Recent Fairy-tale Projects

Since I last posted, I completed my master’s degree in English, moved house, worked on dozens of projects, and got a dog and six chickens. But today I’d like to highlight three recent-ish projects that are on the same topic: fairy tales.

Channeling Wonder: Fairy Tales and Television, edited by Pauline Greenhill & Jill Terry Rudy

The first project, Channeling Wonder: Fairy Tales on Television, is a collection of scholarly essays edited by Pauline Greenhill and Jill Rudy and published by Wayne State University Press. I indexed the volume, and it was a pleasure to read (not to mention the fact that it fed into research for my master’s thesis). The topics contained in the book are broad, and the various authors bring unique concerns, interests, and perspectives to the discussion about fairy tales on television. And look at that cover! Isn’t it nice to find an academic press that takes a little pride in the designs as well as the content?

The book spawned another project I worked on: Fairy Tales on Television. I was one of many research assistants and contributors who made the searchable database and functional data visualizations possible. The database is a research tool for researchers and creators whose interests intersect with fairy tales and television. I’ve used it for research of my own, and I might be preparing an infographic summarizing my findings. (So stay tuned for that.)

PersinetteOutside of academia, I also had the opportunity to work with Laura Christensen, a French-to-English translator who translated “Persinette,” a literary French fairy tale similar to “Rapunzel.” Laura translated the tale, wrote a delightful introduction, provided some biographical information on the author, and included introductions to and public-domain translations of the Grimms’ “Rapunzel” (which was published after “Persinette”) and Giambatista Basile’s “Petrosinella” (an Italian tale published before “Persinette”). I copyedited the text (except the public-domain translations) and formatted everything for its upcoming ebook release. Laura lets you know where you can find her collection on her translation website.

Announcing My First Book

Spiced Sugar Cookie Truffles

Spiced sugar cookie truffles

I’m not exactly new to publishing, working with publishers, or working with materials that I know will be published. But my latest project does have me doing something new: instead of editing the work to be published, I’m helping to write it!

Right now I’m working on a joint project with children’s author Rick Walton to put together a Christmas book for Familius, a new press specializing in family-centered books and collections. The book is going to have short stories, poems, recipes, and activities for families to use during the Christmas season. The experience is, so far, a lot different than editing.

Writing Nonfiction

One aspect of the book that isn’t difficult for me to adjust to is writing nonfiction. I’m writing the recipes and many of the activities, but honestly, I haven’t written any fiction in a long time. Right now I blog, write summaries, and write research papers, so I’m used to a wide spread of nonfiction styles and voices. I haven’t ever written recipes before, but considering the fact that I used to be the kind of person who could get lost in even the simplest set of recipe directions, it isn’t too difficult to make sure my recipes make sense.

The tricky part of this, for me, is that instead of editing the text to align it with someone else’s idea of what the branding and voice of the book should be, I need to decide for myself and reflect that decision in my word choice, topic selection, and more.

Writing Christmas Nonfiction

The biggest problem I’ve had so far is the fact that I’ve been testing recipes for Christmas … in September and October. Among other things, I’ve made peppermint meringue cookies (difficult to do when you can’t find candy canes in the store), spiced sugar cookies (which aren’t too weird, because the spices I used are associated with fall as well as Christmas), and two types of hot chocolate. The temperature has been up in the 70s or higher lately, so convincing people to taste-test the hot chocolate was a bit of a challenge.

Book Release Details

I don’t have a publication date for the book yet, but it will be out as an ebook this Christmas season (if all goes well, hard copies will come out next year). I’ll keep you posted on the details as I get them.

From This Reader’s Shelf

Today I’m going to take a timeout from being a Serious Editing Professional and let you in on a secret: most every editing professional is a hopeless, passionate book lover. Don’t let them fool you with their comma-tinkering, fierce plot critiques, or official-sounding titles. Many of them are astute, professionally trained, and incredibly skilled, but underneath those things, they’re enthusiastic readers. I’m no different.

To give you a peek at my reader-life, today I’m going to share a look at my bookshelf. This is a special bookshelf: it’s transient. I’m in the middle of a months-long visit to an Air Force base, but since it’s only months long instead of a year or more, my husband and I left most of our books in my parents’ shed in Utah (thank heaven for their free space; we stole plenty of it). Here are all our books, minus books of scripture, those in foreign languages, and those I’m currently reading.

Kristy G. Stewart's Bookshelf

The Breakdown

Some of these books are titles Mr. Stewart and I have acquired since arriving here: you’ll see both Thief’s Covenant and The Rook, books that have only come out since the start of the year. There are also some necessary work-related books: the two most recent versions of The Chicago Manual of Style (or as I like to call it, BOB, for Bright Orange Bible); Eats, Shoots & Leaves; Editors and Editing; and Rewriting (which is the most useful book I’ve ever found about academic writing). Not shown is the APA publication manual.

Seven of the books directly draw on folklore or collect folktales. Yes, I read both the tales and the commentary included in The Classic Fairy Tales (edited by Maria Tatar). That’s the black book between Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Best-Loved Folktales of the World.

There’s only one book of poetry (prose is more my speed). Unless you count my Poe collection, which has both poetry and prose.

Yes, I have a complete collection of Poe covered with creepy red decor. I also have a less-complete collection packed in my parents’ shed.

