Dear Betsy

By Rachel Moskowitz

Betsy DeVos is currently the United States Secretary of Education.  Ms. DeVos has no government experience and none of her children went through the public school system. In the past 5 years she has given 5.3 million dollars in political donations, specifically contributing to presidential candidates. Ms. Devos is proposing many new bills including Bill 610. This bill will effectively start a school voucher system for children 5 to 17, and will start the de-funding process of public schools. This bill will also eliminate certain laws that have been put in place for students with special needs, homeless children as well as students whose first language is not English.

 

Dear Betsy,

Ms. DeVos have you ever went to, worked or had children in public schools? Allow me to answer for you, no. Have you had any government experience? Again, the answer is no. But you have spent years giving money to politicians hoping that one day they would owe you a favor. And your favor is this House Bill 610. I have chosen to pursue a degree in special education. This degree will allow me to help students who need an extra push in school. House Bill 610 will make this very hard for me to be a special education teacher. This bill is going to eliminate the Elementary and Education Act of 1965, which is the nations educational law that provides equal opportunity in education. Call me old fashioned, but I believe every child should receive education, and an equal one across all aspects. Sending transportation to neighborhoods that can take children to school can do this. Many parents cannot drive their children to school each day and that is why transportation should be sent to them. Getting the child to school is half the problem and then it is up to the teachers to motivate and teach them. They need to have the option of attending school and if the only schools available to them are private they wont have that option. That would be doing a disservice to the child, the parent, family and future generations.

This bill will abolish English as a second language classes, classes for minorities, rural education, education for the homeless and more. Do you also believe that every child should have access to equal education? I am thinking the answer is no and this breaks my heart. Would you want your sons, Ryan and Richard, or your daughters, Elisabeth and Andrea, to have access to any accommodations they may need? Under this bill the universal design for learning, access to accommodations and evidence based interventions for school would not be guaranteed. What if you have a grandchild that needs services and they aren’t available to them? If a child does not get English as a second language class in school they will be behind in every class. Learning calculus in a language that is not yours is going to make it ten times harder for these students to succeed. If the students can receive support from their first day of school they will become fluent faster and will be able to start their educational journey that much sooner!

Think about your four children and future grandchildren next time you propose a bill and get back to me. You are affecting thousands of children and not in a positive way.

 

From,

A concerned future educator

Hofstra Professor Barbara Heinssen on Book Editing

By Lindsay Demarco

Barbara A. Heinssen is an alumnus of the Hofstra University Publishing Program. She is now an Adjuct Associate Professor for the program, and teaches Book Editing 1 and 2. Her professorial work also includes helping students find internships and full-time positions in publishing. Within the industry, she is currently hired as the project manager and development editor at both Pearson Education and McGraw-Hill Education. She has been the Assistant Vice President and an associate publisher at the Princeton Review, the Director of College Survival at Houghton Mifflin, the Director of Development at St. Martin’s Press, and has held many other titles within the publishing industry.

How does your editing experience change from the time you get the original manuscript to the final run through? How, if at all, does your focus shift?

Barbara Heinssen: Since I work on college textbooks, when I receive a first draft my focus is on organization, clarity of expression, whether or not the key concepts are included, and whether or not the material stands up favorably when compared to the leading competition. This also entails ensuring that the content is clear for the level of student audience for which it is intended, first-year, upper level, developmental?  There is also always the “why should they care?” factor to consider as well and the examples that may not be relevant to students that were born in an age very different from that of the author. Of course, the quality of the writing is a key focus and that is worked on throughout every stage and is always in focus. As the book progresses and the writing honed, my focus shifts to the photos, charts, and overall art program as well as the permissionable items. The design is also considered as is the digital component if this is an introductory text. While all this is going on I continue to keep the marketing aspects of the material and how the sales people will present the material in mind.

What do you believe is the most important job within book editing? Why do you think that?

BH: Getting the best work out of the author and helping them make their vision of the work a reality. I think that because the entire publishing industry rests on the success and failure of its authors and their work.

What are some of the biggest challenges you come across when working on a book, and how do you overcome them?

BH: Schedules.  The schedules are tighter and tighter and the work on the book overlaps with the work on the digital product so it is extremely hard to create a truly integrated print digital product when you are only one person with 26 chapters to attend to going through the traditional stages of production while the digital product needs to be conceptualized and prepared in a somewhat similar manner to the process outlined in number 1 above.  How do I overcome them?  I work as hard as I can and as smart as I can and delegate what I can to the support I am given to keep all the balls in the air and enlist the aid of the authors with the digital product, convincing them this is the future for their continued success (and revenue stream).

