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!

Need an internship?

BrickHouse Books now has an opening for Assistant Online Editor that has the potential to become Online Editor.

As Assistant Online Editor your duties will be:

  • update and manage the blog (this means writing blog posts, press releases, book excerpts, and news blurbs)
  • update and manage the social media (Twitter and Facebook)
  • occasionally read and comment manuscripts
  • and more!

If you’re interested, please send resume, cover letter, and a writing sample to

UPDATE: As of 7/20/14, the position is no longer available.

Exciting book news!

It’s here! BrickHouse Books’ Director Clarinda Harriss’ eighth book and first fiction collection, The White Rail, just came out from Half Moon Editions–just in time for holiday giving, and a real steal at only $12!  Order directly from or ask for it at any bookstore, national or local.

Get a first look at The White Rail’s book cover below:

white rail _cover final

Write For Us!

Are you a writer with a strong, unique voice? Are you passionate about all things literature? Make sure to check out our new page “Write For Us!” to gain some great writing, editing, and publishing experience!

Writers can guest write for this blog about reading, writing, or anything concerning the literary community.

Send your articles, questions, or any concerns to

Why You’ll Never Know How Important I Am

By: Matt Ferguson

My fiancée prefers to sit at the high top tables in the bar area, but I’ve always preferred the bar itself. If you get a good bartender, you get some good banter, and if you get the right crowd, you can meet some characters and hear some amazing stories (true or not). One day this past June, I won the argument and found myself sitting with my love at the bar of a quiet Irish pub in the suburban Orlando area.

It’s always hard to tell whether it’s okay to strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Sometimes, they don’t want to be bothered. Sometimes, you know from the moment they open their mouths that they’re not going to shut up. With that second variety, you also don’t really have the option of keeping quiet, because they are going to talk to you.

Well, on this day, I’d found a bar stool next to a talker.

Bob asked me what I did for a living. “I’m a student,” I said, “but I’m finishing up my year with the Disney College Program right now in merchandise.”

“Oh, I work at the power plant down there.” After a year in the area, I learned this couldn’t even be considered a coincidence. If you live in Orlando and don’t work for Disney, you know at least twelve people who do. “The College Program is horrible. They treat those kids like crap.”

Well gee, thanks, Bob. I just told you I’d worked there for a year, but go ahead and tell me all about how bad it is. (He did.) Now, I have a lot of nice things to say about the program, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s interested… with the caveat that you have to put up with a lot of crap. You’re underpaid, overworked, put in poor housing, and given whatever end of the schedule no one else wants. Those things are all bearable, but I was done with the program by this point. I was ready to finish my degree.

“But you’re a student. What are you studying? Engineering?”


He proceeded to spend 10 minutes explaining why I should have studied engineering. Why no one knows how to think anymore. Why kids would have it so much better if they went down the right path. You know, that path he went down—or was it the one he wished he’d gone down? To be honest, I started to zone him out for a bit, but I was brought back when I heard, “So what are you studying, then? Business?”

“Nope. English, actually.”

“Hah. So you’re going to be a teacher.” That’s the way people say it. They’re not asking a question. They’re telling you.

“Actually, no.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I’m looking at a career in editing.”

“Don’t they have spellcheck for that?” he laughed.

Instead of laughing in his face myself, I briefly tried to explain to him the difference between proofreading (still an important trade, regardless of spellcheck) and editing. When he asked what I would edit, I explained that with words surrounding us everywhere—newspapers, books, magazines, websites, advertisements, and manuals, to name a few venues—I could really edit anything. I’m just looking for the right job openings.

He wished me some sarcastic luck with finding a job doing that before returning to his sermon on engineering.

This encounter is fairly typical of the kind of conversations I have about my career choice. People are downright offended when I say that I’m studying English and don’t intend to teach. They’re immediately horrified of the degree that I’ve wasted. And when I tell them I’m training to become an editor, they cautiously try to explain why editing isn’t a viable option—for one reason or another.

I’m not going to argue about the importance of the humanities. What’s the use of trying to convince a mathematic or scientific mind? I’ll explain why the humanities are important when I have children, but it’s not a conversation I’m otherwise interested in.

What does interest me? Well, for one, the fact that several readers will laugh that I—an aspiring editor—just ended a sentence with a preposition. Because English is the unofficial language of our country and because most of the people we know speak it, we all think ourselves authorities on the language. It’s true that we’re all experts in speaking English, but most of the people I know don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Instead of stopping to understand their language, they spout off random rules they learned in school. It’s wrong to finish a sentence with a preposition. Double negatives are bad. Fragments are an affront to the English language.

Not so—at least not invariably. As an editor, it’s often my job to determine when one of these “rules” should be followed or ignored. No technology will ever be able to determine which prescriptive rules for grammar are situationally appropriate at any given time. As an individual with a seemingly unusual interest in the structure of our language, that’s where I come in.

