An Interview with Ray Rhamey

Born and raised in Dallas, Ray Rhamey studied at the University of Texas-Austin before embarking on a decades-long career in advertising and marketing communications and a stint as a scriptwriter in Hollywood. Today he lives in Ashland where he devotes his energy to book editing and book design ( and writing (

Rhamey is the author of three novels The Summer Boy, a novel of Texas; Finding Magic, contemporary fantasy; and The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles, a humorous spoof of the vampire myth as told by a cat. He has also recently published a guide to writing fiction and we sat down on the internet to talk about Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling.

EB: Tell us a bit about your background in writing and editing.

RR: Even though my major in college was psychology, my first job was writing programmed learning training materials (about insurance policies—what a thrill!). I moved from that to a long career in advertising as a copywriter and creative director. Advertising is a great place to learn the discipline of using language in the most effective—and concise—ways possible. But my nature is that of a storyteller, so I left that to try screenwriting. There was a learning curve, though—screenplays target 120 pages, a page a minute in movie time. When writing my first script I found I was almost halfway through the story on page 6. Oops.

Then I moved on to long-form fiction, and have written a few novels. I was in a critique group in Seattle when the members started asking me to edit their novels. I moved from that to freelance editing, and now have clients all across the world thanks to the Internet. I still work on my own fiction, though.

EB: Who is the book for? What readers did you have in mind?

RR: Mastering the Craft of Compelling Storytelling is based on material I created for my blog on the craft of writing, so it was intended for all writers of fiction. I’ve found that the book works for many levels of skill. The focus on craft is good for giving beginning writers tools to use and grow familiar with—a number of editors have recommended it to their clients. But experienced writers also gain insights and stimulation that helps their writing. I know one author who reviews the book before self-editing to be reminded of the things that are so easy to overlook. I must say that I’ve read some bestselling authors that would have benefited from applying a few of the lessons.

EB: What skills does a good editor need?

RR: I don’t think of skills so much as talents, or affinities, plus knowledge—an eye/ear for language is first and foremost, but editors differ in how they can best apply that ability, and that’s why there are several “kinds” of editors. Here are the three basic types as defined by the Northwest Independent Editors Guild:

    Developmental Editing
    Developmental editors help you develop your project from an initial concept or draft, and can consult with you before the writing even begins. Developmental editors can help plan the organization and features of your project. They may make suggestions about content and presentation, write or rewrite text, do research, and suggest additional topics for you to consider.

    Substantive Editing
    Substantive editors work with you once you have a full text. They will help you get it into its final form, which may involve reordering or rewriting segments of it to improve readability, clarity, or accuracy. If you’re a fiction writer, a substantive editor can alert you to inconsistent character behavior or speech, help you adjust your language to your desired audience, and make sure your story has believable dialogue and a plausible plotline.

    Copyeditors work with your text when it is in final or nearly final form. They read each sentence carefully, seeking to fix all errors of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and word usage while preserving your meaning and voice. With your permission, they may rewrite tangled sentences or suggest alternative wordings. They can ensure that your text conforms to a certain style; if your project includes elements such as captions, tables, or footnotes, they can check those against the text.

    Basically, I’m a substantive editor, although I do intensive line editing and am a pretty good copyeditor. For all of my life I’ve had a talent for language and how to use it for the best effect.

EB: What’s the hardest part of editorial work?

RR: For me it’s maintaining a tight-enough focus to spot the tiny shortcomings (comma faults, verb tense, point of view shifts, etc.) as well as the gross, and this is especially difficult if the writing is good. I’m a reader first, and a clean, smooth narrative just pulls me into the story. In my Seattle critique group I never saw anything wrong with the first read of Lynn’s writing. I soon learned that I had to read it a second time before I could see weaknesses. That wasn’t true with the other writers in the group, although they were talented.

And there are times when a writer produces what Elmore Leonard calls “the parts you skip.” I’ll know I’ve hit a patch of that when my eyes start to glaze and my attention wanders. I have to stop for a while and build up enough energy to stay with it. Long flashbacks and detailed description can do that to me. It would help if authors read their work aloud—at a reading in Jacksonville recently an author read a section heavy on description out loud. Moments later she commented that as she was reading she was wishing it would get on with what was happening in the story. She should have done that before publishing the book—or used me as her editor.

Another challenge is to get enough distance to see the story and its paths as a whole in order to understand where it strays or where it’s weak. I read each manuscript three times, and then let it sit in my mind for a few days. It can take a period of “back-burner” reflection to put my mental finger on where the story itself needs work. Sometimes I see structural problems, but primarily it’s where a story deviates from course for a little side trip into material that doesn’t impact the story and slows pace. I exercise the delete key a lot.

EB: What should writers expect from an editor?

RR: First of all, honesty. I try for a pleasant keyboard-side manner, but I don’t pull punches. And a professional writer should be able to handle constructive criticism. An editor also needs to respect the writer’s voice—the biggest sin is to rewrite to make a narrative read as the editor would like it to. Expectations also depend on the type of editing being done—non-fiction is quite different from fiction. Because I also write novels, my edits of fiction are informed by having had to solve some of the problems my clients face, and I can bring that kind of creativity to the coaching and suggestions I make. I have restructured novels and sometimes suggested new endings (which were adopted). The goal is to help the writer make the best of her story.

EB: Is there a single most common problem with fiction manuscripts?

RR: What I see most often are stories that take way too long to get going. Opening pages and chapters are weighted down and slowed by backstory, set-up, and exposition. I deal with that every week on my blog, Flogging the Quill, where I and my readers critique opening pages. Fiction, in my view, needs to begin with something happening. You can weave in backstory and other information as the story takes place; never stop it for what is commonly called an “info dump.”

EB: You mention that it’s important for a writer to inhabit a character’s point of view. Why is that?

RR: I think a writer’s goal is to give the reader the experience of the character. How are you going to understand—and then show—a character’s experience unless you see what’s happening from the inside? The inside of a character—the hopes, goals, fears, flaws—is what drives the action, the plot. In the book I talk about how to use “experiential description,” which is description of place, people, things, or action that is colored or flavored by the character’s personal filters. For example, an objective description might be: The peanut butter sandwich was slathered with a thick layer of grape jelly. A diabetic allergic to peanuts might see it as: Globs of deadly grape jelly smothered a layer of poisonous peanut butter that lurked, ready to attack.