What’s the most difficult part of professional book editing?

BH: For me, as a full-time freelancer, working on multiple jobs at the same time is the most difficult. You cannot just work on one job because priorities change, authors don’t produce, and then you have no income, but if a book gets delayed, or the author cannot produce for some reason, you may wind up with multiple projects on the exact same timeline and that is difficult to juggle.

What is your favorite story to tell about something that happened to you while working on a book?

BH: I was the Director of College Survival and company had merged two programs. There was a book on the list that had not sold well in its First Edition, but I felt it had potential and I met with the author and discussed what it would take to get approval for a Second Edition.  He was resistant at first, but after a number of conversations, he agreed to a revised outline and some adjustments to the content. The book exceeded its first year sales goal and continued to sell well every year of that edition. The Third Edition broke the 20,000 copy sales range.  The book is now is now in its Sixth Edition and is one of the bestsellers in its market.

Approximately how many different departments are working on one book at the same time? How do you figure out the book’s schedule?

BH: How many departments are working on the book depends on what stage the book is in at any given time.  Right now with a book that is in production I am working with design, production, rights and permissions, and the digital team.  For the book in first draft I am working with the editorial team.

What made you want to teach editing?

BH: I am a graduate of the Hofstra Publishing Studies Program and I always wanted to come back and be a part of it. I teach editing because I think the author–editor relationship is very special and the most interesting one in publishing.  I am amazed by what authors can do, they make magic out of thin air as far as I’m concerned; I still believe that after all these years. To be able to assist someone in realizing their dream and to create material that helps students learn is a valuable endeavor.  I am a first generation college graduate and I want to help others succeed. Education got my family very far and I want to see it do the same for others. I greatly enjoyed mentoring assistants and those that were in entry and mid-level positions when I was working full-time and teaching gives me an opportunity to pass on my expertise and well as mentor new candidates for the publishing industry.

How do you prioritize the order in which students learn the editing material, and how do you figure out how much time you spend on the lessons?

BH: I’ve been teaching the course for 10 years now, but every year I ask the students if there is anything I should do differently and I read the student comments very closely and make adjustments accordingly.  I begin with the basic elements of editing, familiarizing them with the tools and how to use them.  Since my class is once a week, I break up the sections in manageable chunks, integrate visuals when I can, include current events, have the peer teacher present certain topics and designate time for actual editing.

What part of publishing do you think is too often overlooked? On the other hand, which section of book publishing do you think is the backbone of the industry?

BH: Many parts of publishing are overlooked it is an extremely broad industry that goes far beyond books. We need to keep that in mind as we work on our materials for class. To me the backbone of the industry will always be the writers.

Do you have any advice for students who want to go into the publishing industry?

BH: Get internships and network with the people you meet and don’t be afraid to keep in touch with them after you leave the internship.  Also use the LinkedIn Publishing Studies Program group for networking when you are looking for an entry level position.  Good luck!

Interview by Lindsay Demarco.

Hofstra Professor Joe Gannon on Bookmaking

By Lindsay Demarco

Joe Gannon is an Adjunct Associate Professor teaching in the Publishing Studies program of the English Department. He received his BS with a concentration in Technical Communications from New Jersey Institute of Technology, studied book publishing at NYU-SCPS, and management in the Adelphi University School of Business MBA program. He has previously taught Book Production at CUNY’s Midtown Center and began teaching at Hofstra in 2001. His company, Mulberry Tree Press, Inc., provides a variety of services to book publishers. He has worked in the publishing industry since 1975 holding a number of senior management positions with responsibility for editorial, design, production, manufacturing, and distribution. As technical consultant in the revision of Marshall Lee’s Bookmaking, 3rd Ed., he helped bring this industry-standard reference up to date as the personal computer revolution forever changed the face of publishing. He is also the author of a number of books published by Mud Puddle, Inc. with total sales in excess of 630,000 copies.

What is your mental process when making the design decisions for a book? What are the first things you think about?

Joe Gannon: There are several major design decisions that are often already made before a book is handed over to a designer; such as trim size, expected page count, and number and type of illustrations. But, the first step should always be to assess the validity of those choices. Then, style issues need to be resolved, like margins, alignments, typeface selection, etc. Designing a book is  a communications problem: How to make the ideas more accessible.

