House Rules: Always Use the Oxford Comma

Here at BrickHouse Books, we firmly believe in the Oxford comma. So does Jeff Brookes of Brookes Publishing, who recently sent this email out to his employees:

From: Jeff Brookes

I may be old school. I may be persnickety. I may be about to irk you.

Here goes, anyway:

Brookes House Style is, and always has been, to use the Oxford (or serial) comma in ALL Works, correspondence, titles, emails, marketing, and copy.

We are publishers. Embrace the Oxford comma*: There are no exceptions, it’s not debatable, and it’s the rule.

Thank you, Jeff

*If you are unsure about proper use of the Oxford (serial) comma, here’s a link for you to explore:

What do you think? Take a pause, then post in the comments below.

[Email published with permission from the author.]

The Priceless Art of Editing

Happy Friday, BHB friends and family!

After reading “They also serve who stand and edit” by editor extraordinaire John E. McIntyre, we couldn’t resist sharing it with you! McIntyre speaks to those who’ve heard the Call of the Editor, offering advice on navigating current publishing practices and moments of self-doubt. It’s an enlightening read for editors, authors, and the people who cut paychecks to both.

Editors are important, and their work is priceless. Thank you, editors, for all that you do!

Discovering Our Authors: Warren Meredith Harris

One of the pleasures of being the new prose editor at BrickHouse Books is discovering the people who have published with us, including the poets. After all, I have said that what I look for in prose submissions—among other things—is “a distinctive voice . . . and an obvious love of language.” Meaning a touch of poetry.

But that is only one of the ways that I blur the line between poetry and prose. Another concerns content, where I do not feel that either form has a lock on specific subject matter. Which is why I was delighted when Warren Harris sent me the following surprisingly intellectual approach to his own poetry:

The Night Ballerina

Warren’s BHB title.

Some think humans can be divided between the intelligent and the not-so-intelligent. But my experiences lead me to subscribe to the idea that every individual is intelligent in some things, less so in others—hence the term “multiple intelligences” for a recently developed theory of the mind. However, I believe it’s equally accurate, and often more helpful, to call these individual tendencies “multiple visualizations” of the world.

Some of the ways to visualize are interpersonal (mainly concerned with relationships), naturalistic (mainly concerned with the world of nature), musical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, and logical-mathematical. And they can be combined. For example, the visual-spatial and bodily-kinesthetic in high degree can produce a talented gymnast.

When I analyzed myself and my writings in these terms, I was not surprised to realize that one of my ways of visualizing the world, like all poets and other kinds of writers, is verbal-linguistic. But I also realized that there had to be another at least as strong, one that determines the specific direction of my writing.

I found it recently when I watched a documentary film on Mahler’s Third Symphony in which Howard Gardner, a leader in this field of thought, says that the composer’s music was distinctive because he combined the musical intelligence with what is called the “existential intelligence.” I instantly understood why I am drawn to Mahler’s music. It’s my strong tendency to that category of visualization, the existential.

This word sounds like something from a philosophy class about thinkers of the early- and mid-1900s. But it refers to something that has always been with us and always will be, especially for those who can’t help imagining—in fact, obsessing over—the immensities of space and time and the nature of ultimate reality (God, Ground of Being, Tao, Nothingness, etc.) and its relationship to the physical universe, the body, and the mind or the psyche.

I had assumed every thoughtful person had such an obsession. And then I shared with a group of six highly intelligent people, half of whom have doctorates, an astronomical microwave map of the universe capturing a ten-billionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. I expected oohs and aahs. Instead, each person glanced at it briefly and passed it along without comment, except for one person who said, “It looks like a mammogram.” All of them no doubt have some interest in existential issues, but it’s apparently not any of their default ways of looking at the world.

What is reality? Why do we exist? Why are we here, and why now? Is there a reality beyond this physical world, and if so, does it affect this world? Is the mind or psyche separate from the physical realm? What makes life worth living? These questions occupy a large portion of the inner thoughts of some people. But who deals with them publicly? To some extent, sci-fi writers, visual artists, and composers do; more so philosophers, theologians, militant atheists, and theoretical physicists.

I hope there is still room for poets as well. I say this because it seems to me that these days most writers and readers of poetry gravitate primarily to interpersonal imaginings of relationships with others and intrapersonal imaginings of one’s own inner moments of joy and suffering. I am one of that minority of poets whose work may touch on such things but at its center is really an attempt to answer the questions posed in the previous paragraph.

In case this is all a bit too abstract, there are examples of my existential poems in Mobius magazine, Big River Poetry Review, the Jewish Literary Journal, and Science & Engineering Poetry.

Note: Warren might be pleased to know that this editor’s eyes not only do not glaze over at that thought of such stuff but that she also identifies it as constituting the core of her work by noting it in the About Me section of her website. (She does happen to be a former NASA consultant.) Also, those readers who happen to live in the Baltimore-Washington area might be interested in knowing that The DC Science Writers Association has held events “versed in science” such as the one featuring area poets Myra Sklarew and Michael Salcman

‘Tis the Season . . .

Slide2. . . to buy books, of course. For yourself, to read when the white stuff starts falling again. And for others, since ’tis also the season for giving. So in the spirit of the season, we’d like to give you some things, as well. A 30 percent discount on all our titles from now until year’s end, for starters.

This applies to each of our 20 in-print poetry titles, from authors Doritt Carroll, Wesli Court (Lewis Turco), Richard Fein, Warren Harris, Andrei GuruianuAdrian KoestersCarlo Matos, John Mingo, Donald Richardson, Brad Sachs, Jan-Mitchell Sherrill, Elisabeth Stevens, Bradley R. Strahan, J. Tarwood and Peter Weltner. And our nine in-print prose titles, from Clarence Brown, Louie Crowder, Richard Fein, Rachel HennickMiriam N. Kotzin, Louis Macaluso, Alexander Motyl and Elisabeth Stevens.

All you have to do is (1) go to Itasca Books, our distributor’s site; (2) make your selections from the BHB books listed there; and (3) use the code BHB2014 at checkout. If you have any problems, simply contact us and we will be happy to help you.

In addition, we have reworked our website so that it is easier for you to buy our books year-round. We now have a page that describes all your options as well as individual pages for poetry, prose and out-of-print books. On both the Poetry and Prose pages, we have not only listed all our in-print books but also included their cover images and descriptions. And convenient links for each book to its Itasca, Amazon and Barnes & Noble pages. Which means that you can do quick price comparisons and be aware of other special discounts that apply such as the 30 percent one Amazon now also offers.

Note: In the coming year, I will be working with our online editor, Katelyn Surles, to make our site a better place not only for our customers but also our submitters and authors, supporters and book-lovers, in general.