Lee L. Peoples: Copy Editor and Book Reviewer – The Second Artery that Is Agenda MagazineBy admin | May 26th, 2011 | Category: Interviews, July 2009 | No Comments »
Agenda Magazine wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for Lee Peoples, our copy editor and book reviewer. It seems as though Lee lives and breathes syntax. She is the second artery that gets the heart beating. And Agenda wouldn’t be what it is today without her.
You have been the copy editor for Agenda since the very beginning. Many people would consider what you do extremely tedious. How do you feel about copy editing?
Yes, Agenda was begun in 2004, the last year of my teaching career in the classroom. It ideally fit right into what I had been doing for the better part of my life, and it was one of the goals I set for myself upon retiring the following year. I could still “teach English” without the daily commute, the only thing I hated about my work.
Some might think editing and proofreading tedious, but I enjoy it, especially when I see that what I do not only benefits the magazine but also helps the writers in some small way to be the creative writers they are. In most cases, it’s just a matter of synchronizing style; but in others my editing actually helps the writer become better. I love teaching, and I have always taken pride in fostering growth in others. And with each article I learn something new, as in every day in the classroom I always gleaned something new.
Give a little bit of your background.
I retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2005, where I had spent forty-one years as a teacher of English. I received a Bachelor of Science degree from Grambling College, Louisiana, in 1960. Later, I did graduate work at UCLA and Cal State Long Beach. My first teaching experience was done in Augsburg, Germany, where I spent two years with my husband who was in the Army there. I began my family there. I also taught in the Army Education Center, where I prepared soldiers for the English part of the GED so that they could get their high school diplomas.
My teaching experience in California began in junior high school where I taught English composition and language arts to my favorites, seventh and ninth graders; and ended years later in senior high school. My experiences included teaching all levels of English and language arts, from remedial to average to advanced placement. I have been English department chairperson, master teacher, training teacher, and mentor to many new teachers. I have worked with the district in curriculum. I owe my many successes to my own love of learning, originally engendered in me by my parents and older siblings, and my insatiable thirst for knowledge. As I teach, I learn.
I always modeled my teaching after my high school English teacher, whom I credit with most of what I learned about my field even before I went to college. Growing up in a small town in South Louisiana, I am fortunate to have had Mrs. Herbert as my English teacher for all four years of high school.
Did you ever have a favorite article, writer, etc., related to the magazine?
Gee, they are all my favorites. Not only do I enjoy reading the articles, but I am always learning something new. And I just love working with everyone.
You also do the book reviews. What’s involved in reviewing a book for a magazine?
As in the classroom, my goal is to create interest in the book and hopefully get the reader hooked enough to read that book. I generally write about what I liked about the book, whether it is the plot, the characters, the setting, theme, style, etc. Sometimes my intent is clarification.
What is involved in copy editing?
Simply making sure that the writing is clear and the style is consistent. Clarity involves sentence structure, paragraph development, correct grammar, spelling, punctuation . . . knowing when to break the rules to suit the occasion.
What is your opinion of the way we use language today? If you can, give examples of media, social situations, and print.
A stickler for the correct use of language, I cringe at its abuse. This abuse is not deliberate but is often the result of a lack of knowledge of the grammar of the language. It is too bad grammar is not taught in the classroom as it used to be. In many cases the only grammar a student learns is in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes or in foreign language classes. For example, the highly educated news commentator might say, “. . . between you and I,” simply because he/she does not know that between is a preposition and must be followed by an object, in this case, “me.”
To be confident of punctuation in writing—an absolute necessity for clarity—one needs to know the rules. Where should these rules be taught? In the classroom, the English classroom, that is. An understanding of grammar and knowledge of punctuation rules contribute to reading comprehension. The misuse of some verbs can be remedied by simply knowing their meanings and their principal parts. Where taught? Again, in the English classroom (and, of course, exercised in all the disciplines). So instead of, “She’s layingdown in her bedroom,” the speaker or writer says/writes, “She’slying down. . . .” Lie, lying, lay, lain—intransitive, “to rest or recline”—as opposed to lay, laying, laid, laid—transitive, “to put or place (an object).”
Anything you’d like to add about what it is you do and your passions for the English language?
I love the English language, and this leads to my passion in helping others in their oral and written communication.
Are there any highlights you’d like to share about what you do?
I’ve had lots of highs. Contributing to the success of the magazine and helping the writers are just two of these highs.
What advice if any could you give to writers?
Continue to aim for clarity. Writing is rewriting. Keep up the good work.
Interviewed by Kaylene Peoples