EB: I enjoyed the examples you used to illustrate the importance not just of precise language but of the right kind of precision. For example, your opening discussion of adverbs was very illuminating. Can you encapsulate that for our readers?

RR: There is a meme amongst fiction writers that adverbs are “bad.” A number of bestselling writers preach to avoid them. In considering the use of adverbs in my own fiction, I saw that there were times when they were weak and to be avoided, but there were also times when they strengthened the narrative. The weak use is when adverbs modify a weak verb in a feeble attempt at description. For example, “walked slowly” is poor description when a strong verb can do much better, eg. strolled, or sauntered, or ambled.

On the other hand, I’ve found that adverbs can add nuance and flavor to description when they are used in conjunction with adjectives—they can contribute to the characterization of a character.

For example, this description is clear: He found Emmaline to be cheerful and proficient.

But a couple of adverbs can characterize the person who thinks this: He found Emmaline to be annoyingly cheerful but pleasingly proficient.

Now we can see the person considering Emmaline as a bit of a curmudgeon yet an appreciative perfectionist, all due to the inclusion of those adverbs. In short, avoid adverbs that modify verbs, consider using them to modify adjectives.

EB: You also do book design. What makes a good cover design?

RR: I look at the primary objective for a book cover as being to help the title give the potential customer a sense of the story. It should add emotion, meaning, or intrigue to the words. Of course, as it does that it also has to be eye-catching. It needs to signal what genre the story is. And, in these days of tiny thumbnails on web pages, be understandable at small sizes—what works on a bookstore table often doesn’t on a web page. Book design also includes the design of the interior pages as well.

EB: Are there differences between book designing for ebooks and print books?

RR: Regarding the cover, not in my view. Pretty much all book covers are now presented on web pages, so they need to past that thumbnail test. The design of the interior of the book, however, differs from print to ebook. Most of my clients do both, so I start with the print version and distill the e-versions out of that.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

RR: My pleasure. There’s nothing I like to talk about more than writing.

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An interview with Amy MacLennan, poetry editor of the Cascadia Review

Amy MacLennan has appeared at the San Francisco Lit Crawl, the Petaluma Poetry Walk, the San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival, and the Windfall Reading Series in Eugene, and Cody’s Books in Berkeley. She has taught poetry workshops through the Sequoia Adult School, Oregon Poetic Voices, the Oregon Poetry Association and at the Northwest Poets’ Concord, written for the 2011 Poet’s Market, and published two chapbooks–Weathering (Uttered Chaos Press, 2012) and The Fragile Day (Spire Press, 2011)–with a third on the way. She is the poetry editor for the Cascadia Review.

EB: Tell us about the Cascadia Review?

AM: Cascadia Review is a regional, online literary magazine started by Dana Guthrie Martin in 2012. We have three issues each year (Fall, Winter, Spring), and we feature thirteen to twenty poets and artists over the course of two or three months.

EB: The Review seems to be about more than just poetry.

AM: Dana’s vision is to showcase work from the Cascadia bioregion, which includes all or part of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia and Alaska, along with fragments of Nevada, Wyoming and Yukon. Current or former residents are eligible.

EB: As a poetry editor, what do you look for in work?

AM: This is always the hardest question to answer. I look for imagery that is unexpected. I want fresh diction. I want unusual syntax that still makes sense. Exceptional use of assonance and consonance will always score bonus points for me.

EB: Do you make editorial suggestions? What’s the submission process like for poets?

AM: We occasionally make suggestions to poets. I generally suggest tightening. The submission process is pretty straightforward because we use Submittable.

EB: How did you become a poetry editor?

AM: I started judging small poetry contests about ten years ago then became a managing editor for The Cortland Review around the same time. I’ve guest edited and acted as a reader for print and online journals as well. I became a first reader for The Washington Prize (a full-length manuscript contest) in 2011, and I joined Cascadia Review a few years ago reading then becoming the editor.

EB: What do you enjoy most about editing?

AM: I am so happy when I can share work that I believe in. I’ve published, nominated, selected, and advanced work that I truly believe everyone needs to be reading, and I’m so pleased to be a part of that process.

EB: What advice have you got for aspiring poets and writers?

AM: Read a lot. Write a lot. Repeat. Follow the rules. Break the rules. Repeat. When you’re sharing your work, don’t take negative criticism personally. NEVER take rejection personally.

EB: What do you do when you are not editing poetry?

AM: I do freelance writing and editing along with social media consulting. I do consultations and editing on poetry manuscripts. I recently had a book accepted by MoonPath Press in Kingston, WA, for release in early 2016 (The Body, A Tree), so I’m tweaking that manuscript.

EB: How come we say “poets and writers”? Does that mean poets are special kinds of writers?

AM: Poets are special kinds of writers. (This is where I laugh a little bit.) Line breaks, use of sound, heavy imagery, and compression are the keys.

EB: Thanks. Happy poetry month!

AM: You too!

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An Interview with Rudy Greene

Rudy R. Greene, MD, FACR, is a board certified rheumatologist, who has been in practicing for nearly thirty years. He earned a BA in English literature and an MD from the University of Toronto. He went on to complete his internal medicine training at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach, California, and a rheumatology fellowship at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles. Dr. Greene served as associate professor of medicine at both USC and the Oregon Health Sciences University.

Dr. Greene is also a novelist and poet, and a marathon runner and triathlete. He recently synthesized his reflections on disorders affecting the joints, muscles and bones and their treatment in a guide for practitioners and patients. we sat down to talk about Rudy’s Ruminations On Rheumatology: A Guide for The Practitioner, The Patient and The Student

EB: What motivated to write this book?

RG: To make rheumatology and its practice understandable and accessible to everyone. Ultimately, I want to educate and leave a legacy. Finally, I want it to pay for my retirement.

EB: How did you first get interested in medicine and rheumatology?

