Monthly Archives: March 2008


Finished the first pass through the proofs! Now I have to go back and check the notes I made, and re-read the first half to make sure I’ve caught errors I found later. (A ‘censor’ is not needed for a ritual involving incense, whereas a ‘censer’ is. Am I ever glad I caught that one.) And now I’m wibbling about my ruthless elimination of commas for invocations in the latter half of the book; they do work well in some instances. Sigh.

I read a paragraph and choked up. That’s never happened before.


I see that a lot of the corrections I’m asking for in these page proofs are things that possibly could have been caught in the copyedit stage, but weren’t. I assume they weren’t pointed out because the copyeditor wanted to leave my prose as close to my original voice as possible, but I wish the slightly clumsy phrasings and inconsistent punctuation in invocations (ah, those commas) had been tagged earlier. Understanding what something says doesn’t mean there can’t be a clearer way to say it. And rereading it fully now, as opposed to going through the CEM edit by edit, I’m seeing places I wish had been pointed out. Oh well; if it’s crucial I’m correcting it; I’m correcting things to maintain consistency of formatting; and anything that misleads at first reading I’m correcting as well.

And still I’m pausing at other places and weighing how important a change would be. Sigh.

I veer between admiring how tightly certain sections are written, and wondering how other such messy bits got past the editors.

Just started chapter eight. I’ve done a chapter and a half this morning already, the same amount I covered yesterday. Fewer edits and corrections to point out today, obviously.

Gratuitous Kitten Photos And News

Because what you all need is a dose of Vitamin Ktn on a spring Friday, I am sure.

I am forever shoving him out of the way so I can see the monitor and my work, or picking him up and dropping him onto the floor. When it gets excessively repetitive I throw him out of the office and close the door. If he’s in here and feels Kitten Narcolepsy coming on, he stumbles to my writing desk and passes out for an hour and a half.

Gryffindor exists in full-fledged Happy Battle Kitten mode pretty much all of the time. Got feet? I will chase them! Got a long sweater on? I will stalk it! Is that a bit of fluff? I will attack it! Are you breathing under that quilt? The movement must be caused by a Mystery Rodent! Is that a carpet? I will subdue it! Is that a rogue Cheerio or Rice Krispie? Nom nom nom.

He is fine with all the other cats, but Cricket still has issues with him and they scrap at least once a day. Gryff hides behind my cello in the corner if Cricket walks into the office. This is somewhat cute but mostly nerve-wracking, as a sudden move by either of them could topple the instrument. Two weeks ago I caught him happily leaping and scaling the soft case it was in. He hasn’t done that again. Ahem.

He is enthusiastically curious about everything, and insanely interested in water. He jumps into both the kitchen and the bathroom sinks when we’re using them. Gryff also perches on the edge of the full bathtub and inches his paws down the side to touch the surface. Splashing him with water doesn’t scare him off, either. He looks up with delight as if to say, “More! More! Splash me again!” I was brushing my teeth Tuesday morning when suddenly there was a kitten standing in the sink on his hind legs with one paw on my chest, the other darting into my mouth to catch the toothbrush.

Liam has appointed himself the Gryff Police. If the kitten jumps up onto a counter or the dinner table, or starts playing with a plant, the boy says, “I will stop him!” and runs at the cat, shaking a finger and saying, “No, Gryff, down from there!” A week or so ago he very seriously said to the kitten as it was being deposited onto the floor after an ill-timed leap onto the table during a meal, “No, Gryff, not when food is on the table.” Gryff has taken to Liam to such an extent that he tries to hide under the boy’s covers or bed when it’s bedtime. And when Liam has gone to sleep, the kitten sleeps outside his door.

And that is your Kitten Update. Would you like some coffee with all that sugar?

In Which She Recounts The Synchronous Events That Have Led Her to Consider a 7/8 Cello

Two weeks ago, there was a series of synchronous events. This is not unusual in my life, but it’s rare that it happens so obviously. This is a long post, so be forewarned.

One day I woke up and wondered, apparently out of the blue, if playing a 7/8 cello would be better for me. There was absolutely no grounding for this notion; it literally popped into my head one morning. I thought about it for a few days, and decided that if things felt right, I’d ask one of my orchestral colleagues if I could try her 7/8 cello during a break.

