely shocked that we weren't planning on watching the Superbowl that night. (the Superbowl didn't start here until midnight, and we all had school/work the next morning.) After exclaiming loudly how much they loved Americans, and after one flew right down the subway car during a quick stop, yelling at the top of his lungs, "IT'S NOT ME, IT'S PHYSICS!" we bid our incredibly inebriated friends farewell and went home to giggle about our encounter.

The city of London has been really fun to explore. I live literally a block away from Hyde Park, and this weekend I woke up, got dressed, and decided a walk in the park was exactly what I needed on one of London's rare sunny days. Let me tell you, the place is HUGE. Ponds dotted with swans, geese, ducks, and plenty of birds I can't name, the edges lined with children holding out their hands to feed them. Dogs roaming without a leash, entire herds of them barking and playing until their owners call that it's time to go home. Rollerbladers, cyclists, skateboarders, lovers walking hand in hand, mothers with infants in strollers, tourists with their cameras, artsy folk with their sketchbooks, lone intellectuals with their books of poetry, people like me, taking everything in. I walked that park for three hours, never once stopping or leaving, never once checking my watch, and I only managed to see maybe half of it. It was the closest thing I've felt to home since coming here, probably because for a few hours I forgot I was in the city. It made me miss my dogs a lot, and trees. I even saw hoof prints in the mud, and it made me miss the barn.

We also adventured in Covent Garden this weekend. Full of street performers, magicians, acrobats, Captain Jack Sparrow impersonators, human statues covered head to toe in metallic paint, and little markets, it was a fun place to be. We wandered in and out of there for awhile, and then took a walk to Piccadilly Circus. We found Somerset House, where Fashion week is being held, and tried to pretend like we belonged there, faux-confidently weaving in and out of skinny models and fashionistas who were eyeing us suspiciously, silently glaring as if to say, "You're not a size two..." Giggling at our own audacity, as we walked out we literally nearly knocked over Bonnie Wright, the actress who plays Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films. It was our little brush with fame, even though we didn't realize it was her until we'd already passed. Don't worry though, I'll find more famous people. Thursday, I'm going to Leicester Square for the Alice in Wonderland premiere. Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton, Anne Hathaway, Alan Rickman... I'll take lots of photos.

Well, I feel like I have sufficiently procrastinated away the past hour or so. It's nearing dinnertime, and I'm seeing a show tonight for one of my classes. No Dame Judi Dench in this one, though. I saw her last week. And yes, I'll stop shamelessly name dropping.

No, that's a lie, I probably won't.

Anyway, until next time!

Love you all,

18 February, 2010

Monster Update, Part I

Hello, my darlings. I'm afraid I haven't been able to write in awhile. There's not enough Internet for me to check my email, let alone update this blog. So I'm taking to writing this all out offline and will update it as soon as I get a chance. (Today is the 13th of February, just for reference, so we'll see how long this takes to get posted...)

So I'm well into my internship at Discovered Authors publishing, and so far I really love it. The place itself is a single room office in Bloomsbury (It's a room in Bloomsbury! Like the song in The Boyfriend! Iroquois drama kids will get the joke, everyone else, just disregard.) and it's directly across the street from the stunning British Museum. Just google search what it looks like and imagine it full sized, viewable from the window. Yeah, it's that gorgeous and awesome. The office itself is a tiny room in a very old building. There's a few desks, a fridge, and some filing cabinets. I'm one of four or so people who work there, and the company just relocated, so decoration is pretty sparse. But eventually we're going to have a sofa and bookshelves, and probably some art done by Hannah, one of my colleagues who does cover design and typesetting.

I've been doing a lot of submissions critiques, which means I read the submissions sent to the company by amateur authors and critique them. Basically, I get to choose whether or not they are published. We publish most things at DA, just under different imprints, which means we offer more funding based on how good the book is, and publish it under a different name if it's not the greatest. The worst ones are more of an assisted self-publishing plan, in which the author pays for most of the services themselves and then receives royalties when their book is released. The good ones receive editing, marketing, etc in a package from us. My only issue with reading submissions is that I'm not supposed to read the entire book, just the beginning, a section in the middle, and the end, to check for style continuity. But everyone who knows me at all knows that I am physically incapable of putting a book down once I've started it without reading the entire thing. I've taken to copying the manuscripts to my flash drive or desktop to read at home in my spare time... hehe. I am never without reading material!