In many ways, I edit for rhetoric. I may decide one word is more impactful. In that sentence, for example, should I have used impactful? Will my audience reject my use of a “made up” word, or will they accept that language changes and that the word has a meaningful place in our lexicon? Or what about the way I started this blog post? Should I have led into this topic with an anecdote? Did I spend too long talking about Bob to get my point across? Will using this many interrogatives in one paragraph sound jarring or natural? These are important decisions to make, and we’re often too close to our own writing to be able to make them ourselves—even for wonderful writers like myself. Someone else will edit this content before it’s posted to BrickHouse’s blog.

An engineer can see why he’s important to the operation of a power plant, and since I would not be able to do what that engineer does, it’s easy for me to see that he’s important, too. I don’t fault Bob for not understanding why my job is meaningful and understanding, because the fruit of my efforts are a great deal more intangible. But when I read the work I’ve done to make sure someone else’s writing is effective, I know why my job is important. I am happy in my meaningful work, whether he will ever see it as meaningful or not.

No, I don’t blame him, but I wish I’d listened to my fiancée and not sat at the bar.



Matthew Ferguson, an Assistant Editor at BrickHouse Books, is a graduating senior at Towson University majoring in English with a concentration on the writing. Matthew lives in the Baltimore area with his fiancee Sarah, and he is looking forward to a daunting and arduous career in the editing and publishing industries.


How to participate in National Novel Writing Month (while you still can)

By: Shelby Hillers

Feel like you can’t take part in the long writing sessions of National Novel Writing Month? Are you watching your friends write their next Best Seller while you sit by and do nothing? Well here are 11 easy steps to help you be a part of those long nights filled with writing:

How to participate in NaNoWriMo

1.     Open your computer or maybe you’re old school and use a typewriter or pen and paper. Sit down and look like you’re about to get some serious business done.

2.     Crack your neck, back, and hands. Doing that makes you look like you’re in this for the long run—which you are.

3.     Grab some coffee and chug it down. Grimace because it is black coffee but serious writers drink it black these days but now you’re wide awake because that was disgusting coffee but it was worth it.

4.     Stare at your blank page and give it a menacing look. This look should come across as both crazy and slightly serious.

5.     Look around your room. Maybe there’s something that will spark a memory that digs deep into your self-conscious. Write it down. Maybe it was about your childhood pet. Or your best friend. Or that time you made breakfast for your mom. Write it all down with rich detail. Throw in some dialogue. Make your characters come to life with the power of your words.

6.     Take a break because hey, you’re not a robot. You need time to rest up. Walk around your house or wherever you are. Appreciate and notice the small things. You can use those details later on in your story.

7.     Once you’ve walked around a bit, sit back down and write some more. It doesn’t even have to be good. Just write something.

8.     Reread what you wrote. Delete it. Rewrite it. Rewrite it better.

9.     Cry because you’re pretty sure the first version was better anyway.

10.   Write some more. Write about your family. Write about your friends. Write about the places you’ve always wanted to go. Write about love. Write about that time you stayed up all night and saw the sun rise. Write about things that are painful and hard because it’s worth the experience of trying to capture those raw words. Just write.

11.     Hey, look. You’re participating in NaNoWriMo. Congrats. Now go back to writing.

Image Source


Shelby Hillers is the Online Editor for BrickHouse Books where she helps manage Facebook, Twitter, and the blog. She is a senior at Towson University majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing. She is also the Publicity Director for Grub Street, TU’s Literary Magazine. Her works have been published by The TowerlightLimerence Magazine, and TU Career Center’s co-written blog The Thriving Tiger.

What’s In a Name?

By: Shelby Hillers

It’s no surprise that authors with male names or gender neutral names sell more than authors with female names. What is a surprise is that this is still an on-going trend in the book world. But that’s another article all together. What many writers forget or don’t necessarily know is how much marketing goes behind a book. And one of the key factors of a book selling is the author’s name.

J.K. Rowling wasn’t the first and only female writer to make her pen name more gender neutral. In fact, famous authors like Louisa May Alcott (Little Women), Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre), Nelle Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird), and Nora Roberts (when drifting over to detective fiction with book series In Death) all changed their names to more gender neutral/male sounding when publishing their works. The list goes on and shows the trend of female writers creating pen names in order to either sell more books or be accepted into the literary world.

Just how important is a name? As Shakespeare writes:


O! be some other name:
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

(Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II)


I’m sure we’re all having flashbacks to high school when we read this, but Shakespeare makes a fair point (as he usually does). The name doesn’t necessarily represent the object. In this case, the author’s name doesn’t represent the writing. So in theory, it should be okay for a female writer to use her real name and sell just as well as a male writer using his real name. It sounds logical but in actuality, it just doesn’t work that way.