I thought about it all the way to the next rehearsal. As we were setting up I asked my section leader if she’d take a look at my cello to confirm if it was laminated or not. She did, and to my surprise it isn’t: it’s fully carved. She asked about where it was from and when it was made to further confirm, and I told her that it was Hungarian and about forty years old. Then it was certainly carved, she told me.

And then, once she’d handed it back to me and I was setting up to play, she said, “Have you ever thought of trying a 7/8 cello?”

I put down my tuner and looked at her, partly amused, partly astonished.

“I ask because my luthier told me he has one in stock. I have a student who needs a new cello – she put the soundpost through the back [ed: insert wince here] – but I thought of you.”

“You know, it’s the oddest thing,” I said. “I’ve been thinking about trying a 7/8. I know M. plays one, and I was going to ask her how she likes it, and if she’d mind if I tried it. But won’t your student be wanting it?”

“Not for a while,” she said, “she has to work out exchange value and repairs with her current luthier, because hers is worthless the way it is now. It will be a few months. And he can always order another one.”

“What kind of cello is it – I mean, where was it made? Do you know the price range?” I asked, steeling myself for a cascade of blithely unaffordable numbers.

“Bof, it’s Chinese… maybe twelve hundred?” she said.

I blinked and fought the urge to grin madly. Chinese instruments had a bad rap about twenty years ago, but lately they’ve been dramatically improving in quality. My section leader wouldn’t recommend anything that wasn’t carved and of decent quality, especially as I’ve been playing for fifteen years. (In fact, her new cello is a Chinese instrument, with a remodel done by a local luthier.) Any new cello would need a proper set-up by the luthier, and if it’s a basic model then we’d need to upgrade pretty much everything to get it to the state I’d need it to be in: tailpiece, endpin, bridge, certainly the strings, possibly the entire fingerboard if planing it isn’t good enough… but even then, if it’s a good enough instrument, even with five to eight hundred dollars’ worth of upgrades it wouldn’t even come close my original estimate of what my next instrument would cost. Well, I’d need to find a good bow, too, but I have decent bow-buying luck (my recent at-home bow woes are a different matter entirely!) and so that wouldn’t be more than five hundred, I would think. And still the total would come to below what I was expecting to have to pay for my next instrument alone. There’s always the trade-in value of my current cello too, although now that I’m seriously thinking about a new one I’m becoming fiercely attached to it, for some silly reason. We’ve been through a lot in fifteen years and I feel somewhat responsible for it. (I feel the same way about our thirty-five year old family stove that died recently, as if giving it away is some kind of betrayal.)

So my section leader gave me her luthier’s card, and told me to call him.

At the break, I moved back and asked my colleague how she liked her 7/8. I knew she had been playing a full-sized one for two or three months while the 7/8 was in the shop, and I wondered how the difference had affected her. M. said that there hadn’t been a lot of difference in playing, really; she’d expected to have problems with the spacing and shifting, but had adjusted very quickly, almost intuitively. The one problem she’d had, she said, was with the body of the instrument, about halfway down. There was just more body in the way of her hands and arms. She readily agreed to allow me to sit and play about with it, and handed it to me.

To my astonishment, when I sat down and leaned it against my shoulder, the first thing I felt was that I wanted to hug it. The body was certainly smaller – not so much so that it felt fragile or weak, just more compact. It tucked into my own body better. I ran through a couple of scales, then nudged her sheet music closer and played through some of the troublesome bits of the piece we’d just finished playing.

Every instrument is different, plays differently, feels different under the hands, but this 7/8 felt as if it were co-operating with me, playing with me instead of being played by me. It was neat, and it was compact, and it… well, it fit better. It would be foolish to assume that any 7/8 would function the same way; every instrument has its own personality and quirks. Still, it provided food for thought.

