What’s a Reader?

The publishing industry has a lot of mumbo-jumbo people in it. There are the clear-cut roles like agent, editor, and publicist. Then there comes a grocery list of random terms: book doctor, ghost writer, and me, Reader, with a capital “R”. Isn’t a reader anyone who reads? The audience for written material? Yes. You are a reader if you peruse the ads on the walls of your subway car. You are a reader if you actually bother to read the instructions that came with the baby swing. You’re even a reader if you study the McDonald’s “Turn It and Learn It!” nutrition information on the back of their tray liners. I like to think of Reader (big “R”) like the term Writer. You don’t go around telling people you’re a Writer because you filled out your Census form. Writers (big “W”) write professionally, i.e. they get paid to do it.

So, I get paid to read, which is pretty much my dream come true. I work with authors who are trying to get their manuscripts ready to show to an agent or editor. I read their work and make all the usual editing comments (spelling, grammar, anything an English teacher would circle in red pen). But I also respond to their writing on a much deeper level. I read a lot of great published material so that I can keep current on what’s selling. And yes, it’s about selling books on the down and dirty and HONEST level. But books sell because people like to read them, and that’s what I judge. How much will people like this book? I help authors keep their facts straight (kind of like a copy editor). If their main character is an assistant TO the regional manager on page 1, I keep them honest when that same character is later called The Assistant Regional Manager, without any discussion of a promotion, on page 63 (Office, anyone?).  I also look for consistent voice–do the characters sound like themselves throughout the entire story? Is the narration consistent in its level of vocabulary? Would that character really SAY that? I discuss plot issues, pacing, descriptive details, etc.

I read the manuscripts and meet face to face with their authors. I try to nurture writers who show promise and I steer fledgling writers towards books they should read and people I know can help them (teachers, people at conferences, writers workshops, etc). It’s a true thrill to me to watch someone’s creative light bulb go off, especially if it’s a halogen and the road to the end of their book was previously dark. That’s why I’m a Reader.

5 Responses to "What’s a Reader?"

  • Becky’s ghost still haunts, umm, I mean, lingers, in the hallowed halls of CHS. She was a vital participant in developing our “not required reading” but it is “reading is required” program. We still use the reading portfolio, a series of activities designed to stretch student learning, while providing a tool for assessment. As a matter of fact, we’re presenting this at NCTE’s “Summer Literacies Institute” in Indy, July 8-10. We hope that our book, Creating Readers: A Successful Approach to Closing the Achievement Gap, written by Rodier and Johnson, with a forward by Baize, will be available by then.

    Alas, Becky left before she could experience our Senior Poetry Project, based on “no specific poetry is required,” but it is “required to read poetry.” The project is designed to stretch familiarity with a range of poetry and learn more about poets, historical context, theme, poetic device, etc. while providing an assessment tool. And it’s paperless!!!!!!!!

    1 Anne Rodier said this (April 26, 2010 at 11:10 am)

  • Anne-You’re the best! Thanks for all the props.

    2 Rebecca Brothers said this (April 26, 2010 at 10:18 pm)

  • http://blog.patrickrothfuss.com/

    see May 10, 2010

    3 Paige said this (May 12, 2010 at 9:07 am)

  • How cool. Hadn’t thought about reading that way, but I love this guy. Have you read his books?

    4 Rebecca Brothers said this (May 20, 2010 at 4:08 pm)

  • Love, love, LOVE Patrick Rothfuss. The blog is fun, but mainly I just tune it to get info on when the next book is coming out. “The Name of the Wind”, Rothfuss’ last book and the first in a trilogy was AmAzing with two capital A’s. I hear that the next book is coming out in March. If I can hold out that long.

    5 Amy Parish said this (June 9, 2010 at 8:16 pm)

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