In your opinion, what are the most important aspects in book design?

JG: First comes the ability of the design to enhance the communication between author and reader. Design should be dictated by the needs of the book and its reader, not by the needs of the designer. Read the book if there’s time, skim it if there isn’t. Talk to the editor, and if possible the author. Try to get a handle on what the book wants to look like.

What are some of the biggest challenges you come across when working on a book, and how do you overcome them?

JG: The biggest problems are in situations in which the publisher, editor, or even the author insist on a design choice that I believe is not suitable, or not the best solution for the book. The challenge is to get a consensus that serves the book well.

What’s the hardest part about designing a book?

JG: Achieving that consensus in the face of various pressures. The challenge is political, as is its solution. It requires a gentle persuasion to overcome the imposition of bad ideas.

What is your favorite book designing story (either because of the people you worked with or the project you worked on)?

JG: I worked with Jackie Onassis on a facsimile reproduction of a classic illustrated Russian folktale, The Golden Cockerel. She was a top-notch professional when it came to the art and business of publishing. And she believed in the value of what she was publishing. Another project of note would be the signed & numbered limited edition of Stephen King’s The Stand. That one posed significant challenges in sorting out the top-flight specification and special manufacturing for very high-end (read expensive) luxury edition.

How much do you think the design of the book affects its success?

JG: I categorize books two different ways from a design standpoint. In the case of heavily-designed books—generally illustrated, like kids books, or art books, or books with complex typography—there is an overt contribution to the success of the book. But even in simpler designs—like the text of a novel—there is a profound subliminal contribution. In those books it is easier to see the ones where the design does not work. Good design in those books is largely invisible.

Why do you love designing books? What made you want to teach it?

JG: I have loved everything about books since I was a small child. Design is just one of the ways I get to contribute to an art form that, properly executed, lends a good deal of permanence to ideas, hopes, dreams, and values. The books I helped create will long outlive me.

And, I teach to pay it forward, and to stay on my game.

As a professor teaching these book design skills, how do you prioritize what the students learn and how much time you spend on the lessons?

JG: I try to make sure I am teaching useful stuff, and explaining the roots and foundations on which that body of knowledge is built.

At Hofstra you teach Book Design and Production, the Theory and Practice of Publishing, and Digital Publishing. Which of these is your favorite to teach? Why?

JG: I suppose Book Design & Production is more “in my wheelhouse,” but the other two are also fun to teach, especially when I get a group of students who are truly interested in the subject.

Do you have any advice for students who want to go into the publishing industry?

JG: Don’t expect any instant success, although it does happen occasionally. But if you love books, and work at it, there’s a rewarding career in it.

 

Interview by Lindsay Demarco.

On Domestic Abuse and Saving Our Men

written by Jenny Bhatt

 

Recently, a nationwide ad campaign went viral in India. The tagline is “Save the boy child and our girls won’t need saving.” Boys below the age of ten look into the camera and ask their parents to raise them better so they do not grow up to become rapists, wife beaters, molesters, stalkers, perverts, chauvinists, misogynists, and so on.

It’s disconcerting to hear such words from innocent children. But the ad is designed to make people stop and pay attention. Why? Because, in India, rape culture and aggression towards women are a part of everyday life, even among the educated elite. Marital rape is not a criminal offense. Indian politicians continue to dismiss complaints about rapists and women abusers among their party ranks and constituencies with statements like “boys will be boys” and “wives lose their charm over time” and worse, victim-shaming ones like “she should not be out so late at night anyway” and “if she obeyed her husband and adhered to Indian cultural traditions, this would not have happened.”

Let’s clarify the definition of “domestic abuse”: any behavior involving physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, or verbal abuse; any form of aggression intended to hurt, damage, or kill a person close to us.

Sure, it comes from a place of vulnerability where our sense of hurt or betrayal causes enough panic and anxiety that we explode, shout, belittle, and/or hit whatever or whomever we can to make ourselves feel better and stronger. But it also comes from a place of entitlement and privilege where we expect certain relationships to conform to our needs or demands and where we consider our fury-filled words and actions above reproach or repercussion. An abuser’s stance is always about what they are being “made” to do or say, projecting all responsibility for their own words and actions onto those they abuse.