I set it down carefully and went back to my own, picking it up and leaning it against my shoulder. And… I felt claustrophobic. It was huge. I could see immediately what M. had meant by the fuller body getting in the way of the hands. The 4/4 was deeper than the 7/8 had been. There really isn’t a lot of difference between a 7/8 and a 4/4, and there’s enough variation in the basic sizing anyway that you could find a 4/4 that is petite. True 7/8s are moderately rare and hard to find. The regular body length of a 4/4 cello is about 30″ and just under 18″ wide, whereas the 7/8 body is about 28.5 to 29″ long and 17″ wide. Overall it’s about an inch and a half shorter than a full-sized cello. But it’s not just about the length; it’s about the overall proportion. And having played both, one after the other, I could understand that in a way I hadn’t really understood before. Even that half-inch or so and the proportional depth makes a noticeable difference. There’s no difference in the pitch or power of the sound produced, of course.

“What made you think of mentioning the 7/8 to me?” I asked my section leader when she came back from break.

“I thought it would look better. You’re so…” And she gestured with her hands to indicate my petite build. M. is petite too, although I’m slightly taller than she is. I’ve never considered a 7/8 because I have very long fingers, and long arms and legs for my size, so making my way around the full-size cello has never been a problem for me. When she handed my cello back to me after looking at the top she must have seen how awkward it was in a way she doesn’t usually see, sitting next to me.

“If I were to try it,” I said, “would you come with me and give me your opinion? I’d pay you your regular lesson fee.”

“No no, my dear,” she said, “you would bring the cello here, and we would try it out together under real circumstances.”

“They would let me do that?” I blurted out, then laughed with her when she said, “But of course!” I never thought anyone would ever trust me enough to let me take a cello home for a trial. (In some ways I still think of myself as a young university student, the one who was deeply scarred by a bad experience with an arrogant and condescending luthier who, I hear, still treats his clients insultingly.) I expect that I’d have to leave a security deposit and prove that my insurance would cover it. Still, it’s an option I’ve never considered because I never thought it possible.

And then a few days ago Erin posted her thoughts about perhaps trying a 7/8. By this point I was already convinced that the universe was trying to tell me something; Erin’s mention just made me go “hmm” again.

So this morning I e-mailed the luthier, querying him about the 7/8 he had in stock. It can’t hurt to try it when I have a life again in mid-April. If it feels and sounds wrong, then that’s that. But ignoring the universe when it seems to be jumping up and down and trying to attract my attention about something would feel ungrateful. This may lead to something entirely different, or to nothing at all, which would be fine; I’m not in a hurry, or in dire need of a new cello. We can take our time. We’ll see.


I’m feeling excellent. Last night’s orchestra rehearsal was terrific (the shifting/intonation issues I’m having in the Faure aside). I woke up in a good mood this morning, and Sparky didn’t dawdle as much as usual getting out of the house. The sun has come/is coming out (between snow squalls, but they’re brief and not sticking, thank goodness). I picked up a warm loaf of bakery bread, along with some delicious roast beef and Swiss cheese, and have now had not one but two sandwiches of the awesome category.

But the best thing so far today is that I finally got my hair cut. Three inches gone, baby! Yes! My hair is swingy and barely brushes my shoulders. I love it. I’ve worked up (down?) to this by degrees. Last year was a couple of inches off the mid-back cascade of tresses to a mid/low shoulder blade length, and just a hint of layers. Today started out as two and a half inches, then after studying it we took an extra half inch off, and made the layers a bit more pronounced.

I am feeling really fabulous. It’s a nice change.

Now I’m going to go make myself a caramel latte (don’t get excited, it’s from a packet), handle some correspondence, and then attack those proofs!


A birds has a syrinx, not a larynx. (Just for fun, the plurals are syringes and larynges. Heh.) Good gods, I don’t believe that (a) I wrote that, and (b) three editors missed it.

In other news, apparently I am the Queen of All Commas. All your commas are mine, mine, I tell you! Because after seeing the amount I have liberally sprinkled throughout this book, there cannot possibly be any left for other people to use. I use them for subclauses, but also to mark pauses and establish a rhythm in a sentence. And, er, there are, well, many of them, some in places where I now disagree with their use. Sigh.

Almost done Chapter Four; almost halfway through the 240 pages.

ETA: Done! And I’m at 109 pages or thereabouts. Off to get the boy.