RG: I was an aimless English major in college afraid that no one would buy my novels and decided I wanted an intellectually challenging profession in which I could help people, be a perpetual student and be financially secure. When I did my first rotation in rheumatology as an internal medicine resident it was love at first sight. It was the perfect fit–very social, intellectual and ever changing. Also, patients had chronic diseases and you followed them over years so they became family.

EB: How has the field changed since you began practicing?

RG:The practice has caught up to the science. We now have medications that actually put patients into remission and stop diseases cold!

EB: Your book is for patients, practitioners, and students. Did you find it challenging to write for all three audiences at once?

RG: It was a little difficult striking a balance between accessible and too complex. I always tried to put on paper words and terms that anyone could understand but never talk down to any of my audience.

EB: You mention in the book that you sometimes prescribe yoga and Pilates to patients. What is the role of lifestyle in managing illness?

RG: Healthy diet, exercise and psychological climate impact every disease and sometimes can fix mechanical problems such as a bad back or knee. They are usually complementary for systemic problems.

EB: You are also a poet and fiction writer. Have you always enjoyed writing?

RG: I wrote creative birthday cards at an early age and began writing poetry by age 14.

EB: As a poet, what do you think is the role of the humanities—writing, literature, and philosophy– in medicine?

RG: They are extremely important. Patients put their physical and psychological health in doctor’s hands. Doctors deal with mortality, ethical and moral issues daily. Any person who does not these issues seriously, does not like people or does not communicate well should not be a physician who deals with patients.

EB: One of the things I appreciated about your book was that it addressed patients. We hear a lot about medical education for practitioners, but what should patients be learning about medicine in their general education?

RG: There is science behind allopathic medicine that can be validated and duplicated. Good long term placebo controlled double blinded studies are important. Testimonials do not legitimize therapies. Learn about diseases from well accredited and respected sources such as the NIH, CDC, subspecialty colleges or major universities. Beware of outliers who claim that delegitimize the mainstream. Learn how to analyze studies and how to be a critical thinker.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

RG: Great questions. A pleasure!

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An Interview with Christine Dupres

Christine Dupres has a Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a descendent of the Lower Cowlitz and the Cree of Manitoba, Canada, and currently lives in Portland.

She has worked for the National Policy Consensus and NAYA Family Centers in the areas of development and community engagement, served on the board of Oregon Humanities, and is on the faculty at the American Leadership Forum and the owner of Radiant Life Counseling.
We talked about her recent book, Being Cowlitz, published by the University of Washington Press in 2014.

EB: In Being Cowlitz, you talk about the importance of stories in understanding a people. Can you tell us a bit about the kinds of stories you studied?

CD: First, let me define the word “stories” as used in my book, because while I do take a look at myth, lore, and legend, the real stories at hand are narrative strategies, used by Cowlitz Tribal leaders to reinforce their members’ identity. I think of stories as metaphor for transformation, as the way we use narrative strategically, as a means of relating experience and history that moves us across minds. Because I think of stories and storytelling in this way, stories run deep and are also quite cagey. Vi Hilbert, an Upper Skagit elder, activist and linguist, said that “Storytelling allows you to hear the soul and spirit of words” and I agree. Stories build relationship and understanding.

Perhaps most importantly, minorities in this culture are so often isolated deliberately and systemically from their tribe, their history, and each other. Stories shared unburden each of us from isolation, allowing us to share and tell our truth … in this way they are both incredibly powerful and disruptive, as well as reparative.

The stories I write about in Being Cowlitz are exactly this kind of story, the kind that knit together what might otherwise be torn asunder.

Kenneth Burke said stories are “equipment for living’ and that’s how I think of them – they lay the architecture for our behavior, and they also help clarify and articulate what we really think what we really feel.

EB: What did you learn from the stories?

CD: I began my book as a person unsure whether to inhabit the Native American self to which I felt so pulled, and fully unsure of what that inhabitance even meant – for example, I didn’t know the name of our Cowlitz languages; I couldn’t repeat a tribal story; I knew my family, but not many other members of the tribe; I pulled Smelt, but not in ceremony … the list goes on. I ended the process of writing feeling much more entitled to be what I was always told I was. Instead of feeling apologetic about who I was, I felt articulate and entitled.

EB: Did the stories evolve over time, as the tribes situation changed?

CD: Yes, Being Cowlitz is a book about how stories adapt and change, according to who is telling them and why.

EB: There is also an aspect of personal history in the book as well. Did the stories change you?

CD: In the end, In place of what I didn’t know, was a story, were many stories… and in place of what I didn’t understand was a compassion for myself, and other Native American and multi racial people who probably struggle with questions of racial identity, inequity, and erasure in their own way. I was also left with a sense of my place in a history … that’s proven invaluable. In exchange for a book, I got a new voice.

EB: How did you go about researching the history of the Cowlitz tribe? What were some of the challenges?

CD: The biggest challenge was a lack of readily available, substantive literature on the Cowlitz. The reliable documented accounts were few, and outdated. I found I couldn’t lean on primary source material to create the argument I wanted, and – furthermore – I valued the opinions and lived experience of Cowlitz people whom I interviewed. I did gather church and cemetery records, clippings from local southwestern Washington newspapers, and government depositions and documents, but they would prove insufficient. Even now, it’s tough to find organized, in depth information that is reliable on the tribe.

EB: In addition to being a writer, you were trained as an ethnographer and folklorist. What aspects of your academic background were most useful in your work? Or were they?

CD: For the most part, my training and academic background proved useful. Because the discipline of Folklore shines most brightly in its analysis of culture and the place of narrative in culture, and because I love the way stories work among people, I could use the best thinking in Folklore to support my own belief that lived experience is the most compelling evidence.

At times, because the University of Pennsylvania demanded academic rigor and yet first-hand narratives were seen as somehow less rigorous (I think) than other forms of academic research, I struggled to combine my primary and secondary sources.
Also, the academic voice of authority becomes problematic when you are a Native woman who belongs to the very tribe she’s researching. There was a complex intersectionality and tension to the process of research that existed and still exists: I am a woman, a scholar, a Cowlitz, a Cree, educated, urban dwelling … the composite of what makes me and the inherent power differentials made research among my people tricky at times.

EB: You talk about “genres of attachment” in historical discourse. Could you explain that a bit?

