Tag: workshop

Ebooks and Accessibility – a few words I find myself explaining on a daily basis


I normally keep my work life separate from my personal life, which for me, includes my blog. While I love my job and take pride in my work, it’s not my entire life. But I digress – the reason I mention this at all is to say that, for once, it’s time for me to talk about work on my blog.

I work as a Digital Products Assistant at The MIT Press. I’ve been there about a year now, and I still have to explain to everyone (including people I work with) what my job actually entails – which is, in a word, ebooks. I convert them from print book formats (using some basic HTML/XML and CSS coding), send them out to vendors (like Amazon, so you can read them on your Kindle), and spend the rest of my time figuring out what to do when things go wrong. That last one takes up about 60% of my work day.

Anyway, recently I’ve become interested in another aspect of publishing that no one understands: accessibility. It’s closely tied to ebooks, in that people are asking how we, as publishers, can make our digital content accessible to those who can’t read our print books. As you might expect, it’s not a simple question. In addition to trying to educate my coworkers at the Press, I’ve been trying to learn the basics of this myself.

And somehow, because of my interest in accessibility, I now have the opportunity to lead a workshop at ebookcraft, a conference held annually in Toronto specifically for ebook developers (like me). This is completely terrifying, but also amazing (but mostly terrifying, if I’m being honest). Luckily I have the support of my entire department, my friends and family, and one of my peers at Michigan Publishing, who is much more experienced and wise than I am.

One of the best things about me being so interested in learning about accessibility is that I have the opportunity to share information with others who feel just as lost as I did not too long ago. Recently I wrote a blog post about some of the basics of accessibility in publishing, and if you’re curious, you can read it here.

Moving Forward (with a little help)

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It always happens – you start the year off well, writing and reading (or generally achieving whatever goals you set for yourself). But slowly, over time, things fall to the side. You start spending more time watching Netflix and staring at your phone than doing all of those things you said you would do.

It’s no secret that many of us could use some help staying motivated, and I am definitely one of those people. So, in early December, I decided to apply for a ten-week long novel workshop at GrubStreet. I kind of figured it would be a long shot, but by some miracle (and some help from my writing group on the sample I submitted) I was admitted, with a scholarship!

This means that, starting January 8, I’ll be attending a weekly workshop. In many ways, that’s not unusual. I spend a lot of time meeting with writers, sometimes workshopping and sometimes just chatting, but other than classes in college, I’ve never been in a formal workshop. They’re casual, and because of that, the feedback is often pretty casual as well. It’s not that it’s not helpful, but it’s definitely not always as targeted as I would like it to be.

I’m a little nervous, considering the fact that I’m sure many of the writers will be much more experienced than I am. It’s the usual apprehension I have when I get ready to share my work with a new group, only a little stronger. This class is also supposed to help you finish and polish a novel in progress, which is a bit scary in itself – as any writer will tell you, declaring something “finished” or “ready” is not an easy thing to do.

But I’m also excited, since I started my novel around this time last year, and it’s been at a bit of a standstill for the past six months or so. I’m hoping that the extra eyes and perspectives can give me the boost I need to fix some of the problems I’ve run into and finally decide that the novel is finished and ready to send out. So here’s to accepting help and moving forward in 2017.

Trusting the Workshop

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We tend to think of writing as a personal, internal experience. Thought to paper, right? And that idea is fine until someone actually reads your work. Then you have to think about what your writing means, its relationship to reality, what people think of it–all the stuff you would rather avoid while just continuing to write.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that sometimes I wish I could stay in that oblivious stage and just keep thinking, “this is the best thing I’ve ever written.” But this isn’t the life of a writer–at least, not a good writer.

Tomorrow my story is being workshopped in my Advanced Creative Writing class, and I’m nervous. I’ve thought it through, in the agonizingly long week since I’ve turned in my story, and I think the reason I’m nervous is not just because I don’t want them to dislike it. I’m nervous because I really like the story (more than any short story I’ve ever written) and I don’t know how I’ll react to negative comments.

We say criticism isn’t personal. That’s true. But writing is personal, and sometimes it’s hard to separate something that is such a part of you from the words, “I didn’t like…” It can often feel like a stab to the heart.

But workshops are about trust. The readers trust that I am attached to this work, that I have given them my best. I trust that they know this, and that they will be cognizant of it. I trust that they have my (and my story’s) best interests at heart when they offer suggestions or critiques. I trust that they only want me to be better. And if all of these things are true, then I know I’ll be able to make it through workshop (but wish me luck, just in case).

The Art of Helping Others

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I had a sort of epiphany this semester.

In my creative writing class, we spent a lot of time workshopping our short stories. I made a comment about one girl’s work, and she told me after class that I always had the best responses and that I really helped her see the direction of her story.

My professor also told me this in one of our conferences. “You make great comments,” she said. “It’s often hard for students to find the balance between positive and critical, but you have it.”

It was a great feeling. I love writing, and I’ve always enjoyed the process of editing, but I’ve never really thought about how great it is to be able to help other people love writing as well.

We often see art, especially writing, as a solitary activity, and this can be limiting. When you work on writing with a group, or even just a partner, you make a commitment to help them make their writing the best it can be.

Just like it’s nice to share something you love with other – whether it’s a favorite meal, movie, or song – it’s good to be able to share the love of writing, that feeling you get from someone enjoying your work.

I think this is one of the reasons I want to become an editor. I know the feeling of being told my work is great,and it makes my day to be able to tell people the same thing about their work.

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