This patriarchal mindset and toxic masculinity goes beyond the country’s geographical boundaries as the Indian diaspora is spread across the world. Indian men abusing women is one of the worst-kept secrets in other countries too. For example:

During my years of living and working in Silicon Valley, I met some first-generation Indian immigrant women who, despite their professional achievements, were struggling with their husbands’ anger issues, which ranged from public berating/humiliation to private beatings and more. The usual coping mechanisms for these women are to either make excuses for the men (high-stress jobs, alcohol, etc.) or to blame themselves for being somehow responsible. An Indian woman will rarely walk away from her marriage, especially if the husband is doing well professionally. Her own family is likely to view that as both her failure to hold her marriage together and her short-sightedness for her own financial wellbeing, immigrant status, etc. Additionally, as a society, we certainly do not make it easy for single women to thrive, especially if they also have to raise kids on their own.

Putting aside my anecdotal evidence, here are some statistics from two South Asian non-profit organizations in the Bay Area: Maitri received 4,330 domestic abuse calls in 2016, 2x more than in 2013. Narika receives 65%-70% calls annually from South Asian tech women. These are but a fraction of the actual cases because many women don’t call. The stakes are too high as a good number of them moved to the US after marriage, so they depend on their husbands for everything and often have no other support system.

I am not suggesting that domestic abuse happens only within Indian culture or that all Indian men are abusers. Nor am I implying that other cultures are more effective in preventing it or dealing with offenders. I also believe that all close relationships are ongoing, private negotiations where we do not bail due to occasional fights.

All that said, domestic abuse, in any society, is symptomatic of the deep-rooted, systemic values with which we raise our children. In Indian families, even today, an inflated sense of entitlement and privilege and a lack of accountability for one’s own words and actions are allowed to go unchecked among boys throughout their formative years and beyond. Patriarchal norms still hold fast that sons are the parents’ crutches in old age. So they are given preferential treatment in everything over daughters.

Though daughters are not entirely submissive nobodies as in my mother’s time, they are often still raised to be subordinate to the male ego and needs. What is nurtured within them, instead, is a sense of shame, fear, guilt, and responsibility for whatever bad happens to them. The emotional labor of relationships and marriages is almost entirely on them. If a marriage fails, it is likely something the wife did or did not do. Pile on top of all this an abusive partner and what we have, in addition to the inflicted savagery, is an ongoing erosion of self-esteem and self-confidence that makes the women even more dependent on the very men who abuse them.

With my short story, “Life Spring,” published in the May 2017 issue of Windmill Magazine, I wanted to show an Indian woman who walks away from an abusive marriage, despite the shame and blame, and finds her own place. Heena leaves her techie husband and troubled life in Silicon Valley to return to India and start again. She has to come to terms with her family abandoning her and the neighbors questioning her morality. She has to take her own power back from the world, making no excuses for who she is or wants to be. The narrative focuses on her life after the marriage because such an existence is hard to even imagine for those in abusive situations—for good reason, of course. I confess it would have been more challenging if I had included kids or legal aspects, which are inescapable realities for many and my story covers only the start of such a difficult solo journey.

As a society, we are collectively responsible for raising the next generation. We cannot claim to be against gender discrimination, inequality, and violence unless we demonstrate it in our own families. As the ad said: let’s save our men by raising them right so we won’t have to save our women.

Read Jenny Bhatt’s short story “Life Spring” here, in the Spring 2017 issue of Windmill. 

Podcast: Ruth Reichl on the Creative Process

 

Let’s start with perhaps the biggest question here that I think writers will sort of be able to hone in on. That is the question of mistakes. Are there mistakes, big mistakes, that reviewers or writers make that you’ve seen?

Ruth Reichl: There are a lot of mistakes. The biggest mistake that any critic, and this would be true of any kind of review, is many people tend to review the restaurant, the book, the movie, or whatever, that they wanted that person to make. You go to a new Jean-Georges Restaurant and you have an idea of what it’s going to be or what it should be. You review not what he wanted to do, but what you wanted him to do. That’s a really big mistake.

 

What is your scale for reviewing? How do you measure a restaurant?

RR: I think you try and figure out what it is that the restaurant is trying to be and then you judge it on its own pretensions. How successful is it in doing what it sets out to do? If you use that as your criteria, you can judge a hot dog stand and a three-star restaurant.

 

I want to jump to your time at Gourmet and transitioning into that editor-in-chief role. How would you say your leadership style was there?