CD: Certainly. Rather than giving you a theoretical explanation of what I mean by “genres of attachment,” I’ll give you an example. The Cowlitz Chairman, John Barnett, once spoke very powerfully about Mt. St. Helens and its eruptive power. Now, while St Helens looms large in many peoples’ imagination because it blew its top so spectacularly in 1980, it lives differently in the imagination of the Tribal Chair, and other Cowlitz people, who – for 10,000 years – occupied a prairie that lay at the mountain’s feet. Because there is such a deep visual, experiential, and sensual attachment of the Cowlitz people to the mountain, when a leaders summons the memory of the mountain, it will most like resonate for a tribal person much differently than it might for an Italian tourist, say, or an American climber. The metaphor of the mountain summons a lifetime of personal memory, and millennia of collective memory. That’s a metaphor, or genre, of attachment.

EB: It seems that your study would be useful looking forward as well, for cultural and linguistic preservation efforts. Are you involved in those?

CD: I was, Ed. The Cowlitz Tribal Chair asked me to pursue language preservation for the Cowlitz Tribe, and so I wrote a federal grant to do some preliminary research into what of the Cowlitz Salishan and Saphaptin languages still existed. Concurrently, language was being taught by Marla Dupuis (Chehalis) and linguist Dale Kincade at the Chehalis Tribal offices. I took those classes, because the Lower Cowlitz (Salish) language and Chehalis languages are so closely related.

I left tribal employ before a second language grant could be written, but I know there are Sahaptin speakers in the Yakama Tribe, and suspect some more speakers still live at Warm Springs.

The upshot is that efforts to renew and restore the Cowlitz language live on. Michael Hubbs, a Cowlitz elder, has personally taken on the role of teaching the language to our Cowlitz children, and transcribing tapes recorded by linguist Dale Kincade in the 1970s. Kincade, a few weeks before his death, also completed a Lower Cowlitz language dictionary, and the tribe was able to purchase the dictionary for its members with the funding from the federal grant.

Though applied linguistics was less in fashion in the early 2000s, I believe there is renewed interest in language preservation and revitalization. Tribes value keeping language alive, as do linguists, as do tribal linguists like Vi Hilbert, a Skagit elder and visionary for her tribe.

EB: What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Being Cowlitz?

CD: It’s hard to choose, because the process of writing was so growthful. In this moment, I’d say the most rewarding aspect of writing Being Cowlitz was being able to understand and admire the tenacity and intelligence of the Cowlitz leaders and people, and how their Native story is by no means unique among other tribal peoples – in the United States and worldwide. The struggle for justice and meaning continues, despite the odds. Being Cowlitz is really a story about the human spirit, and our individual ability to create change and make things better. Even make things right.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

CD: Thanks so much, Ed, for the opportunity! I am truly grateful.

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An Interview with Precious Yamaguchi

Southern Oregon University professor Precious Yamaguchi teaches courses in critical studies, international communication and intercultural communication, and digital media. She has a PhD in Communication Studies from Bowling Green State University with research and researches issues of culture, identity, generation, social media, technology, and international textile markets.

Among her awards are the National Communication Association Top Paper Award for in 2008, the Winifred O. Stone Graduate Fund Award for Outstanding Graduate Student in 2009, and the Top Dissertation Fellowship Research Award at Bowling Green State University for the 2009 – 2010 academic year.

We talked about her recently published book, The Journeys and Strength of Japanese American Women: Stories and Life Experiences During and After World War II (Rowman and Littlefield/Lexington Books, 2015), about the lives, narratives, and experiences of Japanese American women who were interred during World War II.

EB: How did you come to write this book?

PY: As I was growing up as a young child, I would hear my grandparents speak about “camp” every once in a while. I was only familiar with the word “camp” as it relates to summer camp or day camp and they would briefly explain to me that the camp they were in when they were teenagers was very different, that they were imprisoned and their whole family was taken away from their homes, they lost everything they had, and had to leave their pets behind. As a child, it was heartbreaking to hear that my grandparents were once prisoners and as I grew older as a young adult, I saw that a lot of the ways my grandparents communicated and lived were influenced by their internment camp experiences, and how the internment camp mentality didn’t become erased the moment they left the internment camps, it has stayed with them throughout the rest of their lives. Everyday life situations such as my grandparents really encouraging my cousins, brother, and I to get an education because they did not have the opportunity to attend college because once they were released from the internment camp, they had to work right away because their families lost everything, and also how my grandparents are very embarrassed to speak Japanese and did not teach my parents the Japanese language because there was so much prejudice and suspicion against Japanese people during that time, they felt the safest thing to do was raise their children to be as American as possible. My grandparents’ generation felt a lot of shame and fear, but they were also very brave and did everything they could to rebuild their lives and I wanted to share their stories and other Japanese Americans’ stories through this book. The most interesting part of the Japanese American internment camp experience is not only the internment camps, it is what Japanese Americans did once they were released from the barbed wire camps. They had no homes to return to, many schools were still very prejudice against Japanese Americans and would not let them in their schools, landlords did not want to rent to Japanese Americans out of racism and fear they were bring property prices down, and a lot of companies, institutions, and stores did not want to hire Japanese Americans even after World War II. It took me around eight years to find and interview Japanese American women who were in their 80s and 90s in various parts of our country such as California, Michigan, Ohio, and Nevada to tell their stories. Some of them had never told their stories to anyone and felt an urgency to share their narratives because they started to see many of their peers pass away and wanted to share their stories before they passed away too. Three of the women I interviewed for my book, unfortunately, passed away before it was published.

EB: Who did you have in mind as your audience?

PY: People who are interested in Asian American history, American history, communication, Ethnic Studies, and anyone who is interested in reading an inspiring story about overcoming challenges and hardships. It does not matter if the reader is Japanese American or not, there will be many themes readers can relate to such a intergenerational communication, overcoming struggles, and I hope it encourages the reader to reflect on their own families’ stories and ask their relatives , grandparents, and parents questions about their families’ histories.

EB: In the book you examine the experiences Japanese-American of women of different generations as well. What did you conclude?

