Archive for September, 2010

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: It’s All About Quantity

Today’s nugget was gleaned from a literature class I am currently taking. My teacher presented the following quote from Jules Renard in class. My response is below.

“Talent is a question of quantity. Talent does not write one page: it writes three hundred. No novel exists which an ordinary intelligence could not conceive; there is no sentence, no matter how lovely, that a beginner could not construct. What remains is to puck up the pen, to rule the paper, patiently to fill it up. The strong do not hesitate. They settle down, they seat, they go on to the end. They exhaust the ink, they use of the paper…In literature, there are only oxen.”

There is a lot of hope in this statement. It puts our fates back in our hands and gives us the ability to proceed. We don’t have to depend on something innate, beyond our control, to determine whether we can or cannot write. It’s so obvious that I’ve never thought about it before, but it is true: anyone can compose any sentence. No magical power is required to do so.

In this statement Renard claims the key to producing great work is to produce tons of work, and then, I presume, to pick out what is best. Hopefully, if there is enough work to choose from, then some of it will be very good. And it goes without saying—but I will say it anyway—that all of that work will be great practice to improve the work as the writer goes along.

It makes me think of J.K Rowling who managed to write a story that has resonated through this decade and touched all varieties of people like no other in my lifetime. But she patiently plodded along, like an ox, and wrote for years before she ever produced the first book. She wrote thousands and thousands of words that never went into her books, carefully laying foundations, getting to know her characters, and honing her craft until she could choose the very best bits of text to go into her books.

This advice from an expert novelist and playwright has caused me to renew my dedication and keep moving forward. And hopefully some day I too, will offer the same advice to those who want to know how I did it.

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Don’t Just Ban Comic Sans, Replace It

There is a war raging. One side is fighting to obliterate a beloved champion of the people. The typography world has long been disgusted and outraged by the general popularity and overuse of the typeface Comic Sans. Their aim is to “eradicate this font from the face of the earth.”

Comic Sans is bubbly, silly, and wasn’t even well thought-out, apparently. According to Wikipedia, Microsoft designer, Vincent Connare was working on program with cartoon characters that spoke in Times New Roman and recognized the need for a more informal typeface.

After combing the Word typeface catalog, he found nothing appropriate, and quickly designed his version of comic book lettering. Comic Sans shot off like a rocket among Microsoft users. (Ironically Connare now sympathizes with the haters.)

Frankly, it’s hard to believe that typeface designers haven’t already jumped on this. I believe most word-processing software now include Comic Sans in their typeface catalogues. They pay Microsoft royalties in order to do so. There’s obvious market interest on this point.

So why do the haters object so violently? After perusing BanComicSans.com (which was truly an entertaining way to burn an afternoon, by the way. I definitely recommend it.) I gather they object on several points. First, fonts are supposed to convey meaning, and Comic Sans projects nothing but lightheartedness.

What can I say? Duh. Hence the value.

Second, Comic Sans holds no respect for tradition. It was created without regard to rules and guidelines that have long since been “established standards of this craft.”

I’m all for preserving and respecting the traditions set by the stone-carvers and typesetters that worked so hard at their craft. They deserve it. And that history is still relevant to the work that goes into a typeface design today. However, in the marketplace, value should be somewhat dictated by the consumer. Surely someone in the typography profession is smart enough to address and merge these two points.

BanComicSans.com also points to the constant inappropriate use of the font. Warning signs, angry letters, hospital department ads have all been given a naïve spin, because their designers should have made better decisions.

I once heard the use of Comic Sans compared to wearing a clown suit to a black-tie affair, and I agree, there are tons of situations where Comic Sans is wildly inappropriate. But what about my three-year-old’s birthday party? I’d much rather show up in a clown suit than an evening gown. Likewise I’d feel just as silly displaying party banners printed in Bookman Oldstyle or some such.

It is also true that Comic Sans is used to death these days. I even avoid its use, because mainstream popularity has pushed it to the point of cliché. But I continually search unsatisfactorily for a replacement.

So, attention typography world: there is a need to fill here! If you don’t like Comic Sans, fine. Get rid of it. But please provide us the product we are asking for. Give us something appropriate already!

Your turn beloved reader. Where do you weigh in?

Snippets from Kathryn Stockett

Several months ago Kathryn Stockett—who wrote the Help; see previous post for my review—paused her book tour at the King’s English long enough to share some pearls. So clutching my s.r.o. ticket in my hands, and doing my best to control my fan-girlie giggle, I joined fellow-bloggers, Sharla of Winter Write, Melissa of One Librarian’s Book Reviews, and Suey of It’s All About Books for a delightful evening with a genuine southern belle.


Sharla and I were lucky to find a seats with a great view—on the stairs!

Here are my favorite snippets from the Q&A session:

  • She ruffled lots of feathers to write this book. People tended to close-lip when she started asking questions. Some members of her family don’t even speak to her anymore! (Which absolutely validates this book in my opinion)
  • But, she wrote it thinking no one would read it, so she didn’t care if she crossed taboo lines.
  • After 5 years and 60+ rejection letters, she finally stopped telling people she was writing a book.
  • But, she appreciates all those rejection letters, because they gave her the “thick skin” required to deal with the strongreactions people have to her book
  • The first cover for the Help, the one she fell in love with, was of a black woman’s hand holding a white child’s hand. The publishers vetoed it quickly though, and after 25 more possibilities, Stockett no longer cared what the cover looked like. However, she often wonders what the current cover has to do with anything.
  • She was too afraid to write in Hilly’s voice (Hilly represents the traditional, often hypocritical façade of the time) because it “freaked [her] out” to “go there.”
  • The Help receives mixed reactions from both races. Some say the book holds true to their experience, others are uncomfortable or upset.
  • Vernon Jordan, adviser to Bill Clinton, once told Stockett that while he was a chauffeur for the mayor of Atlanta, he had some similar experiences to those mentioned in the book.
  • One woman from Mobile said she hadn’t remembered seeing separate bathrooms for help and asked Stockett if that was exclusive to the Jackson area. Stocket claimed she read many accounts about separate bathrooms in Mobile and all over. She said she even sees them in older New York apartments occasionally.
  • Stockett’s own experience growing up in the south took place as recently as the mid ‘70’s, but she set the story in the early ‘60’s to coincide with the Civil Rights movement.
  • Stockett’s own maid who raised her from birth was Dimeteri, a second cook, handed down to her grandma. During Stockett’s awkward years, Dimeteri would whisper to Stocket that she was beautiful and important and talented. Stockett credits Dimeteri with establishing her self-confidence.
  • Now that Stockett understands the sacrifices that Dimeteri made in order to raise her, she is overwhelmed and thankful for Dimeteri’s gift.