I've been helping a lot with marketing, since DA's marketing guru just left the company and no one else knows what to do about it. I've a title (well, several) for my shiny new email address, Marketing Assistant, (also editorial assistant or publishing assistant depending what I am working on at the time or who I am talking to.) and I'm basically taking over marketing for a few accounts, meaning I make a lot of phone calls (nerve wracking!) and have to be really vigilant on deadlines and what kind of audience the book is intended for. I have to come up with ideas for creative ways to market the book, or perhaps even market the author as a selling point. I have to keep up a running email correspondence with all the authors I'm working for, and they are all extremely sensitive about everything, and seem to think their work is the only thing I have to do. Sorry, but I can't spend 24/7 on your account! (One of the authors I'm working for is named Paul Rudd. Like, the actor. Like, the guy in Anchorman who uses sex panther cologne. Only I've never actually seen him, since he's quite Lemony Snickety about his identity, so I can't be sure. But I feel like his refusal to be known by his real name and real identity as an author is incriminating. I am convinced he is Paul Rudd the actor.) The whole thing is hard, and scary, but I'm getting the hang of it, although I feel a little weird about it because these authors think I'm a professional, and I'm actually just an intern who's never done this before! Thank God for my mad improvisational skillz!

I've also started doing some editorial work, which is my FAVORITE so far. There are two types of editorial jobs I do: a basic poof-read and a more in depth enhanced edit. For a basic proof-read I check the manuscript for spelling and grammar errors. I'm basically a human spell check. For an enhanced edit, I go a lot more in depth. I do the basic spelling and grammar stuff obviously, but I also check for content, characterization, plot, continuity, and offer my own suggestions, such as where to tighten up or elaborate, or whether a certain chapter is even relevant, etc etc. I really love doing this, it's like uber active reading, or like when I read a book and decide that something really annoys me about it, but in this scenario, I HAVE THE POWER TO TELL THE AUTHOR IT NEEDS TO CHANGE. It's so cool. Sometimes it sucks because some of the books I read are only for a basic edit, but are not the greatest, and I really want to do an enhanced edit but I'm not allowed to due to the several hundred pound price difference... so that's pretty silly.

DA is turning out to be pretty awesome, as you may have guessed by my rave review. I basically get to sit in a cosy office and read books and drink tea. ALL DAY! It's like what I do in my spare time! Only I could potentially be paid for this, if I weren't an intern! As it is, I'm getting credit for it! I really love everything about the publishing world so far, except for the fact that it's so static. As much as I love reading books, I wish there were a more active aspect of the job.

Let's see, what else has been going on here...

Well, classes are going quite well, I still really like them. We've been seeing about two shows or so per week, which is awesome, as a lot of them are really amazing productions. One of my housemates, Emily, liked the production of Richard III we saw so much that she emailed the actor who plays Richard, and they're now in contact on Facebook. We saw Priscilla Queen of the Desert last night, and it was the most AMAZING show I've seen in a long, long time. A disco show about a group of drag queens on a bus, it was soo much fun. We had the most awful seats, in about the last row on the highest balcony, but even the restricted view didn't stop me from having the time of my life. It was just such a fun show. I wanted to sing along to pretty much everything, and the costumes were hilarious. Absolutely spectacular. If anyone ever gets the chance to see it, I highly recommend it. I'd see it again if tickets weren't so expensive...

Next month we'll be having spring break, and we're going to Rome and Athens for ten days, which should be entirely amazing. We're going to try and get in a day trip to Venice whilst we're there. Travel is very cheap within Europe, and with the exchange rate lowering (£1 is worth $1.50 now instead of $1.70 or so! Woohoo!) we're going to take full advantage of it.

Within London, we've been checking out a lot of different areas of the city. Last weekend we ventured out to Portobello Market and Camden Market, which are both these amazing (and HUGE) open air street markets that sell everything you could think of. Clothes, accessories, baked goods, souvenirs, food, crafts, art... it's all there, and it's all so cool. Easy to spend a lot of money though, so I went to them with very little in my pockets so that I would only buy things I really wanted. (Some cute cheap dresses, a donut as big as my head, and a really great hat that I wear nonstop.) Portobello sold all these really cool antiques, like old brass keys, gaudy jewelry that will probably be back in style in a year or so, hand-painted china teacups with gold rims, photographs from forgotten weddings or family gatherings, real silverware, some in mismatched sets, ancient books with tissue-thin pages, old cameras (which Lauren practically drooled over), and random little things like buttons or lace handkerchiefs. I loved it, and I wish I were rich enough to buy some of those things, especially those books!

And this past weekend, Emily and Lauren's friend from Norway, Stian, came to stay with us. He was funny, and I quite enjoyed hanging out with him. Also, he and my mother absolutely love each other, apparently, from the reactions I got from each of them based on a thirty second Skype interaction...