PY: One of the most significant conclusions I found that relates to not only Japanese American women, but the majority of people in their 80s and 90s, is that a lot of elderly people need people to visit, converse, and engage ideas with them. It was so interesting to see how many of the individuals I spoke with were so happy to have me visit them, listen to them, and be interested in their story. I was really surprised when some of Japanese American women told me they had never told their story before and that their children or grandchildren never asked about their stories.

More specifically, I found out Japanese American women, worked from a young age because the majority of them had to find work the moment they were released from the internment camps, so at 15 or 16 years old, they were working as domestic servants, factory workers, and nannies. My grandmother worked at the Nabisco factory when she was released from the internment camps and her mother had cancer at that time so she had to care for her mother, carrying her in and out of the bath tub, taking her to appointments, and financially supporting her, even though she was just a young teenager. No matter what socio-economic status these women were, they all worked very hard at a young age and lived very independent lives because even though they were only 15 or 16 years old, they would have to take a train by themselves to work as a domestic servant or factory worker in a city, town, or state, where they didn’t know anyone or have any resources, because their families lost everything they had. These experiences and memories of losing everything they had and having to grow up very quickly in a country that was prejudice against them, stayed with the women throughout their lives. Even though they may not speak about it often or at all to their love ones, their memories are painful, and there was so much rebuilding they had to do after World War II.

EB: There is also an aspect of memoir here. Was it difficult to combine memoir with ethnography?

PY: It was definitely difficult in this instance to combine memoir and ethnography for this book because I wanted to produce ethnographic research on Japanese American women, but during the time I was interviewing people and writing this book both my father and grandmother, who I was very close to, passed away unexpectedly. So it became even more crucial for me to write down the stories of people, because I was having loved ones pass away and was realizing how when people pass away they take their stories and unanswered questions with them. At the same time it was painful to have to reflect on their lives because I missed them so much. Also, my family has been very active in the Japanese American community in Los Angeles so a lot of the people I interviewed knew about the passing of my father and grandmother and would inquire about it. I felt including an aspect of memoir and autoethnography was important to show the first-hand experience I had with intergenerational communication between Japanese American grandparents who experienced World War II and how their perspectives influenced the way they communicated with their children and grandchildren. Intergenerational communication with grandparents, not just Japanese American grandparents, can be difficult because each generation has lived through different politics, events, and moments in history, which influence their values, beliefs, and the expectations they have for their children and grandchildren.

EB: What was the research process like for studying the Japanese-American internment?

PY: I really felt that the research for this book had to be ethnographic because both myself and the readers should be engaged in the various sources, experiences, observations, and narratives in Japanese American culture. Books such as Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience by Lawson Fusao Inada and Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone, gave great perspectives on writing about Japanese Americans. I also felt that it was important to start with my family’s experiences, using interviews, observations, and writing as part of them research, and then continue to interview, interact, visit, and observe more Japanese American women who I found through personal connections and with the help of the Japanese American Citizen’s League in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Detroit, and the Japanese American National Museum was also a wonderful resource for me because they have a lot of artifacts and installations devoted to the peoples’ stories. Because I was interviewing elderly women, sometimes I would have to meet or speak to them multiple times because they would get tired or they would forget specific details and have to look up the details in their past letters, journals, or photos. A lot of Japanese American women were so helpful because even after we completed our interview, they would send me photos, artifacts, or letters through they mail, that they were able to retrieve or find after out interview.

EB: How did the internment experience affect these women? Did you find differences in men’s and women’s experiences? And in the way the experience has been historicized by gender?

PY: I focused on Japanese American women because a lot of the ones who grew up during the time of World War II, were brought up to be very modest and were taught it is rude to talk about yourself too much, boast, or have people feel sorry for you. Typically you’re not supposed to talk about positive things about yourself because it can be seen as bragging and you’re not supposed to talk about negative things too much because it may come off as seeking sympathy. There is a bit of a double-standard when it comes to gender communication in the Japanese American culture, especially in regards to the older generations. There are certain Japanese words such as enryo or gaman that emphasize the qualities of modesty, holding back, and enduring, that have no word equivalents in the English language. A lot of Japanese American women had stories of racism, working, traveling, and overcoming so many challenges and hardships, but culturally, they were not brought up to talk about themselves so many of their stories have gone untold. It was great to interview them because most of them have never had a person ask them about their lives, stories, or just give them opportunities to talk about themselves.

EB: What was the most rewarding aspect of writing the book? And what was the biggest challenge?

PY: The most rewarding aspect of writing this book has been giving the completed publications to the women and seeing their faces of disbelief and surprise that their story is part of history, culture, and literature! I enjoyed the interviews I had with all of them and the experience of writing my first book. I share the beliefs with Morris Young and Kent Ono, who are also Asian American scholars, that the act writing becomes part of the research and its great to represent Asian Americans’ experiences through writing.

The most challenging part was the death of my father and grandmother while writing this book. There were some moments I felt like I couldn’t write the book any longer and just wanted to bury the project, especially when I had to listen to the recordings and write of the interviews I had with my grandmother who passed away, but it actually became a very powerful way to reflect, hear, and listen even more closely to my grandmother’s story.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

PY: Thank you for your interest!

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You’re never bored when you are a linguist

Why do we call computer cookies “cookies”? What’s up with pronunciations like “warsh,” “bolth” and “aig”? How come we have the noun “stick-to-itiveness” but no adjective “stick-to-itive”?

You’re never bored when you are a linguist. And that’s never more true than at the Linguistic Society of America. I just got back from the 2015 annual meeting—the 89th—held in Portland, where made some new friends and I caught up with former students, old friends and colleagues, and even a former professor of mine.

My brain is full and my to-do list is overflowing with new ideas and insights from the talks and workshops. Among other things I attended a slew of terrific papers on the Pacific Northwest Dialect, new approaches to teaching linguistics and talking about language with the general public: Arika Okrent explained the values of her Mental Floss listicles, Neal Whitman recounted his experiences as a guest writer for Grammar Girl, and Michael Erard talked about the hot new magazine SchwaFire. I learned about outreach efforts like the Ohio Language Pod–a research lab at the Columbus Center of Science (hey, Science Works!, we need to do this).

