Monday, September 22, 2008

Meetings and musings

Saturday I attended my second MORWA meeting, and am now a member. I'd been planning to join for a while. My national RWA membership got a little hairy for a while--somewhere between my application and their data entry person, my email address got typoed. And so I failed to receive any of the "welcome" messages and it took nearly 1.5 months for the snail mail welcome package to arrive (and an exchange of emails to get my address corrected for access to the website). I sent in my dues, btw, about a week before the national convention, so I had expected that things would get delayed. Somewhat. In the mean time, the local chapter didn't have a meeting in July, and the August meeting was the same day as a work picnic that I was planning, so it took a while for me to get back.

Saturday was nice. I went, again, with my friend Amanda from The Berry Patch. We arrived at the Barnes & Noble early, laptops in tow, for a little writing time. Quite productive writing time for me--close to 1000 words or so. The meeting was good. We went out to lunch afterwards. I think that was the longest single stretch of pleasant all-female interaction I've had in, well, probably years. Maybe since the last LLL meeting I went to (when my now-4yo was still breastfeeding)? In the field of software engineering, women are rare. And when getting together with friends, I frequently end up in the technical conversations (with the guys, who in our circle seem to be all engineers).

At the meeting, there was a speaker talking about editing. By editing, she really meant grammar. I found the talk to be only mildly interesting. I'm not a nitpicky kind of person who enjoys pondering the nuances of the semicolon versus the period. And I think I have a pretty good handle on proper grammar. Not that I'm immune to mistakes, but that 95% of the time my mistakes are made by fat fingers (and a brain that's thinking 3 directions at once) and not a lack of awareness of the rules. And, of course, I could care less whether "1950s" is preferable over "1950's" but it's "50's" over "50s"...I am betting that if my writing is ever rejected soley on nitpicky grammar rules, then I am better off finding a different home for it.

I have the same difficulty at work--peer reviews (the software equivalent of a critique) in our group tend to contain many notations about how we're using "+" and "&" interchangably, and how there is supposed to be one space after the apostrophe before a comment, or a '* to designate a specific kind of comment. Nitpicky. And the kind of detail that my brain reads right over, understanding the meaning, and missing the distinction between having a single space or not.

I think it's related to my foreign language skills. If I got caught up on the exact meaning and translation of every single word, I would barely make it through a sentence without giving up. Instead, it will take me about half a page to realize that I'm reading--and mostly understanding--Portugese (and that its not Spanish, the language that I actually know). Yes, that has happened to me (and I was exceedingly confused as to why the airplane magazine had printed the same article twice in a row...until some word looked funny).

Ok, climbing down from that soapbox. The point of my little monologue wasn't that a talk on editing is useless. Not at all. It's just my reflection on my own attitudes towards it. There are definitely grammar-related things that I should work on. And there are some things that I will probably never care about. Funny, I had much the same conversation about "code standards" at work earlier, too....


Robin said...

I'm so glad you joined your local RWA chapter! I think you'll really enjoy it. I've gotten so much out of mine and made some great friends. When I'm writing I don't worry about my grammar too much because I don't want to lose my voice. I know I'm far from perfect, but that's what CP's are for, right? And I'd also like to think that an editor cares more about the words than the punctuation - that can be worked on during revisions.

Amanda said...

I was hoping for more from the editing meeting too. But what she said was helpful for when you're polishing a MS.