Genre-wise, there’s biography, YA, dark fantasy, satirical fantasy, science fiction, horror, war fiction, nonfiction, and instructional books on screenwriting and typography. There is also a whole host of classics, but they’re contained in that sneaky little eReader on the bottom left, hidden beneath Billy Collins. (I don’t love my eReader, but I love that it carries my classic library for me.)

The books that are horizontal on the bottom of the shelf are books I brought because I am frequently set upon by sudden impulses to re-read them, so I couldn’t bear to leave them. Included in that list is Night Watch by Terry Pratchett, one of my favorites in his repertoire, which is also hidden in the eReader. If I had a hard copy, I would have brought it.

I haven’t read four books on this shelf: John Adams (I just haven’t been able to sit down to a page commitment that big since we got here), the Dean Koontz books on the right (recent acquisitions from my father-in-law), and The Hundred Dresses on the top left (a recent acquisition from my mom).

Kristy G. Stewart's "Currently Reading" Stack

In addition to that abused shelf, I have three books that I’m currently reading or am about to read. They migrate through the house with me, from kitchen to couch to bedroom and back. One of them (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland) just arrived today, and it’s hard to make myself wait to open its covers. I probably won’t hold out much longer.

If you could only bring one shelf’s worth of your books with you on a months-long expedition, which ones couldn’t you do without? Do you ever read more than one book at a time?

(Rules: Saying “I’d get an e-version of everything and just take my Kindle” doesn’t count unless you really do have your entire library on your ereader. In which case, if you only had a shelf’s worth of memory on your ereader, which files would you keep?)

5 Tips for Popularizing Your Scholarly Writing

Though I frequently post about fiction, a lot of what I edit is nonfiction, especially scholarly theses, dissertations, journals, and books. Every realm of scholarship adds something to our lives, and having the chance to work with scholars from different fields is something I relish about my work. The trouble is that most scholarly research never leaves the halls of academia to find a general audience.

It doesn’t have to be that way, and ideas don’t necessarily have to be dumbed down to reach a general audience. If you’re a scholar who wants to popularize some of your scholarly work, here are a few principles you should follow.

Define Your Terms

Old BookIn scholarly writing, you and your academic compatriots have a lot of words you use as shorthand for ideas. This is useful: it helps you understand one another, it helps you know who’s done their background research, and it saves you a lot of time spent explaining yourself. But if you’re adapting your research for a general audience, you need to cut back on the clique vocabulary. Try to use more common words for the concepts you’re talking about. If you still want the ease of using your field’s jargon, make sure you take some time to define the term you’re using before you put it in every other paragraph. You should also do this if you’re using a common word in an uncommon way.

Example: My research led me to reevaluate my stance as a prescriptivist, as someone who clings to grammatical rules instead of looking at how language is commonly used.

Make Your Method Clear without Madness

In many sciences (both hard and soft), research papers and articles include a section about the method for a study or experiment. This description is important because it shows your study was rigorous and you did what you could to remove bias and skewed results. However, most of your talk of double-blind studies and chi-squared tests isn’t going to be immediately familiar to a general audience. Complicated setups and endless statistics sometimes end up translating into unmitigated madness.

So ditch your methods section. Instead, weave parts of your method into your conclusions. When you say this chemical probably contributes to cancer, explain that you believe that because your statistical analysis was based on a large sample size and you used a standard level of skepticism; don’t explain how you determined your sample size and set a low alpha value as your significance level.

When you make your method a part of your conclusions, it’s easier for a general audience to understand why certain parts of your setup are important. If a part of your method doesn’t fit in the discussion of your conclusions, you might not need to include it at all for this particular audience.

Put Yourself in Your Writing

The UniverseTo make your research more accessible, it’s important to include a human element. Since you are a human, you can stand as that element. You might want to explain why this research is important to you and why the topic draws your interest. Are you fascinated by the depths of the universe? So are a lot of people you aren’t astronomers. Let them see your enthusiasm and they’ll be drawn into your writing. If you found something that made you reevaluate your previous positions, explain how surprised you were. It’ll make you more personable.

Most scholarly writing aims to remove your personal objectivity from the equation, but when you’re popularizing your work, put yourself into your writing. It will make you a better guide for your readership if they understand that you are a person.

Invite Your Reader In

Another way you can add a human element to your research is to invite your reader (who is also human) into your writing. Relate your research to your readers’ daily lives, to their aspirations, to questions and curiosities they may have had. Use analogies your reader relates to when you explain dense concepts. The more you make the topic relevant to your readership, the more interest they’ll have.

You do this same sort of thing with the literature review that is typical in many scholarly formats. With your literature review you relate to previous researchers and your academic community: your readers. With general writing, your readership is different, so you need to find different ways to relate to them.

Present Your Takeaway Often

Virus RepresentationThe last thing you can do to reach a general audience is the most important: tell your reader why your research matters. If your chemical engineering breakthrough could help create viable and affordable electric cars, explain how (this part of the breakthrough makes the concept cheap; that part makes it super effective); if your study of ancient literature uncovers elements of Jung’s collective unconscious, explain how understanding the collective unconscious helps an individual; if your sociology study unearths an interesting concept about families, point out how it could relate to the reader’s family.

When you relate your conclusions to your reader’s life clearly and often, it’s easier for your reader to understand why your research is important. That’s the reason you started researching in the first place, isn’t it?

Book image by healingdream via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Starscape image by nuttakit via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Virus image by renjith krishnan via FreeDigitalPhotos.net