I made some short term plans (I need to talk about the “inner circle free pass” in class soon and revamp my discussion of Pacific Northwest dialects asap) and some long term plans as well (Dennis Preston and I have an idea…). And I need to buy Roger Shuy’s new book on The Language of Murder Cases and Rochelle Lieber and Pavol Štekauer’s The Oxford Handbook of Compounding (which won the Leonard Bloomfield Award from the Linguistic Society).

At the presentations I’m amazed at how funny and incisive my colleagues are, and how they manage to do both at once. And I come away from the book exhibit with some free pends and a long bibliography of new textbooks to check out. I’m planning to advantage of the special offer for the online Dictionary of Regional American English.

And that’s not all. The Linguistic Society meets with the American Dialect Society, which has its annual Word of the Year (WOTY) open vote, hosted this year by Ben Zimmer. The room was too crowded and raucous for me a make my pitch for “normcore” as a valuable new word, but at least it escaped the ignominy of being “least likely to succeed.”

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Literary Ashland Radio for December, an interview with M. J. Daspit

Happy holidays. This month’s Literary Ashland Radio features an interview with M. J. Daspit, author of Lucy Lied. You can listen to the interview here.

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The Unspoken Formulas of Gender in Names, a guest post by Shannon Houston

Shannon Houston is a senior at Southern Oregon University, majoring in English and Communication.

An email labeled from Sarah paints a picture of a female author in the minds of most recipients. If one hears the name Tom in a given conversation without visualization or verbal confirmation, that person will envision a male bearer of the name. But what about the name Taylor, or the nickname Sam? Humans have the desire and the capacity to identify the characteristics of something or someone by the sound of a name, and typically these characteristics include gender. But what is in the name Sarah that makes it distinctly feminine, or why Tom is exclusively masculine? Why would a mother name her son Shawn, but feel it is more appropriate to call her daughter Shawna? Something like the number of syllables in a name may be enough to indicate to a listener the gender of the name-bearer, or how “strong” that initial syllable sounds. There are unspoken rules and formulas imbedded in how parents decide to name their children and how people then react to those names later on based on the phonetic composition of the name and pre-programmed instincts for interpreting the significance of these components.

Though names are so numerous and so commonplace, they play an extremely important role in each individual’s personality. As a child grows up, if they are not happy with their name they will likely adopt either a more appropriate nickname, choose to be referred to by their middle name (if they have one) or potentially change their name altogether. Names are a sort of personal marketability, and can put up a front of meaning just from the first utterance. If someone has an ex-girlfriend named Sarah, it is not far-fetched to suppose that the name Sarah might carry fairly negative connotations for that individual. If a foreign-exchange student has a difficult-to-pronounce name, that individual may elect to find a more universally-friendly nickname for their friends to use. Even celebrities change their names in an approach to truly be more marketable; Freddie Mercury is a lot easier to remember and pronounce than Farrokh Bulsara. Parents put thought into their child’s name, often catering to what is in style or what would sound good with the parents’ surname. Realistically a parent can only control so much, not knowing if their child will like the name they are given or knowing what type of name would suit the career their child may ultimately want. However, if parents know the gender of their child, they can choose a name that reflects that gender or perhaps the traits associated with that gender to help shape what they might like to see in their child. Precious little princess Sophie sounds a lot more delicate than precious little princess Rowen, does it not?

People are not necessarily conscious of the traits that stick out to make a name appear more masculine or feminine; they can just interpret the name instinctually, based off of practices that have been ingrained into society and the human ear. These traits have existed for centuries, as many of the names that are still common today (and their accompanying genders) date back to classical Greek, classical Latin, vernacular or Biblical usage (Hough 3-4). Names are clearly still being created today, but they continue to fit the gender patterns of names that were established long ago. For example, many of the formerly masculine names that have been adopted as feminine such as Taylor, Payton, and Shannon fit the patterns where masculine and feminine names overlap in terms of length and sound, though it appears that once feminized, these names tend to stay feminized rather than remaining in some sort of unisex limbo. The ways in which masculine and feminine-sounding names differ definitely exist, and appear to be fairly important to the way social culture operates.

So why does this difference even exist? Are names not reflective of individuals, more than reflective of gender? Apparently not, as there seems to be a connection between the “strength” of sounds and which sounds appear in the names of each gender. Sexual selection suggests that strength and body size both play an important role in the traits humans desire their offspring; men should be bigger and stronger while women should be smaller and more delicate (Pitcher, Mesoudi and McElligott 1). When looking at sound specifically, “Frequency Code” and “Motivational Structural Rule Theory” both indicate that a listener associates sounds of a lower frequency with a speaker with a larger vocal apparatus, creating the idea that these types of sounds are more masculine (Pitcher, Mesoudi and McElligott 2). The opposite is suggested for feminine sounds, which theoretically are created through higher frequencies from individuals with smaller vocal apparatuses. So on an auditory and psychological level, Thomas sounds like the kind of guy who could tear down a brick wall while Demetria sounds like she should be inside reading a book, waiting for the kettle to boil. These stereotypes are completely based off of ridiculous assumption, but they nonetheless exist in the world of strict gender binaries.

The stressed syllables of a name are what carry the brunt of a name’s “strength,” and strictly feminine names tend to have a small-sounding phoneme in this stressed syllable, such as in the name Emily (Pitcher, Mesoudi and McElligott 2). The top six female names for 2013 all ended with the fairly common “a” ending for girls (producing the [ə] sound) with names such as Sophia, Emma and Olivia (“Top Ten Baby Names for 2013). Female names are also more likely to end with from the y/ie spelling that yields the [i] sound. Actually, as a whole, female names tend to contain this [i] sound (Cutler, McQueen and Robinson 480). The [i] sound is also found in mostly feminized nicknames, which is discussed more below. Feminine names also tend to be longer than male names, containing fewer monosyllabic names and instead having names that can contain as many as five syllables, such as Alexandria (Cutler, McQueen and Robinson 475). This perhaps suggests a desire for female names to be more intricate and beautiful in a way that male names may not require.

