SKA: Open the door, Lynda! Hurry up!
ER: I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying . . . [NOT hurrying to the door. Spilling coffee is bad.]
SKA: Look, I have her!
SKA: I kidnapped her from Florida—
SKA: —and . . . all this snow keeps falling and we needed some sunshine.
SKA: Plus, I was getting bored, and thought a new toy would do us good. She is one of your kind, Lynda: an editor!
[Pulls hood off "guest" to reveal a very confused person, dressed in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, shivering like crazy.]
ER: Oh. My. Goodness.
Shivering Stranger with Mouth Duct-Taped Shut: Hrmm mmmm nnnnnnn.
ER: Oh, dear. Well, fast is better in these situations. [Rips tape off efficiently, albeit not painlessly, from the look on the stranger's face.] Have some coffee and warm yourself, poor thing. Or would you like an ice pack for your . . . um . . . lip?
[To SKA] What in the world have you done? You brought me a toy? That's a PERSON! This had better be good. You've got some 'splainin' to do, Lucy.
Stranger: [Screams.] Eeeeeeeeeek! NO, I do not want an ice pack, thank you very much. I'm already so cold it's unbearable. What is that white stuff out there on the ground? Where am I and why am I here?
[Glares at SKA.] And you . . . you . . . I am not a toy. Of whom do you think you speak?
I [pauses dramatically] am the Queen of Grammar.
SKA: Exactly. Lynda, meet Janie Junebug, the Queen of Grammar toy. She's all adorable and makes me feel warm inside. I think she's a cute bug born in June or something, and that's why she can be our sunshine while it snows.
Oh, Janie, I brought you here so I can eat popcorn, or whatever goodies we can find in Lynda's kitchen, while I watch you two discuss correct gra—oh . . . I might not have thought this through. Yikes! I . . . I . . . got myself sandwiched between two grammar police officers, didn't I? Now you two are going to both gang up on me and my grammar. O_O
ER: Janie Junebug! It's so nice to meet you. I've heard a lot about you, although I have to admit, I've never entertained the thought of you in my kitchen . . . unwillingly . . .
Oh, well. I'm always one to make the best of a situation. You, dear Janie, just happen to have shown up in my kitchen for Coffee Chat day! And that means coffee. And . . . um . . . chatting. Oooh, and sometimes sticky buns, though I suspect my kiddos eat them while I'm not looking, since there are never as many as I remember setting aside.
[SK gulps and looks around nervously.]
S.K., I think—even though you may have broken a significant number of federal laws—you've done a good thing. We are going to have a great time today!
SKA: Oh . . . I don't know about that now. I think I'm just going to break all the grammar rules I can think of so neither of you can judge when I make a real mistake.
JJ: Break away. We shall judge kindly, but fearlessly.
ER: We should probably say "with kindness" so we're not using too many -ly adverbs.
SKA: I don't verily agree with this. Me thinks kindly that being fiercely knowledgeable in adverbs is . . . errr . . . okayish? I'm trying to say this slowly and gently so as not to be too headachey to yous.
[ER and JJ look at each other in horror, momentarily speechless.]
ER: Oh, dear. This is worse than I thought. We'd best just move right along. Janie, as an editor, do you have any pet peeves when it comes to the way people write?
[A long moment of silence fills the kitchen. JJ has not moved for two solid minutes, nor has she closed her mouth.]
JJ: I feel faint. I need coffee. Would you call for a servant, please? I'll take a frozen mocha peppermint with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.
[Waits, impatient, tapping toe, and then continues in disgust.] Of course, I dislike the confusion between "your" and "you're." I don't want to lose "lose" through loose usage. I detest the use of "hopefully" to modify a sentence. Disorganization sends my OCD into overdrive. Don't be wordy. Learn to punctuate.
I can't help the way I was raised: I want precision. Everyone must seek the best possible word at all times. And I have to point out that I'm not wearing a Hawaiian shirt and would never wear a Hawaiian shirt. It's Lilly Pulitzer.
But I must walk a fine line between fussiness and people's feelings. I don't want to kill someone's desire to write because his grammar is less than stellar.
S.K., What are some problem areas for you when you're writing? Do you have writing issues?
SKA: Goodness . . . where do I start? I think my major issue is that I’m a comma lover. At this point, I understand comma splices better, but I’m still guilty of them. Commas are just cute and adorable, and cuddly . . . okay, off topic. I’m not a fan of semicolons—ahem, excuse me while I back away from you two.
ER: I love semicolons. [Eyes glaze over.]
SKA: I think I need to get better with descriptions. I prefer to keep it vague so readers can make up their own image, but some readers ask for more. Dialogue tags: I don’t care for them. So I try to address by name, or with action without having too many “he said/she said," but in a group setting I might not have tags as clear as they should be. I would like to blame the readers for not paying attention, but ultimately it’s my job to make it as smooth as possible for them.
ER: I remember you telling me (after we’d watched a Badly Behaving Author meltdown) that if an author has to argue with a reviewer by explaining things the reader didn’t “get,” then the author didn’t write it well enough to begin with.
SKA: I think I know a fair amount of punctuation and grammar rules to get by, but it would never be enough. At the very least I know the difference between "your/you’re," "their/they’re/there," "affect/effect," "could/would/should of" and "could/would/should’ve". So based on that alone, I think you should forgive me for kidnapping you, Janie. :D
[ER nods in agreement, hoping for no police charges.]
SKA: This is just my opinion . . . Lynda can give you the real deal on my trouble areas. [Laughs.] (And Lynda, it’s perfectly fine to share them in public.)
ER: Oh, I'll dish all right. But you'll have to tune in next week to find out the rest, because we're out of coffee, and our . . . ahem . . . butler . . . is off duty now.
Come back next Thursday so we can finally let Janie go home to Florida!
Janie can be found at http://dumpedfirstwife.blogspot.com/ where she has the loveliest blog, and on Twitter @JanieJunebug. But for right now, she can be found right here in my kitchen, mostly because she's not dressed for the outdoors.
You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is www.skanthony.com, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing.
You can find me here. I'm always here.