Saturday, February 02, 2013

plumbing my life

I've been tasked, by a new remote supervisor at YB, with writing a slew of essays in the style of the ACT English section. For those of you unfamiliar with the ACT, the English section contains short prose passages-- about 300-400 words-- written in the relaxed style of a precocious high schooler. The passages have deliberate errors in them, and the examinee's job is to determine, first, whether any underlined clump of text requires improvement and, second, if so, what improvement should be made. A very good example of what I'm talking about can be found here.

The essays' topics range all over. I was given a memo stating that the normal distribution of topics looks like this:

2-3 out of 5: personal/memoir
1 out of 5: history/biography
1 out of 5: art/culture
1 out of 5: science

I'm almost done writing my first batch of ten assigned essays. The five autobiographical (personal/memoir) essays have required me to plumb my own life, and my sixth essay, which treated a science-related topic, was on the impending collision of the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies. I'm tempted to slap those essays on the blog, but I do wonder whether there might be copyright issues, since the essays I'm writing technically become the property of YB, for use in YB's textbooks.

In any case, my five autobiographical essays deal with the following topics:

1. my first month in France
2. my pet tarantulas
3. how I discovered my fear of heights
4. how cats show love (praise for our late cat Mozart)
5. how college ruined my sleep habits forever

I'd love to write about tasteless topics, such as the way my brothers loved to fart on my head when I was sleeping (I did the same thing in return); the way my brothers would torture me when I was on the shitter by sticking their lips into the crack between the door and the jamb and breathing heavily, like perverts; the way I used to smash my brother David's face into his spaghetti at the dinner table. But I know such topics won't fly for the ACT; I've been told to avoid controversy. In fact, I've already been told to excise a sentence about two friends of mine, a Jew and a Palestinian, who used to argue about the Israel/Gaza situation; and I've been told to alter a reference I'd made to Jack Black, a singer/actor/comedian who might be considered non-family-friendly.

I'm supposed to be writing twenty essays per week until the project is finished. After that, we shift into the "error introduction" phase, i.e., we go back to our essays and slip errata into them. My main worry is that I'm eventually going to run out of things to say about my own life. Forty-three years is a long time to live, true, but such a life is not an infinite source of trivia.



John said...

Hey Kev, why not write your own text and get it published? I am pretty sure there is a market for these kinds of books.

Kevin Kim said...

I think that's a great idea, but writing a book at the same time that I'm writing all these essays will just be too much work for my fat, lazy ass.

It's something to think about, though. What can you tell me about reputable publishers and the international English textbook market?

John said...

To be honest I don't think the big publishers are the way to go. I also don't think publishing in the States would be the best way to start a project. My bet would be to publish in Asia(China?). I am nop expert but I am on a pretty steep learning curve. Last year I wrote a "How to" book for Indian students wishing to pass IELTS. I sent two copies away to two publishers and was immediately accepted by one (one of South India's biggest domestic publishers). I am just in the process of having a contract written up by my lawyer now (who just happens to be an Indian!)I'll keep you in the loop as the publishing process continues. The bottom line for me is that I realise that I won't make money directly from book sales (or bugger all anyway.) For me it is about increasing the kudos of the school and for me as a professional. Being able to brag that you are a published author is the real goldmine.

Kevin Kim said...

Well! Congrats on being published! Enjoy your new cachet.