I’ve been working on David Caligiuri’s copy edit of my manuscript for HAPPY LIFE.

Is it going to be hard-hat or hard hat? How do you spell caddis fly (sp)? Where do we use a one-n dash and where a one-m dash? What words get hyphenated? Do we use a different font for the epigraphs? Do we spell it 1200 or twelve-hundred and if the answer is 1200, then is it 1200 or 1,200? And so forth and so forth and so forth. Every page of the copy-edited manuscript is covered with red ink.

Here are a few of paragraphs from my cover letter to Valerie Brewster (http://www.olympus.net/personal/brewster/scribe.html), the book’s designer and guide through the labyrinth from manuscript to book:

In two cases, p. 23 & 23A and p. 47 & 47A, I needed to rebreak lines because of edits/changes. Thus on p. 23A find stanza two from p. 23, as the lines should now run. And on p. 47A find the entire poem from p. 47 with the lines rebroken and corrections made. All other changes are on the pages themselves.

I have a question about the colon and the word that follows a colon. Is that word, the word that follows a colon, always capitalized, sometimes capitalized, what? What’s the rule? Is there a rule? On page 40 I’m hoping we can make all three of those Japanese words lower case. If you will go to pages 56, 62 and 64 you will find uses of the colon followed by a word whose initial letter is lower case. Do we need to be absolutely consistent? If not, then I hope we can on p.40, stanza 3, change Shu to shu. (Or leave all three, Shu, Ha and Ri: capitalized.)

A question on p. 72: why is Northern California capitalized but not northern Vermont.

A question about Oh and O: On page 64, David Caligiuri—the copy editor, about whom I wrote on December 7th—suggests O in place of Oh; yet on pages 27 (x7), 36, 43, 44 (x2), 59 and possibly elsewhere, it’s Oh. Is this an inconsistency?

And on and on.

If you don’t love these kinds of questions, maybe you don’t love being a writer.

So the manuscript—one of a kind—is in the hopefully capable hands of FedEx and on it’s way from the mountains of northern Vermont to Copper Canyon Press, located in Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend, Washington, literally the furthest west place on the west coast of the United States.

Next comes the page proofs and the last chance to make any substantial, but not too substantial, changes. At the same time that this is going on, the actual book is being designed. What’s the widest line in the book? The answer to that question will determine the point size for the font which also has to be chosen.

I hope by this point I’ve made sure that all the poems in the manuscript will fit on a single page without any run-over lines. There are some exceptions to this for a few, but only a few, multi-page poems. If there are some lines that do run over, then I will go back and rebreak all the lines in that poem and hope, hope, hope the new way they are broken still fits on the page.

And what will the cover look like? Months ago I sent in some suggestions for cover art. (see entry for December 7, 2010) Will the designers use one of my suggestions? Probably they will. Copper Canyon Press likes its authors to be in on and active in the whole design process.

How will the cover art fit with the type on the cover? What style or styles of fonts will be used on the cover? What colors will the cover have? What will the back cover have for text? What quotes will there be from famous authors about Budbill’s work? Will there be a blurb about the book’s contents, a teaser to make you want to look inside.

Cover design is critically important because as every book designer knows—all the rest of us know too—you CAN judge a book by it’s cover, or at least the cover is the first impression anyone will ever have of your book.

The questions are nearly endless, but they are not endless. Eventually all the questions will be answered and there will really be a book in the world with a publication date of early September 2011.

And in the end—which makes me think of the Beatles line- -and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. It’s true for making a book as well.

More about all this when the page proofs arrive here. In the meantime, stay tuned for something about the cover and cover art which is up next.


December 7, 2010


I’m about to send off the manuscript for my new book of poems, HAPPY LIFE, which will be published by Copper Canyon Press in September of next year. I hope I’m done with it this week. My editor and I have settled on the poems that will be in the book and in what order and now all I’ve got to do is write the front matter—the half-title page, other works by David Budbill page, title page, copyright page, epigraph page (I’ve got two for this book, one by a Taoist hermit in China whose name is Hsu-tung and the other by the 18th century Japanese poet and tea maker, Baisao), The acknowledgements page, dedication page, and table of contents. Then at the very end of the book there’s a short “about the author page,” which is a short biography of sorts. After all that front and back matter is in place and I’ve gone through the poems for the umpteenth time, I’ll send the manuscript off to my editor, both electronically and a hardcopy, so that the design and production process can begin.

I’ve already sent off a number of possibilities for cover art for the book. I picked about a dozen possibilities, with a great deal of help from my wife,  Lois Eby, who is a painter. Some of the possibilities are abstract, ensos and so forth, and some are landscapes from ancient Chinese painters. It’ll be interesting to see what the designer comes up with. It’s important to give the designer free reign because she’s the one who knows what image will go best with the kind of type and layout the cover of the book will have

And while the book is being designed—Copper Canyon Press, in my opinion, by the way, has the best book designers in the business.—the manuscript itself will be shipped out to the greatest copy editor of all time, David Caligiuri. David will go through my manuscript with a kind of attention to detail it’s impossible for ordinary mortals to imagine. He’ll track down every reference; check all the grammar and syntax, make sure all the spelling and capitalization are consistent throughout the book. Nothing escapes David Caligiuri’s eye for the minutest detail. I’ve been lucky enough to have my manuscripts go through the Caligiuri baptism by fire before and I can tell you, when a manuscript comes out of his sweat lodge you know it’s cleansed.

I’ve been working on this manuscript for more than a year. It took me more than six years to make the poems. Up until now this has been pretty much my book, then it became the creation of my editor and me as we decided which poems would get cut, which poems stay and in what order. We began with almost 200 pages of poems; we are now down to just a little over 100 pages of poems.

Now the number people working on this book enlarges from two of us to many: book designers, copy editor, sales staff, shipping clerks and so on. And all this so that a new book called HAPPY LIFE can be available for purchase by September 2011

Sincerely, David