By comparison, male names do not appear to have such strict trends in sounds, like the “a” in the girls’ names. The main consistencies in male-sounding names are the strong vowel sounds and the shorter length, often being monosyllabic. However, many male names have common, long-lasting sources, not being manipulated and fashioned into new names as frequently as female names. Many of the most popular male names from 2013 have Biblical ties, such as Noah, Jacob and Daniel (“Top Ten Baby Names for 2013”). Biblical names as a trend are almost forced to be gendered, however, based on the overwhelming number of male characters in the Bible compared to female characters. In contrast to female names, male names have a large-sounding vowel phoneme in the stressed syllable of the name (Pitcher, Mesoudi and McElligott 2). Male names are frequently compared structurally to common nouns, lacking the elaboration of a feminine name (Hough 1). It is also more common for a male to bear a surname as his personal name than for a female to do the same (Hough 7).

Names obviously change over time in terms of popularity, or even in terms of usage. Fairly frequently, female names are created by adding suffixes to traditionally male names, such as Georgina or Maxine (Cutler, McQueen and Robinson 476). This contributes to the trend where female names are longer than male names, such as how Georgina adds two extra syllables to George. This is not true in the reverse, however; strictly female names simply cannot be altered to form male names (Cutler, McQueen and Robinson 480). In a few instances, names can become completely unisex, used almost equally in either gender, but this appears to be rare and often a temporary state. Though mindsets appear to be shifting to accommodate more individuals who do not fit into the gender binary, this binary is still very real and has a heavy influence on culture, particularly on American culture. There are names that hover in the middle-ground sections of male/female names, but it still ultimately comes down to the perception of the individual hearing the name, and the current culture still presents strict binaries for everything to be classified into.

Though the study conducted by Benjamin Pitcher, Alex Mesoudi and Alan McElligott suggest that strong-sounding names are considered more masculine because of their ties to size of an individual, it does not seem far-fetched that the strength itself is what makes those names appealing. If this is to be the case, the process of taking male names and adopting them as unisex may be reflective of females claiming a portion of this strength that they previously did not have access to. However, Stanley Lieberson, Susan Dumais and Shyon Baumann’s research suggests a different theory in gender adoption; as parents seek to break gender barriers with androgynous names, these names will eventually be forced into gendered categories as they become more popular. A parent is likely to have encountered a name before bestowing it on their child, regardless of if it was gendered or androgynous. Even if parents consistently give their children androgynous names, these names will inevitably end up used more commonly for one gender or another, and that gender will ultimately claim that name (Lieberson, Dumais and Baumann 1255). Taylor is one of the more well-known and current unisex names, but the fame of singer Taylor Swift will likely claim Taylor as a generally female name in the future.

Many unisex names actually come from diminutive forms, from nicknames. Most names have the potential to be broken down into a single syllable, which breaks gender boundaries in many instances (Cutler, McQueen and Robinson 478). Both Samuel and Samantha can be broken down into Sam, which crosses the gender neutrality mentioned earlier. Particularly long names might yield two-syllable nicknames, but these are most frequently regarded as feminine, again contributing to the length argument. Both a Christopher and a Christina could go by Chris, but a person going by Chrissie sounds distinctly more feminine (Culter, McQueen and Robinson 478). This is not a perfect formula, however, because both a Nicolas and a Nichole might go by Nicky or Nicki (sounding the same and only differentiated by spelling) but this nickname does not sound specifically either masculine or feminine. Spelling itself is an entire area used to separate names into gender binaries. What is it about Danny that looks more masculine than Dani? It cannot be the length theory, in this case, since Danny is longer, but the name Dani simply looks more delicate, more slender, and ultimately, more feminine.

The human brain loves to categorize things, and tends to operate in the form of binaries with little room in the middle of each spectrum. If this is not good, it must be bad. If this is not happy, it must be sad. In the case of names, if a name does not represent a male, it must represent a female. If a name is solid and strong, it belongs to a man; if it is delicate and weaker, it must belong to a woman. Though these thoughts and binaries do not reflect the actual individualities of a name-bearer at all, they are components of a larger system that allows the human being to continue categorizing what it hears into two distinct boxes. The androgynous names that surface to overtake these binaries do not often stick around for very long before they, too, fall victim to these practices and standards.


    Cutler, Anne, James McQueen and Ken Robinson. “Elizabeth and John: Sound Patterns of Men’s and Women’s Names.” J. Linguistics 26 (1990): 471-82. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 November 2014.

    Hough, Carole. “Towards and Explanation of Phonetic Differentiation in Masculine and Feminine Personal Names.” J. Linguistics 36.1 (2000): 1-11. JStor. Web. 20 November 2014.

    Lieberson, Stanley, Susan Dumais, Shyon Baumann. “The Instability of Androgynous Names: The Symbolic Maintenance of Gender Boundaries.” American Journal of Sociology 105.5 (2000): 1249-87. JStor. Web. 20 November 2014.

    Pitcher, Benjamin J., Alex Mesoudi, Alan G. McElligott. “Sex-Based Sound Symbolism in English-Language First Names.” PLoS ONE Jun. 2013: 1-6. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 November 2014.

    “Top 10 Baby Names for 2013.” Social Security. USA Social Security Administration, n.d. Web. 27 November 2014.

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Literary Ashland Radio for November, an interview with Clive Rosengren

This month’s edition of Literary Ashland Radio features Clive Rosengren, a “recovering” actor and current mystery writer. Clive’s protagonist, Eddie Collins, the part-time actor and PI introduced in Murder Unscripted, is on a new case in The Red Desert. This new Eddie Collins mystery will be available in January 2015 and Clive gives a preview of the story in this interview.

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An Interview with Nicole Howard, author of The Book: The Life Story of a Technology

Nicole Howard is the author of The Book: The Life Story of a Technology (Johns Hopkins Press, 2009). She has a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University.

Professor Howard teaches European and world history at Eastern Oregon University.

EB: What got you interested in history, and specifically the history of the book?

NH: My undergraduate degree was in math; I only took history courses as a hobby. But I was curious enough to pursue graduate work in the History and Philosophy of Science program at Indiana University. Thanks to Lilly Pharmaceuticals (hard to believe I just wrote that) the IU Special Collections are home to an amazing array of early modern scientific texts. First editions of works by all the great scientists—Galileo, Harvey, Newton, Borelli—were held in the Lilly Library. I just loved spending time in there, holding those books. Then one day, in a moment of serendipity, I realize that the book I was looking at—a physics text by a man named Christiaan Huygens—had notes scribbled in the margins. A little more probing revealed that this had been Isaac Newton’s copy, and these were his notes (which included things like “I proved that already”). Discovering that solidified a life-long interest in books as objects: how they are made, how they are written, how they are read.