And what female writers understand is that their female names don’t appeal to the male readers but they’ve found a loophole. They’ve tricked the male reader into reading a woman’s work, and even better, they’ve gotten the male reader to like it. But if you like the book, does the author’s name really mean anything? The answer should be no, but many readers can’t break that mindset of assessing the writer’s quality by their gender. And it’s not just readers who think this; editors, publishers, and agents are just as guilty of publishing male writers over female writers. That’s a lot of mindsets to change. But I think we can do it.

However, what I’m still trying to decide is whether female writers are still changing their names to prove a point or if we’re just agreeing to popular demand. Are we proving our writer is still as good by changing Joanne Rowling to J.K.Rowling or are we surrendering to the male readership and saying fine, we’ll change for you? I like to think we’re proving a point and assisting these literary works to Best-Sellers lists, but sometimes I fear that if a female writer doesn’t change her name (and isn’t the stereotypical romance novelist), the general public wouldn’t give her the time of day.

So is it smart marketing? Or is it giving in and surrendering our pens?


Shelby Hillers is the Online Assistant Editor for BrickHouse Books where she helps manage Facebook, Twitter, and the blog. She is a senior at Towson University majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing. Her works have been published by The TowerlightLimerence Magazine, and TU Career Center’s co-written blog The Thriving Tiger.


Calling all poets!

Poetry-ad-full-page-2014-correct-796x1024The Dora and Alexander Raynes Poetry Prize from Jewish Currents is calling for submissions! Poets of all ages, backgrounds, religions/non-religions, and orientations are extremely encouraged to submit. Poet Joan Larkin will judge the pieces.

Three poets will win cash prizes. One poet will receive $1000 and two poets will receive $180 each for a poem on the theme of Union.

The three winning poets will have their work featured in the Spring 2014 issue of Jewish Currents and 36 poets will be included in an anthology to be published Summer 2014 by Blue Thread Communications. All entries will be considered for future publication in the magazine.

Submission fee of $18 includes a one-year subscriptions or gift subscription to Jewish Currents.

Feel free to submit up to 3 poems with your name, address, phone, and email on each page and a check or money order for $18 made out to Jewish Currents postmarked between now and January 15 to:

Poetry Contest

Jewish Currents

POB 111

Accord, NY 12404

You can also submit online. Click here for more information.

Wearing Three Hats

Wearing three hats is uncomfortable.  Wearing more than three is unwieldy to the point of immobilizing you, which is probably just as well because you look ridiculous.  The hats I totter under are beret, mortarboard, schoolmarmish cloche, black prison uniform cap, fedora with press pass stuck in the brim, and flapper’s feathered whimsy.

There’s a chronology to this list—the hats represent poet and fiction writer since age 19 (when my first story was published in a magazine); college grad/grad school survivor (1956-62); newspaper columnist (80s through 90s); volunteer with The Writers’ Club at the Maryland House of Correction for Men (80s and 90s again); schoolteacher/professor (1961-2011); and publisher (1974 to present). I claim the flapper feather because the nonprofit literary press I have directed for more than 40 years, BrickHouse Books, Inc., was just named Baltimore’s 2013 Best by Baltimore Magazine, occasioning my feathered attendance at the magazine’s speakeasy-themed celebratory bash.  Over the 50+ years I’ve been piling those hats on, I rapidly doff and don them in varying orders (cf. the great hat-passing scene in Waiting For Godot).

Asked about “transitioning” from, say, teaching and/or writing to publishing, I have to reply that there have been no such seques. Starting almost from the moment I announced to my astonished (and probably rather disheartened) writer/editor/teacher/administrator parents that the things I would never grow up to do were writing, publishing,teaching and administering (oh, by the way, I chaired Towson University’s English Department for a decade), I began doing all those things.

The one activity conducted by both my parents which I did not rule out was parenting, and in retrospect I am convinced that the refuge of ordinariness, even (dare I say) emotional health which I gained by having my two lively, interesting, curious, smart, busy children around most of the time from my late twenties through my fifties is why wearing all those hats worked out pretty well. It made my schedule almost make sense: they were my constant while I was doing some writing either before everybody got up or after everybody went to bed; teaching at “Beltway University” (the adjunct thing, driving from, say, UMBC [University of Maryland, Baltimore Campus] toGoucher to Towson University) to teach a couple of courses at each place; driving a carpool; cooking dinner (what sensual pleasure we writers find in cooking!), and so on. I’m sure you all know the drill. My point is that virtually all my poems, stories, and articles came out of those activities more or less directly. It wasn’t exactly that I wrote about those activities. It was that they set off a noise in my brain, a hunger in my gut, providing words and images which hooked together in ways that surprised me.

I think being in a state of constant surprise is one of a writer’s most essential work-tools—that and, of course, obsession. A few years ago there was a PR campaign for some worthy literary enterprise which featured the question, “If you couldn’t write, would you die?”  A writer is supposed to answer yes, of course. For me the question got it backwards: in order to make me not write–not think in words and images, whether or not they ever got down on paper, you would have to kill me.  Knock on wood—Irish style, fist to skull: I’m still alive–and sporting hats.


-Clarinda Harris