Sunday, December 28, 2014

When OK isn't okay

Back when dinosaurs roamed the planet, I worked as a graphic designer and shared a room in a graphics studio with Nancy Massa for about twenty years. Nancy’s nickname was Half-Point, because she would send copy back to the typesetters and ask them to reduce the spacing by a half point—that’s like a hair’s difference. She's a meticulous designer. 

So, of course, Nancy was the person I wanted to help me when I was working on my book's cover. We spent hours together nudging the elements (title, post-it notes, chalk, chalk crumbs, bullet, etc.) into position.

I remember how Nancy used to squint at paragraphs of type. It should look consistently gray—never blobby or bumpy with some letters looking thinner or thicker than the rest. The way black type colors up on a white page matters.

A couple weeks ago, my novel came back from the copyeditor. She fixed my misuse of commas, found misplaced words, removed the extra “L” that I consistently added to the word cancelled, oops, I mean canceled. One L is common in American English, while two L’s is common in Britain, Canada, and Australia. She broke up my run-on sentences. She corrected my tenses, “been there, done that,” “is there, doin’ that,” “will be there, and do that.” I’m getting tense just thinking about it.

She also changed “okay” to “OK”. 

I went through the manuscript and made the corrections she suggested, but the “OK’s” haunted me. “OK” seemed too loud, the capital letters almost acted like bold type. OK jumped out of the paragraph and yelled at me. Whereas, “okay” with it’s lowercase letters, was quiet, more passive and colored up better on the page. It merged with the other words and didn't draw special attention to itself.

The word “okay” is easy, calm, not excited. Well, unless you’re in a pissed-off mood, and someone’s bugging you to do something that you don’t want to, and you have to yell, “Okay, already!”

In many publications, okay is not OK. Only a third of publications use “okay.”
  • The Wall Street Journal and The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition uses OK.
  • The New York Times uses O.K.
  • Reuters uses okay.

Well, too bad. I don’t like the way "OK" colors up on the page. Nancy would agree. "OK" is just too loud. So I went back through the manuscript and typed “ok” into the search box in Microsoft Word. I changed all the "OK’s" back to "okay" (consistency is important).

There are creative liberties to consider here. In her wonderful novel, The Orchardist, Amanda Coplin wrote the dialog without quote marks. It added a sense of quiet to the pages.

My novel has people who talk with quote marks around their words, maybe not as creative as Coplin, but that's okay. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Help me choose a cover

Tis the Season: shopping, baking stars and gingerbread men, trimming trees, decking the halls and voting.

Voting, yes!

Please help me pick the best cover for my novel. Imagine you’re in a bookstore and these three covers are in front of you. Which would you pick up? All have the same elements. It’s just the backgrounds that are different.

Then email me at In the subject line write 1, or 2 or 3.

You can say more in the email if you want, but I know you still have shopping to get done. And wrapping! Oh my gosh, there’s so much to do. Forgive me for bothering you, but I really want your opinion.

Thanks, and Happy Holidays to you all.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


When I was six, Santa brought me a cocker spaniel, and I liked building houses out of cardboard boxes.

When my husband, John, was six, his parents brought him to the US on a ship from Austria. Before he could speak any English, he liked exploring Chicago on his way home from school. He still likes exploring Chicago.

When my daughter, Sue, was six or seven, she got her first pair of glasses, collected feathers, and loved animals. She now has two cats.

When my son, Jim, was six, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Mrs. Santa made him a huge flat moon on a piece of plywood with heavy gesso craters, Santa brought him little space ships and astronauts. He still likes looking at stars.

Jim Schoettle, Sue Schoettle and Teddy

When John’s daughter Alison was six, she liked helping her Grandpa Perring with his rose garden.

When John’s daughter Laura was six, she liked ballet dancing and Strawberry Shortcake dolls.

When our granddaughter Kristen was six, she loved music and making potpourri from flowers in my garden.

When our grandson Ryan was six, he went on a cruise of the Mediterranean Sea with his sister and parents.

When our granddaughter Julia was six, she liked calamari and olive tapenade, and writing and drawing in her journals.

When our grandson Jonathan was six, he liked basketball and helping his dad with yard work.

When our grandson Tristan was six, he liked puzzles and performing in school concerts.

Our granddaughter Megan IS six. She likes singing the Frozen theme song and hanging from monkey bars.

What were you like at six? I imagine that you were special. Unique.

What if your life had ended then?

Two years ago tomorrow—on December 14, 2012—twenty children aged six and seven, and six adults were shot and killed in Sandyhook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

What has changed since then? 

Were we inspired to create new laws banning automatic weapons? Adam Lanza used a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle made by Bushmaster to blow through the locked door of the school.

Manufacturers of automatic weapons (gun makers are the backbone of the NRA) are subsidized by violence. Their coffers are filled by hate. And to keep their businesses flourishing, they fund the campaigns of our elected officials. After Sandyhook they told us the way to stop school violence is to arm teachers. More guns equals more sales.

Most of us are fine with hunters, but no hunter I know would consider using an automatic weapon to gun down a herd of deer. No one should ever be able to gun down a classroom of little (or big) children and teachers (or a theater filled with people just out to see a movie).

How do we stop them?