EB: Why is the history of the book important today?

NH: The obvious answer is that we are living in something of a transitional time, where texts are concerned, and it is useful to understand how fluid textuality (print media) has always been. I think it’s easy to fall into cliché where books are concerned, drawing parallels between the printing revolution, for example, and the internet. And such a comparison is not without truth, but the history of the book lets us study similarities and differences in greater depth. When we do so, we begin to appreciate that books have always been dynamic objects, their shape, meaning and influence changing over time. It’s the perspective that book history gives us that’s most valuable.

EB: What was the most challenging aspect of researching the book? And what was the most rewarding?

NH: There’s a great deal of literature out there, so an initial challenge was to calibrate where my work would fit. Ultimately, I felt that much of the scholarship—which was excellent—was also quite technical, to a degree that would be a challenge to many readers. I wanted to highlight the social and cultural history while deemphasizing those technical parts. That change in focus, however, didn’t mean I could personally gloss over the technical aspects, so I spent a lot of time learning about things like descriptive bibliography, lithography, the mechanism of mono- and linotype, etc. It was a wonderful exercise, and therefore a reward in itself.

EB: What topics would you have added if you had twice as much space?

NH: As someone who trained in the early modern period, I would love to have spent two or three more chapters on print’s early years (the period that gets distilled in the “Youth” chapter). There’s so much going on in the 16th and 17th centuries where print is concerned, from the ways books were physically put together to the paratextual elements they contained (prefaces, colophons, indices, etc.). I find that period endlessly fascinating.

I would also like to see the book updated. So much has transpired in the nine years since I wrote this that “The Future of Books” almost has an antiquated charm. Less generously, it’s outdated. The publisher’s reluctance to put out a new edition, I suspect, stems from the fact that many scholars have take up the discussion of the book’s future. The market for such works is fairly saturated. Still, if I had the chance I would write my own postscript.

EB: My students were fascinated by the story of Gutenberg and his business partners. Can you tell our readers a little about that?

NH: Poor Gutenberg. He is at once an ideal candidate for historical sympathy and a cautionary tale about choosing business partners. The facts is that Gutenberg needed financing for his project, which necessarily put him at the mercy of others. He also needed time. The 42-line Bible that is attributed to him was 1,282 printed pages. Historians estimate that he needed at least four compositors and twelve printers on this job which took nearly three years to complete.

The terms of the loans Gutenberg received from Johann Fust were pretty standard for the day. The first one, for 800 gulden in 1449, was borrowed against the equipment Gutenberg would develop. The second loan in 1452, also for 800 gulden, was specifically for their joint venture in “work of the books.” But by 1455 Fust and Gutenberg were disagreeing, each accusing the other of misappropriating funds in some fashion. Fust called the loans due which, with interest, amounted to 2,026 gulden. (One historian notes that this would purchase four houses at the time.) They went to court and a royal notary recorded the only document we have from the dispute. The judgment went against Gutenberg. What this means, precisely, is not known. Theoretically Gutenberg would have turned over all his equipment to Fust, as well as half of the Bibles produced. In 1460, however, Gutenberg was printing again, so it is unclear whether he was able to hang on to some of that equipment or if he secured it through someone else.

The only extant court record of this dispute is fully viewable in mss form and in translation. Just click on the Helmasperger’s Notarial Instrument:

EB: I was struck by the attention you have to the labor history of the book, and the way in which technology was often a threat to workers. Is there a lesson in all that for us today?

NH: Certainly there was concern about what it meant to print texts or, later, to automate that printing. Scribes resisted, parchementers and printers resisted, compositors resisted, and today publishers resist (see Amazon v. Hachette). Such opposition was especially evident in towns where there was a thriving book market, such as university towns. It’s interesting to note, however, that for at least 150 years after the printing press was developed, scribes were needed—and not in trivial numbers—in most European cities. Governmental documents, satires, poems and letters were often hand-copied, rather than printed, both for efficiency’s sake and because it allowed the producer to control the audience.

I mention that because we see time and again that as a new technology is introduced, it doesn’t necessarily imply obsolescence of the original modality. The market for ebooks today is big and growing rapidly, but in 2013 sales of hardback books outpaced ebooks by a factor of 2:1. Certainly there’s a demand for books on the ipad and kindle, but the purchasing public has also made it clear that they still want hard and paperback books. In terms of labor, this means diversification of production, but not the death of a certain type of product.

EB: Do you have some favorite resources—museums, websites, videos–for the history of the book?

NH: It would be hard to appreciate books as much as I do and not love the documentary Helvetica. It deals more broadly with graphic design and how typefaces affect us, and if one can get beyond the fact that it’s a film about a font, it makes for great viewing.

As far as museums, one of the best is the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, Belgium. They have some of the oldest printing presses in the world there, as well as examples of printed books going back to the business’s founding in the 16th century. They also support a nice website.

Finally, the website hosted by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) has a collection of links to print history in all periods:

EB: What sorts of current scholarly projects are you working on?

NH: Currently I’m studying the prefaces of early modern books—when they first appeared in books, who wrote them, and what kinds of messages they conveyed. It turns out that, initially, books just didn’t have them. Then printers started writing “Prefaces to the Reader” in an effort to publicize their shops and make sure readers understood what they were getting. By the 16th century, authors had commandeered that space, so that the prefaces were authorial voices talking to potential readers. What they say is sometimes surprising. Some authors use the preface to intimidate readers they don’t want (e.g. if you’re too religious to be open to these ideas, then take a hike) while others try to prime their readers for a particular kind of reading experience. And of course there are the authors who offer obscene amounts of false modesty in the preface, claiming that they don’t really want to publish, that’s it’s beneath them, etc., but that their friends have pressured them to put their brilliant ideas into print. I hope to present on this next summer and then see where the topic takes me.

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