RR: This is a hard thing to ask me to judge. But I’ll tell you what I hoped to do. I’m not sure I was totally successful in that. I was fortunate enough to go to Condé Nast. They pretty much let you run your shop the way you wanted to do it, rather than giving you marching orders and telling you it must be done a certain way. The way I saw my job was to try and hire people who were smarter than I was and to run interference for them. My managing editor was a much better editor than I am. I leaned on him and never wrote a memo that I didn’t ask him to vet before I sent it out. He was a better hirer than I was. I got him to help me do all the hiring. I hired people I think are better line editors than I am to actually do the line editing. My art director, I would not have told him how to do things. He’s much better at that than I am. In many ways I tried to have it be run by a group rather than by me. I think in contrast to the way many editors work, I thought it was very important for my staff to feel invested in the magazine. This meant I sometimes ran articles that I didn’t like. If it meant a lot to an editor, it felt more important to me for them to have a stake in the magazine than for me to think everything in the magazine was actually to my taste. I really tried to run it from the bottom up and to have people go out and find their own writers, and to try and make everyone feel as if they were doing this together rather than me telling them what to do.

 

Are there particular moments during your time there that stick out for you as the most memorable?

RR: I would say it was really way in the beginning. I got there and I had no idea what I was going to find. I was kind of afraid that I was going to come in and say we had a mandate to change, but nobody would have any ideas. But when I got there I found that they had never had meetings, ever. In fact, there wasn’t even a room big enough in the old building for us to have a meeting with everyone in it. In the first meeting, we were sitting on the floor and desks, crowded into this little room. But I said we had this mandate to change and I was prepared to do all the talking myself, and I didn’t say another word for a few hours. The pent-up energy was so fantastic and we all had the same goal. People say I changed the magazine. But we changed the magazine. This is a group of really smart and passionate food people and everyone wanted to talk about what was going on in the farms and happening in the food system. It was really exciting. It sort of went from there but that, for me, was a really important moment and I realized this was going to work and we’d do it together and have a lot of fun doing it.

 

When that chapter closed, did you know Gourmet was going to stop printing? How did you find out that it would stop?

RR: I literally was called while I was on book tour with the second Gourmet cookbook. I was told I had to come back to New York. I thought I was going to get fired. It never crossed my mind that they would close the magazine. I found it out with everyone else. It was just a complete and utter shock. I’m still shocked by it. Sure, fire all of us and make changes. But close a magazine that had that kind of connection with readers? It still strikes me as completely insane.

 

Do you sympathize with seeing what happened with Food Arts last year?

RR: I do, but it seems to me to be a very different thing. It was a small, mostly industry-oriented magazine. Gourmet, over its almost seventy years, had a connection with its readers that people would kill for. Any publisher would die to have people just renew regularly, to think of themselves as Gourmet people. There is literally not a day of my life that someone doesn’t tell me how much they miss the magazine. This is seven years later.

 

It’s such an interesting time for food. We’re seeing a lot of big establishment writers leaving publications and newspapers. You see Russ Parsons who recently said he is retiring, Dana Cowan moving on from Food & Wine. What do you think is coming next?

RR: You know what’s happening that makes me both sad and thrilled is that you have mainstream publications paying attention to food in a way that nobody ever has before. You have a Ted Genoways doing brilliant stuff in the Atlantic. I would imagine that the New York Times will find somebody to replace Mark too to be the public intellectual on food. You have The New Yorker doing really fascinating stuff on food science. There is a lot going on in writing about important food issues that just wasn’t happening even eight years ago. But at the same time, I see that the food publications are retreating in a way that’s really sad. You don’t have food sections doing really important stories that are into cooks and the epicurious magazines are all sort of retreating back into recipes and gossipy kind of things. It seems to me that it’s really important for this important food information to go to cooks and that cooks increasingly need good advice on how to make their food choices. It’s really the consumers who are driving the changes in the food business. You have things like Purdue buying Niman Ranch. They’re doing that because they see the writing on the wall and they see that increasingly consumers are saying that they don’t want to buy tortured animals. They don’t want battery chickens and so forth. I think that movement is going to be increasingly important, which is why I think it’s increasingly important for the really big stories about what’s going on in the food system to be aimed specifically at cooks. It makes me sad that it’s not happening.

 

I have one more question for you. What is next for you do you think?

RR: It’s an interesting time. I still owe Random House three books. I’m working on the next novel and the Gourmet memoir. I’ve also been offered another really interesting book project with a charity hook on it, which really interests me. I’ve also been approached by a group who want to do a magazine. I don’t know!